After a storied, two-year starting career for Kyle Trask, the Florida Gators quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist is off to the NFL Draft.
As the cliché rings and as head coach Dan Mullen often says: "Next man up."
That next man is quarterback Emory Jones. Jones, a rising redshirt junior, has spent three years with the Gators after flipping from Ohio State as Mullen's first quarterback signee at UF in the 2018 class. Jones has seen limited action ever since his freshman year, often offering a change-of-pace style of quarterback play given his dual-threat abilities.
Now, he goes from providing a change-of-pace to being the guy.
"I feel good about it," Jones said after UF's 55-20 Cotton Bowl loss to Oklahoma. "I've been working my butt off for three years. I've been waiting my turn. I've been grinding."
Having taken snaps in 24 games for Florida by now, Jones certainly is expected to be ready to replace Trask. The expectations will be high, perhaps unfairly after the remarkable career that Trask has just wrapped up, but Jones has flashed plenty of potential that should instill enough trust in him as the Gators' new QB1.
Across three seasons, Jones has completed 55-of-86 passes (64%) for 613 yards, seven touchdowns, and just one interception, adding 514 yards on 92 rushing attempts (5.6 yards per rush) and six scores on the ground.
Jones has always had the talent, and confidence, to be the guy at UF. He told Sports Illustrated-AllGators that he was ready for his turn after the 2019 Orange Bowl, just over a year ago. He had to wait for Trask to put together a Heisman campaign before proving that he was, but finally got his shot in the Cotton Bowl as UF's played with its eyes on its future.
Jones saw significant playing time against Oklahoma on Wednesday, completing 8/16 passes for 86 yards, while rushing 10 times for 60 yards and a touchdown.
"Emory Jones has played in a lot of big games and a lot of big moments, so he has the experience and he's really learned how to prepare to get ready to take over that main role," Mullen said after the Cottom Bowl. "I'm excited. I hope we get a little bit back to normal and we're able to have a spring practice and an offseason to go develop."
Mullen anticipates that Florida's offense will change with Jones stepping up into the starting role.
Trask was never much of a threat with his legs, but he could pick defenses apart with his arm and field processing skills. As such, Florida has been a very pass-heavy team for the past two seasons. Jones is a dynamic rusher and has displayed very intriguing arm talent, meaning a more balanced approach, and perhaps a multi-faceted run game, can be expected.
"So we'll run," said Mullen. "There will be a lot of similarities and a lot of differences in our offense next year, but we're going to build around the strengths of those guys."
Those guys: True freshman quarterback and Gainesville native Anthony Richardson will be incorporated as well. Much like Jones, Richardson is a dual-threat who earned playing time as freshman, and he will be in the running for more snaps as well.
But make no mistake about it: This is Jones' show now. And he's prepared to make the most of it after spending several years learning from Trask and the UF coaching staff.
"I've just been growing, just watching them just do everything the way, like Kyle conducts himself, like even just walking around the facility, the way he carries himself," Jones said. "He's just been helping me out a lot. So I feel like I'm ready."