Florida Gators National Signing Day preview: quarterback

National Signing Day is less than a month away, so it’s worth taking a look at each grouping to see where the Gators are at and what may be in store as we head down the stretch. First up is the most important position on the field: quarterback.

All recruiting rankings come from the 247 Sports Composite, which balances recruiting rankings from all of the major services.

  • Departing: Luke Del Rio, Malik Zaire
  • Returning: RSO Feleipe Franks, RSO Kyle Trask, RFR Jake Allen
  • Signed: Emory Jones, 4-star (0.9778) dual threat
  • Committed: None
  • Offered: Dorian Thompson-Robinson, 4-star (0.9784) dual threat committed to UCLA; Roschon Johnson, 4-star (0.9480) dual threat committed to Texas

Once Zaire decided not to pursue an injury waiver with the NCAA to get a sixth year of eligibility, the picture of the returning guys at the position was complete. Franks is the only guy left on the roster who has taken a snap in a college game, with Trask and Allen along for the ride as other options.

Like Jim McElwain before him, Dan Mullen made an ultimately futile push to get the Composite’s second-highest rated player and the top dual threat quarterback Justin Fields. Instead, Mullen flipped Jones from Ohio State to be his quarterback of the future — and possibly the present.

It’s unclear whether Florida will end up with a second signal caller in this class. The only unsigned quarterbacks known to have received offers from UF at any point are Thompson-Robinson and Johnson. They each got those offers back in 2016 from McElwain’s staff and are presently hard commits to other programs, so they basically don’t even count. UF might try to swoop in late on someone like it did with eventual ECU signee Holton Ahlers at the early signing day in December, but there isn’t anyone generating buzz about potentially committing right now.

Mullen had charmed luck with quarterbacks in his first go-round at Florida. He never had a starter miss a game, which was fortunate given that either a lack of depth or injuries to backups frequently meant he only had two scholarship signal callers available.

He may need that good luck again depending on how things shake out in the coming months.

It would be nice for Mullen to nab a second dual threat quarterback this year to provide more than one option who fits his scheme. Franks may be mobile for a pocket passer, but he’s definitely a pocket passer. The same is true for Trask and Allen, who aren’t statues but aren’t dangerous runners either.

In this day and age, quarterbacks transferring in order to get playing time elsewhere is increasingly common. For that reason, don’t expect Mullen to name a starter at the end of spring or perhaps even until the week or day of the first game.

Any of the returning guys could probably go to a lower-tier Power 5 or American Athletic Conference school and have a great shot at starting after sitting out their transfer year. I strongly doubt that all three would end up out of Gainesville by fall simply because someone must start and a true freshman winning the top quarterback job is never a lock at any program.

However if one or even two of them decided to go to a different program this summer, it shouldn’t shock anyone. Mullen does have his history as a quarterback developer as a draw to try to convince all of those guys to stay, but everyone can see that the plan is for Jones to take over once he’s ready to. It would be logical for someone who is not an ideal fit in the offense and not the longterm plan to want to start over elsewhere.

The Gators haven’t had a quarterback start every game since Tim Tebow’s senior year in 2009. Bad injury luck and/or inconsistent play has required Florida to use three quarterback starters twice in the past five seasons. Any of the three returning guys would be something of square pegs in round holes, but — with apologies to the pride of my high school alma mater Nick Sproles — they are better options than going to walk ons. And no, Kadarius Toney is not anything more than an emergency option behind center.

Mullen has been known to target and pick up an underappreciated quarterback, such as when he beat out UT-Chattanooga for Nick Fitzgerald at Mississippi State. Maybe he does the same again with — and I’m not breaking news here, just pulling a rare uncommitted name off of the quarterback listings — Wyatt Rector, a 3-star dual threat QB from Leesburg who’s listed at a sizable 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. Rector garnered some interest from the old staff, grew up a Gator fan, and is interested in playing in Mullen’s system.

For now, though, Florida is going with Jones and whichever of the returning guys will stick through until the fall. It would be best if at least two of them do for depth purposes. Based on how things look today, any more quarterback news for Florida on the February signing day will be a truly new development.