In the immediate aftermath of last week’s loss at LSU, Florida coach Dan Mullen said he’d evaluate whether Anthony Richardson or Emory Jones would be the Gators’ starting quarterback moving forward.
Four days later, that evaluation is, apparently, ongoing. Mullen was non-committal Wednesday to a pair of direct questions about whether Jones remains UF’s starter.
“We’ll look at everything, and we evaluate everything that we do all the time ...” Mullen said during the SEC’s weekly teleconference.
If Mullen sticks to the statistics, starting Richardson is the easy answer. Though Jones leads UF with 494 rushing yards, Richardson is averaging twice as many per carry (12.4 yards to 5.8) with more touchdowns. Richardson’s passing efficiency (174.13) is more than 30 points better than Jones’, and he has a better touchdown:interception ratio (5:3) than Jones (10:9).
But Mullen typically values experience because of the demands he puts on quarterbacks. He has also made it clear that Richardson still has room to improve with his understanding of the offense — a common issue for young players.
Though Mullen didn’t say much Wednesday, his non-answers are nonetheless notable. When Richardson ran for 160 yards in the opener, Mullen said flatly, “Obviously, Emory is our starter.” He reiterated that a week later after Richardson dazzled again at USF.
But after Richardson replaced Jones in the second half last week and led a respectable but unsuccessful comeback, Mullen’s tone is different. He talked about how both quarterbacks have played every game when healthy and how he doesn’t expect that to change.
As far as who gets the first snap? He doesn’t want to give away his strategy. And besides, Mullen and his staff haven’t scripted out the first series for next week, so they haven’t decided on the personnel.
“I’m not going to tell you what the first play of the game’s going to be, if that’s what you’re asking,” Mullen said.
It wasn’t. Regardless, Mullen’s vague answers leave open a few possibilities. One is that Richardson will start, but Mullen doesn’t want to say it. Doing so would give No. 1 Georgia more time to prepare for the redshirt freshman and might affect Jones’ preparation.
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Another option is that Jones will start, but Mullen doesn’t want to say that, either. An already uneasy fanbase would be livid, and the transfer portal is always open, if Richardson is unhappy.
Or maybe Mullen truly hasn’t decided yet. Perhaps the plan going forward focuses more on the specific opponent than any long-term pronouncement of Jones or Richardson. It’s possible that the Gators are still weighing Jones’ experience against Richardson’s sky-high talent as they prepare to face a historically great Bulldogs defense.
There was no answer Wednesday. And we might not get one until just before kickoff in Jacksonville.
• The Gators made no changes to their defensive coaching staff, despite giving up 321 rushing yards to LSU. Mullen also said he has not thought about any potential changes — like letting coordinator Todd Grantham go once his contract expires at the end of the year — and won’t until after the season.
• Mullen said UF’s run defense had problems closing gaps and fitting into position properly. His defense compounded those issues by missing too many tackles.
• The Gators lost their top recruit Wednesday when four-star Alabama linebacker Shemar James announced he was decommitting. His defection leaves UF without a commit ranked in the top 100 nationally and drops the class to 18th in the country and sixth in the SEC (eighth if you count Texas and Oklahoma).
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