TAMPA — USF, Florida and Florida State enter Saturday’s games with one rare thing in common: They all will probably use two quarterbacks for unrelated reasons.
“I guess there’s a lot of different ways you can go about it,” UF coach Dan Mullen said.
Mullen’s No. 13 Gators are in the best position of the three; their two-quarterback philosophy — Mullen doesn’t want to call it a system — is based on development, not necessity.
Emory Jones spent three years waiting his turn. Mullen has made it clear that Jones is the starter.
Redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson dazzled in his first real action last week (160 rushing yards) and graded out higher than Jones did because of his explosive plays. But Mullen said Richardson also missed some “very, very simple” checks, as young quarterbacks often do.
Mullen compared the buzz around Richardson’s dynamic athleticism to what Tim Tebow created as a freshman in 2006 when he played a handful of snaps each game.
But this is different. Tebow had a specialty package during that national title run. Richardson doesn’t; he’s running the same system Jones is, which is why USF treated them the same during preparation for the game at Raymond James Stadium.
Mullen is throwing a lot at Richardson, and there’s a risk to giving him too much too soon.
“It’s the best when you can let guys learn it the right way and build a really solid foundation,” Mullen said.
Like the Gators, USF has one quarterback who will start and a promising, young dual-threat quarterback who will play later. The similarities end there.
“We’re not playing both quarterbacks because we think it’s the best thing to do for us to win the game,” Bulls coach Jeff Scott said. “We’re playing both quarterbacks because we’re trying to figure out who our starter is.”
Here’s what Scott means: Cade Fortin has done well enough in practice to earn the first snaps but hasn’t performed well enough in games to beat freshman Timmy McClain long-term. That’s why McClain is expected to play against UF after replacing Fortin in the first half last week.
Scott went through situations like this at Clemson. In 2014, Deshaun Watson got his first start in Week 4 after taking No. 1 FSU into overtime the previous game. It took Trevor Lawrence four games to supplant Kelly Bryant in 2018.
Scott has those parallels in mind as he evaluates Fortin and McClain (and perhaps Katravis Marsh).
“I want to have one guy right now, but we don’t,” Scott said. “... I would love for that to be established Saturday because one of those guys goes out, plays well, and it’s obvious, and that’s who we’re going to move forward with.”
If not, Scott aims to have a clear starter for the Oct. 2 AAC opener at SMU.
Unlike USF, the Seminoles aren’t in a rush to decide on one or the other. FSU lists Jordan Travis or McKenzie Milton as the starter against Jacksonville State.
Both deserve consideration. Travis is mobile — a necessity with an offensive line that struggled against Notre Dame’s pass rush — and helps out a strong rushing attack. Milton is a great leader who helped spark last week’s heroic fourth-quarter comeback. Milton and Travis have different skillsets, so FSU sees a competitive advantage to keeping opponents guessing.
“Just the thought process of that can drive people crazy, and it makes you prepare for it,” offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham told Tallahassee reporters this week. “... In coaching, you live in a paranoid world. So our goal is to keep people as paranoid as possible.”
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