GAINESVILLE — Near the end of coach Dan Mullen’s weekly news conference Monday, he was asked about one of the most interesting long-term aspects surrounding his Florida Gators.
How much has he talked with his quarterbacks about their situation in 2020?
“I'm just trying to get us through this week and get a win this week, so we haven't even thought about that or addressed that,” Mullen said. “Our focus is on this game.”
His focus is on this game Saturday at Missouri. Ours doesn’t have to be.
There are a lot of dynamics with the Gators’ 2020 quarterback room. Three current players with notable experience (current starter Kyle Trask, injured starter Feleipe Franks and blue-chip redshirt freshman Emory Jones) all have remaining eligibility.
Franks still has the most experience (24 starts) and an NFL-caliber arm. He’s making progress on his recovery from a fractured/dislocated ankle — he’s out of the cast and on crutches now — but his return is still months away.
“It would be good if we could get him back for spring practice,” Mullen said, “but I don’t know if that’s a possibility or not.”
Trask has exceeded reasonable expectations in Franks’ absence. He has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,971 yards and 18 touchdowns since Franks’ injury. His passing efficiency (158.85) ranks 15th nationally, and he’s coming off the most prolific game by a UF quarterback since Tim Tebow’s finale. But he doesn’t have Franks’ arm strength or Jones’ mobility.
Jones is the wildcard. He’s the only remaining quarterback Mullen has signed at UF, so he would seem to be the best fit for what Mullen wants to do offensively. Although the Gators continue to use him in select spots, Jones remains a work in progress.
“It's consistency, and that's one that I talk to him all the time about — consistently making unspectacular plays,” Mullen said. “He can make spectacular ones. But consistently make the easy, unspectacular play. I think that is always a learning curve, especially for younger guys.”
Mullen, for what it’s worth, said similar things about Franks before the 2018 season.
The best-case scenario for UF is that all three stick around, and four-star commit Anthony Richardson joins, too. But given the nature of quarterbacks — if you’re not starting, you’re departing — how likely is that?
All three could have options outside of Gainesville. Trask has already graduated. Franks is set to graduate in December and could leave as a grad transfer, a Red Sox rookie or an NFL draft prospect. Jones could enter the transfer portal.
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This isn’t meant to predict their decisions or incite controversy. It’s just meant to list some of the possible scenarios and options that make the Gators’ future at quarterback so interesting.
It’s a future Mullen isn’t thinking about yet, but it’s one he’ll have to address head-on in December or January.