Photo: Emory Jones; Credit: GatorVision
Emory Jones is thrilled to have an opportunity to compete this spring.
After doing so for the past three years, competing is all he knows. Although those efforts took some time to pay off, Jones is now in the driver's seat for Florida's starting quarterback position after learning the ropes behind Kyle Trask and Feleipe Franks since 2018.
Despite being UF's widely-projected QB1, Jones is treating this like any other spring and striving to solidify that status. Without a spring practice to establish himself a year ago thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, Jones knows that now is his time to earn the trust of his teammates and instill confidence that he lead the offense to new heights.
"I'll just say I have a lot of responsibility, I mean I've been waiting for this time right here," remarked Jones on Thursday, shortly after Florida's first practice of the year. "I'm really just glad to be back out there for the spring and being around the guys. You know, it's just, I'm really just glad that we're having a spring this year."
Florida got its 2021 spring training off to an early start, which Jones views as an advantage as UF experiments with new players in new roles within the offense. With that comes a need to gel and develop chemistry, which makes these practices pivotal, especially for a young core of contributors set to headline the Gators' roster this year.
This is something that Jones has been preparing for, beyond envisioning the day he would become Florida's starter.
Since his extended performance in the Cotton Bowl, a game in which the Gators scored only 20 points compared to their previous season average of 41.6, Jones has been motivated to get the entire offense back on track entering his first year under center full-time.
"It really was an eye-opening experience to me, just going out there and actually getting a lot of reps," Jones recalled of the Cotton Bowl. "It really just showed me that me and the guys have a lot of work to do. So, I mean, that's all we're focused on right now. That's all I'm focused on."
So, how did Jones feel on the practice field as Florida's QB1 for the first time? "Pretty good," he said, praising the energy of the team around him. Jones gave credit to his projected backup, sophomore Anthony Richardson, for pushing Jones by producing strong performances behind the scenes and at the Gators facility.
Richardson is a flashy, young signal-caller himself with a powerful arm and impressive dual-threat ability. They're different players, but Richardson's presence is reminiscent of Jones' to Trask and Franks. The Gators have a relatively clear No. 1 option at quarterback, but there's no denying the intrigue that his backup offers.
However, "development, development, development," is head coach Dan Mullen's mantra when developing quarterbacks, according to Jones. Richardson is still in the early stages of his development at UF, leaving Jones as Trask's suitable heir. Jones has appeared in 24 games and scored 13 total touchdowns in three seasons with the Gators.
The latter two quarterbacks still chat regularly, as Jones prepares for his new role and Trask trains for the NFL Draft.
It hasn't been an easy process for Jones, and it may not be for Richardson either. Though, Jones vocalized that the long wait was worth it to end up in the position that he is in now, which can serve as a learning lesson for Richardson moving forward.
“It has been hard but it’s all been for a reason. That’s what I’ve realized over the past years," Jones said. "I have been playing a little bit, so that keeps me going. I’ve just been watching the guys in front of me do their best and watching how they move and how they operate and it’s definitely just helping me, it definitely helped me out throughout the way.”