Emory Jones had the best game of his young career against Vanderbilt last Saturday. The redshirt freshman rushed five times for 34 yards and three touchdowns — a career-high.
When Feleipe Franks went down with a season-ending injury there was an 800-pound elephant in the room. Who would start for the Florida Gators? Would it be Kyle Trask, the Texas gunslinger who hadn’t started a football game since his freshman year of high school? Or would the player Mullen recruited, a player with the kind of athleticism that has produced the best Dan Mullen offenses and the player deemed the future of the program start?
Trask won the job and Jones has played in spurts throughout the season, but most fans have clamored to see more of the electric quarterback.
Trask has started every game since Franks went down and he’s taken more than the lion’s share of reps. It’s been made clear that this is Trask’s team and Jones has a role but it isn’t the starter. Game after game Dan Mullen has been asked about Jones’ role and the coach always says that there is a plan for Jones, a different plan each week depending on the opponent but that when the game starts a gameplan sometimes doesn’t go the way you think it will.
“He can make some special things happen on the field. He’s got a lot of talent, both running and throwing with his arm. And one of the biggest ones is _ and I told him and we say this a lot with the quarterback, make the unspectacular plays,” Mullen said of Jones on Monday. “It’s consistency, and that’s one that I talk to him all the time about. Consistently making unspectacular plays. He can make spectacular ones. But consistently make the easy, unspectacular play. I think that is always a learning curve, especially for younger guys.”
Jones gets it, he knows what his role is on this team. Would he like to be the starter and play every offensive snap? Of course. That doesn’t mean he’s pouting in a corner or that he’s already told Mullen he’s going to transfer.
He’s a competitor. He shows up every day to meetings and to practice ready to compete. He’s already seen one quarterback go down and in all honestly, knock on wood, he’s a snap away from being named the starter.
His reps haven’t been spectacular. He had 20 snaps against Towson and that is the most he’s had in a game, although he had 14 against Vanderbilt a week ago.
“I just want to focus on taking advantage of my opportunities because I know they are limited,” Jones said. “So when I get in there, I have to make something happen.”
That’s been the growing up part for Jones. he wants to be the starter, naturally, so when you’re reps are limited you want to go and make the spectacular play, the play that shows up on SportsCenter. It’s more important for Jones to play within the system and within the constraints of the play that he’s in for. That shows maturity and that’s what the staff is looking for. Look, Jones is going to make plays that end up on highlight reels, that’s just the kind of player he is. It will come because of the kind of player he is, he’s just learning not to force it right now.
Being patient isn’t easy. It’s been a process and, at times, hard for the young quarterback.
“It’s kind of hard for anybody, especially in my position,” Jones said. “So I mean, but having (Mullen) around, I mean he always comes and pulls me to the side, tells me ‘It’s a process’, tells me ‘Just patience’, and tell me one thing I need to work on. So I just focus on those things more.”
Florida lost its starting quarterback just 11 quarters into the season and they’re 8-2. That’s an incredible coaching job and both backup quarterbacks should be applauded for how they’ve handled that adversity as well.
There are only a few more opportunities left this season. Feleipe Franks may or may not be healthy enough for spring camp, meaning Jones and Trask would battle it out again. There’s a lot that will happen before the 2020 season begins. For now, Jones is taking every rep and day one at a time. He knows his role on the team and it may not be what he wants in a perfect world but he’s a team player and he’s accepted it.
“Coach Mullen he has worked with all different type of quarterbacks and different systems, and all of them seem to revolve around the quarterback. Right now it revolves around Kyle until I get into the game,” Jones said. “I mean, I feel like when I get that spot eventually, like it just be crazy like, we can do a lot of things.”