Florida Gators QB Emory Jones: 'I Just Know I'm Ready'
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla -- The drama that is Florida's 2020 offseason is already unfolding.
Despite the fact that quarterback Kyle Trask took over for an injured Feleipe Franks and did the unthinkable, leading the Gators to an Orange Bowl victory and boasting one of the nation's best passing offenses, it's no sure thing that Trask will hold onto the reigns next year.
Last year, it was easy to assume that Franks had earned QB1 status for the long haul after his dominant four-game stretch to end 2018. Head coach Dan Mullen wasn't quick to agree, when he was asked if it was helpful entering spring camp with a starter set at quarterback.
"Is it set?" Mullen asked in response. "I don’t have any positions set. I’ve never had a position set. I just love competition."
He went on to say that while it was good and dandy that Franks would expect to be the starter, there are always guys around who want to take the job from him - much like every position on the roster.
"He better know he's got to compete to make sure he keeps that job because there's other guys that want to compete to go take that job from him," Mullen continued.
That same dilemma is occurring again inside of 157 Gale Lemerand Drive.
Mullen's first commitment as Florida's head coach came at the quarterback position, flipping dual-threat Emory Jones from Ohio State in late 2017. Jones was put on a development track that led most to believe he'd be Florida's quarterback by 2020, but the emergence of Trask this season has made Jones' future a bit foggy.
Throughout the year, Jones has been used sparingly in relief of Trask - a "change of pace" QB, if you will.
While Trask earned all of his praise, and perhaps the same momentum - at least from outside opinion - that Franks had entering camp last year for his performance as Florida's starter in 2019, Jones isn't going to just sit back and watch.
Jones finished his redshirt freshman season with 42 rushes for 256 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, and paired those rushing stats by completing 65.8% of his 38 passes for 268 yards and three scores.
Asked what he learned most about himself during the 2019 season in the role he served, Jones told GatorMaven after the Orange Bowl: "The main thing I’d say I’ve learned is just, I just know I’m ready."
Unprompted. Jones wasn't asked for his thoughts on the projected upcoming quarterback battle, but he wasn't going to avoid the opportunity to let everyone know that he's here to compete for the job.
"I know I can come in at any time," Jones said in reflection of 2019. "I was on the bench, you know, and I make something happen when I get in."
If there's one thing you can't knock Jones for, no matter who you believe should earn QB1 status in Gainesville next year, is his confidence. And along the way, while confident in his abilities, Jones has kept his ears open and learned from the situation he's been in - particularly from a guy who has worn similar shoes in his past, Kyle Trask.
"I’ve definitely learned a lot from Kyle," Jones continued. "We’re working with each other, so I mean, he’s helping me, I’m helping him, he asks me questions and stuff like that. He asks me if I see different things... We both help each other out."
Mullen sees this working relationship between the two quarterbacks as something valuable for Jones' development.
"I think the great thing Emory," Mullen said prior to the Orange Bowl, "is to say, 'Hey, I get to learn from a guy, of how he did it, to make sure that he continued to prepare and grow so that he was always ready while I continue to get opportunities to develop myself. Not just at practice or not just off the field but during games and in live-game situations'. I think he's handled it really well."
Throughout the 2019 season, while Trask was clearly viewed as QB1 by snap counts and production, Florida consistently had an "or" on the depth chart at QB between Trask and Jones - never explicitly calling one of the other the starter as the team would prepare for games.
"Coming into the start of the season all the receivers knew we had three starting quarterbacks," wide receiver Trevon Grimes told the media in October.
"Feleipe, Kyle and Emory, all of them had the potential to start... We all knew that whoever was in was going to do what he did, and then if something happened the next man up was going to do the same thing. There really was no drop-off between quarterbacks"
And entering 2020, teammates are even acknowledging the idea of a competition.
"I feel like the [QB] competition level is going to be through the roof," said graduating receiver Freddie Swain in November.
"Guys are going to have to make plays, because you got quarterbacks that can sling it. If you’re looking to come make a play, by all means you have the quarterbacks to do it. I mean, I feel like Coach Mullen will put them in the right positions either way."
Whether you believe Trask has earned the job entering his redshirt season, or if you believe that Emory Jones can offer Florida something different as the starter, it's sure to be an exciting offseason for Florida at the quarterback position.
Entering 2019, fans could breathe a sigh of relief that it appeared Florida had the QB position figured out for the first time in a decade.
Now, drama ensues at the position again. Only this time, it's because there's enough talent to force a competition - not a lack of talent or certainty.