What It Means: Florida QB Nick Sproles Enters Transfer Portal
Florida's football offseason began today.
Okay, not really. There's still another regular-season game left against Florida State next Saturday, and a bowl game to come at a later date. And honestly, news of a third-string/scout team quarterback opting to enter the transfer portal typically isn't the type for dramatic effect.
But for the Gators, Nick Sproles leaving the program as a graduate student (as reported by Matt Zenitz of AL.com) is the first domino to fall in what will be a long, yet exciting, offseason in Gainesville.
Sproles, a redshirt junior, has been the Gators' third string quarterback ever since Feleipe Franks suffered a dislocated ankle in Week 3 at Kentucky. Previously, Sproles served as the scout team quarterback while Franks, Kyle Trask, and Emory Jones were the team's three scholarship quarterbacks.
The 6-2, 211 lb. signal-caller played in three games for the Gators in 2018, and otherwise saw no action since joining the team as a walk-on in 2016. However, head coach Dan Mullen, among others, has expressed confidence in Sproles' ability to play in the past. There's a good chance he'll end up at a decent school to compete for playing time, or serve as immediate depth. It's obvious, though, that Sproles was never going to start at Florida.
Sproles entering the transfer portal is the first of many quarterback headlines that will hit your screen between now through at least spring camp, and possibly into the fall. At least, under the assumption that Mullen will continue operating by treating every spring as a competition.
Even after Franks had all but assured himself the starting quarterback gig entering the 2019 season, Mullen was in no rush to name him QB1. Prior to spring camp, Mullen was asked if there was any weight lifted off of his shoulders to have a starting QB set in place.
“Is it set?" Mullen asked. "I don’t have any positions set. I’ve never had a position set. I just love competition.”
Mullen went on to say he would hope that Franks expects to be the starter, but that he needed 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." Franks ultimately won the QB battle.
Well, Florida will have three potential starting quarterbacks on its roster entering the upcoming offseason, barring an unforeseen transfer by Franks, Trask, or Jones. At this point last year, neither Trask nor Jones had the game experience to unseat Franks, who finished his 2018 season with a Peach Bowl MVP award.
Now, both of them do.
Trask has taken over as the starter in relief of the injured Franks, and has frankly looked like an upgrade. In the absence of any threatening run game, Trask has completed 66.8% of his 274 passes for 2293 yards, 21 touchdowns, and only six interceptions.
He hasn't been a perfect quarterback, struggling with deep passes and throwing under pressure when he gets it, but you can't have asked for a better season than what Trask has had - one that has a solid shot to end in a New Year's Six Bowl.
In Jones, you have a quarterback that fits what Mullen has a history of preferring to run his smashmouth-spread offense: A dual-threat with a big arm, much like Franks' mold.
However, Jones has flashed added explosiveness in the run game beyond what Franks provided with his legs, and in limited samples, Jones has shown that he can throw an accurate ball. It isn't perfect yet, and there's no way of knowing if it's consistent since he only averages 3.4 throws per game, with his snaps usually spread out. But there's loads of untapped potential in the soon-to-be redshirt sophomore.
Jones has completed 62.5% of his 32 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns this season. On the ground, Jones has added 191 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 6.2 yards per carry.
You also have Mullen's prized 2020 commit in Anthony Richardson, from Eastside High School just 10 minutes down the road from UF. But it's hard to imagine him entering what should be a heated race for QB1.
Sproles leaving the program to pursue other opportunities was just the first domino to fall in what will be an offseason full of quarterback talk in Gainesville. But for the first time in years, all the talk will be in confidence of the quarterback situation, not in spite of it.