Ask the Quarterback

Former Gator All-American quarterback John Reaves answers your questions about all things football, a feature that will be a regular part of Gator Country Fridays.

I heard that you were a recruiter that always seemed to get his man. What did you do to secure those players? — Rockledge Gator

I didn’t always get my recruit. i.e. Randall Godfrey.

[symple_highlight color=”yellow”]Recruiting is marketing[/symple_highlight], which I majored in at Florida. You have to develop a relationship with the administration, coaching staff and players (and their mentors/family) at a school over a period of time. i.e., Reggie McGrew. McGrew was a 5-star in the 8th grade, so I began to develop a relationship with his Father, Taylor McGrew, who was also the head football coach at Lafayette County High School in Mayo.

You have to be honest and consistent. Providing the information they need to make one of the most important decisions in their life. Of course it’s not hard to sell the University of Florida with the academics, facilities, tradition, etc!

Could you give us a breakdown of what the QB sees once he breaks out of the huddle? Where are his eyes as they walk to the line? What are they looking for in specific? What SHOULD they be looking for? — gator_nica

I had many good coaches in my time — Holland Aplin at Robinson High School in Tampa, Ray Graves and Fred Pancoast at Florida, Paul Brown and Bill Walsh with the Cincinnati Bengals. But none was better than the “Ball Coach,” Steve Spurrier. He was a great teacher.

He taught you defenses from day 1 — fronts, coverages, etc., and what the weaknesses were. There are certain run plays that are good vs. certain fronts and pass plays vs. certain coverages. The key is to get into the right play at the right time.

When you walk to the LOS you get a “Pre-snap” read of the front and/or coverage. Then you know if your play is good or not and if you should audible. That’s why you need to get to the LOS asap and the play caller needs to get the play into the QB.

If the front is no good vs. the run you have on you should audible. Runs usually aren’t good vs. 8 or 9 man fronts unless you outman the opponent.

You need to be in the right protection vs. blitzes or have hot reads. Everyone has to be on the same page. Communication is crucial.

There’s a lot to know if you’re going to be successful.

John, do you think most quarterbacks have a favorite receiver even if they try not to? — Robbers

I do think most QB’s have a favorite receiver, usually developed over time where a trust and bond develops. When that happens, the defense will almost always double team him so hopefully you have 3-4 WR’s and 2-3 RB’s and Y’s you can trust. Protection makes it all work.

You have to run routes and catch the ball! Carlos Alvarez was my favorite at Florida; Harold Jackson, then Harold Carmichael and Charley Young at Philadelphia; Charley Joiner and Isaac Curtis at Cincinnati; Ahmad Rashad at Minnesota; Kenny Burrough and Dave Caspar at Houston; and Eric Truvillion (ET) and Gary Anderson with the Tampa Bay Bandits!

How important is locker room chemistry? — 76Gator

Locker room chemistry is very important, not just in the locker room but everywhere else on a football team — classroom, training table, practice field and especially game day. If a team doesn’t have a common bond and cannot get along with each other then there are problems. Everyone has to accept their role and be a good teammate.

¬†Can you go thru the details of why Murphy is doing so well? And have you had a chance to evaluate the back-ups? — MrB-Gator

Tyler Murphy is doing very well so far because of the skill set he brings to the table. Of course, a good O-line, good WRs, Y’s and backs are essential plus a good scheme. His poise, mechanics and decision making have been excellent so far. He throws a nice ball and can run. He’s smart and knows what he is doing.

The competition is getting progressively more difficult beginning with Arkansas, the team that has the most sacks in the SEC and then on to LSU, South Carolina and Georgia. It should be interesting.

I have not had a chance to evaluate the backup QB’s.

What do you think of Jeff Driskel as a quarterback? — Rockledge Gator

I am disappointed in Jeff Driscoll’s development so far. I’m sorry he is hurt, but when he went down he seemed to be making the same mistakes. His performance in the Miami game was like last year’s Georgia and Louisville games — too many turnovers in the green zone and too many pick sixes.

He’s a physical specimen, however, I think he’s confused and if the play called isn’t perfectly and the #1 choice on a pass isn’t open, he struggles.

We need him to get healthy and learn during his time down! He’s a Gator and we still love him.

¬†Could you be successful today being the same type of QB that you were while at UF? And how have defenses changed in the last 30-40 years? — gatorcop

Yes, I believe I could be successful today as a QB. I was more a pocket passer like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning if you will but there is still room for us. For example, in 1985 with the Bandits I threw the ball 396 times and was only sacked 5 times. Why? Good O-line, scheme, WR’s and RB’s but I knew what I was doing. I took my steps and got rid of the ball on time: 1-2-3 progression, not open? Throw it away or scramble and either run or pass. Of course Steve Spurrier was my coach!!!

One thing I knew, the more game tape I watched and plays, the more I studied the better I performed. Sometimes I knew what defense they were in by the way they lined up in their huddle, because they would line up in such a way in order to get to their pre-snap alignment.

What are the things a QB looks for at once at the line that leads to calling an audible? — g8orbill

A QB should get a pre-snap read on the way to the LOS. Once there, if the play is not good vs. the front or coverage he should be mentally prepared to change the play and make sure his teammates hear the audible, giving everyone time to adjust. Wide receivers and backs may have to shift. The center might have to change the protection depending on the front. Everyone has to be set before the snap so there is no false start, illegal formation or procedure. If you have a shift or motion on then these players have to know and make their adjustments.

Thanks for asking the QB! Get those questions ready for next week!

John Reaves QB7

Editor’s Note: For a quarterback’s perspective on college or pro football, submit your questions to our premium BullGator Den forum by Wednesday of each week and John will answer them.

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John Reaves
When he finished his University of Florida playing career in 1971, John Reaves was the most prolific passer in the history of college football. He threw for 7,581 yards in his UF career but he's best remembered for the 70-yard touchdown pass to Carlos Alvarez on the third play of his collegiate career against Houston in 1969. A first team All-American, Reaves played in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Bucs, plus three years in the USFL with the Tampa Bay Bandits. He was the quarterback coach at Florida from 1990-94. He's also the father-in-law of former USC coach Lane Kiffin.


  1. John Reaves was a sophomore QB in 1969. Back then, freshmen could not play varsity so his passing stats are based on only three years. I was in the stands when he threw the pass to Alvarez. In that game, UF was voted #1 Party School and Houston #1 in football by Playboy Magazine. UF won the game by a big margin. The Gators were leading by so much at the half, that people were buying tickets for the second half. When Reaves was at UF as coach with Spurrier, Steve reminded John that if he didn’t watch it, that he(Spurrier) would tell the press that he (Reaves) had the record for the most interceptions in a game (9) against Auburn. Reaves, in his senior year at UF, was the QB when UF did “The Flop” against Miami so that he could get the NCAA career passing record.

  2. I was also there in 1969 when you and Carlos shocked Houston and the world with that first pass for a touchdown. I was also in Miami the last game. In between those two games, you, Carlos, and your team mates gave we Gator Fans a lot to cheer and feel good about. It sure is good to see you are involved with the Gators again this way. I enjoy your comments and answers very much each week. Keep them coming and I am still proud of you, Carlos and your team mates who gave us so much pleasure. God has led you to influence many lives no matter what has or will happen. Thanks for the memories.

    Wilbur Hatcher
    Ocala, Fl