Why Dan Mullen says Emory Jones, not Anthony Richardson, is Florida’s starter

UF’s coach said the dazzling freshman does special things, just not always the right things.
Emory Jones remains the Florida Gators' starting quarterback, according to Dan Mullen.
Emory Jones remains the Florida Gators' starting quarterback, according to Dan Mullen. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Sept. 11, 2021

TAMPA — A week after saying Emory Jones was “obviously” still the Gators’ starting quarterback, Florida coach Dan Mullen didn’t only double down on his pronouncement. He sounded a little prickly about it.

“Yes,” Mullen said Saturday when asked whether Jones would still start ahead of Anthony Richardson.

“Like I said, we have two really good quarterbacks. You’ll see both of them play every single game. You know what you never ask? Why don’t you ask who the starting running back is? Who started today?”

Related: Anthony Richardson dazzles as Florida Gators rout USF, but Emory Jones is still starter

Malik Davis, the Jesuit High alumnus.

“Oh, I didn’t know that,” Mullen replied. “Okay, cool. ‘Cause we have really good running backs. We roll those guys through. We’re pretty fortunate at quarterback, too.”

Fortunate is one way to put it. No. 13 UF has a talented starter (Jones) who plays well in spurts but has thrown two interceptions in each game. UF also has a backup (Richardson) who has accounted for four touchdowns of at least 41 yards and looks like the Gators’ most exciting quarterback since Tim Tebow.

Anthony Richardson had an 80-yard touchdown run Saturday at USF.
Anthony Richardson had an 80-yard touchdown run Saturday at USF. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]

Even Jones is amazed by his teammate, who trended on Twitter during Saturday’s 42-20 win.

“I’m doing the same thing y’all (are) doing, just trying to see what exciting thing he’s going to do…” Jones said. “I just go out there and watch him do his thing.”

Jones seemed genuinely excited about Richardson’s three-touchdown performance at USF, just as he did last week after the Florida Atlantic win. Jones said that’s because they’ve developed a tight relationship thanks to all the time they’ve spent together.

Related: How the two-quarterback plans differ for Gators, USF and FSU

When Mullen was asked what Richardson needs to do to get on the field more or earlier, Mullen said his reasoning will “bore you, actually.” He did not elaborate, but if you read between the lines, Mullen continues to say that Richardson is still coming off the bench because he has a lot left to learn.

“Yeah, he does special things,” Mullen said. “(He) doesn’t always do the right thing, but he does special things. So, you know, we’ve got to keep coaching him to be efficient and make sure we’re making all the right reads.”

Mullen said Jones’ seniority isn’t factoring into his decision. That would be a disservice to the team.

“I have a responsibility to put everybody on the team in position to win, and there’s an awful lot that goes into that,” Mullen said. “I know everybody loves just looking at the two quarterbacks. There’s 10 other guys on the field until I put in our two-quarterback offense, which I haven’t shown yet.”

That last line sounds like an interesting tease for upcoming defensive coordinators.

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Emory Jones threw a pair of interceptions at USF.
Emory Jones threw a pair of interceptions at USF. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]

Regardless, Mullen continues to make the same two points: Jones is UF’s starter, and Richardson will keep playing, too.

“It’s a long season,” Mullen said, “and we have young quarterbacks that I’ve got to continue to grow and continue to develop into being really good football players.”

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