Photo: Emory Jones; Credit: Alex Shepherd
Before the Gasparilla Bowl, Florida Gators quarterback Emory Jones acknowledged his intention to enter the NCAA transfer portal after the conclusion of his redshirt junior season, which stemmed from a Yahoo! Sports report.
But, with the 2022 spring semester officially underway and new head coach Billy Napier building the foundation of UF's football program, Jones remains with the team. And, according to Napier, Jones plans to stick around after all.
“Yeah, Emory’s here, in class, he’s participating. He’s done a fantastic job with all the things we’ve asked him to do," Napier said on Friday. "You know, I would hope our fans and all the people out there would understand what a big deal that is. This is a guy who is a class act. It’s been very impressive to me the caliber of person that he is. He’s managed a very difficult situation well.
"And, anything that happened in the past, it’s important for not only the players, but all the people that care about the University of Florida, that care about our football program, to kind of separate those things."
Jones, of course, is freshly removed from his first season as Florida's starting quarterback. It didn't exactly go as planned: Jones was widely anticipated to shine in Dan Mullen's offense as he was hand-picked as the former head coach's first quarterback signee with the program.
Yet, although there were moments when Jones shined, inconsistency plagued his first year in the role. He struggled with decision-making at times, which led to 13 interceptions tossed on the season, the most by a Florida quarterback individually since Chris Leak threw 13 in 2006.
Jones, at least according to Napier, would be the first person to tell you that his debut season as the Gators' starting quarterback was far from perfect. And the head coach believes the veteran quarterback is determined to improve his game within the new development program.
"Emory, I think he cares about this place. It’s important to him to represent this place the right way," Napier explained. "And he’d be the first to admit that he’s played really well at times and he’s struggled at times. I think for me as a coach going forward, and in particular the quarterback, you’re the teacher and they’re the student.
"I’m going to work with those guys exclusively every day. So, when the team struggles or the player struggles, it’s important that you take ownership of that as the teacher, and, certainly, we’ll have that approach, right? But we have a lot of work to do to get ready to play winning football, right? And, certainly, a lot of that has to do with the quarterback position. So, as far as Emory’s concerned, he’s been great so far.”
Not only is Napier excited about Jones' future with the program, though, but he's looking forward to working directly with the rest of UF's quarterback room, which houses five passers in Jones, fan-favorite Anthony Richardson, recent Ohio State transfer Jack Miller III, and two rising redshirt freshmen in Jalen Kitna and Carlos Del-Rio.
Napier and his coaching staff are in the midst of a 13-day assessment period, evaluating how each player currently on the team can contribute moving forward. That includes the entirety of the quarterback room, which Napier will oversee directly.
Richardson, at least when the previous coaching staff was in town, was viewed by outsiders as the future of Florida football at the quarterback position. It has yet to be seen who Napier intends to trot out as the team's starter come Week 1 of the 2022 season — that will be determined at a later date, once the team has actually practiced with Napier at the helm — but he is excited about the potential Richardson and the other signal-callers have to offer.
"We’re fortunate to have some really good players," Napier stated. "I think we’ve got some dynamic — it’s been well documented what AR’s — it’s impressive to watch, right? So, I couldn’t be more excited about Jack Miller, right? We felt like we needed to add a player there, some depth there. Certainly, Kitna, Del Rio, we’ve got a good room, right?
"I think I would be more prepared to comment on that once we kind of begin the work, but, just based off of what I’ve observed so far, we’ve got a very capable room. I’m excited to work with that whole group.”
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