The Florida Gators have a long way to go when it comes to this pesky quarterback competition, and not a lot of time to get there.
All three of Florida’s quarterbacks got to work in the new offense in the spring and put in time away from their coaches over the summer, but the season is now less than a month away, and based on comments from both head coach Dan Mullen and quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson this week, there is still plenty to be desired.
It is a lot to learn and adjust to, and the shortened time for fall camp this year does not help the Gators’ situation.
“That’s obviously the biggest challenge,” Johnson said. “It’s all brand new to them. So, the complete cycle of a year in the program is completely new, so every aspect that they’re stepping into is something that is brand new for them. I think, obviously, once they go through it for a season, the next cycle around, those guys will be much more capable of putting themselves in the position to come out there and exceed the standard of the program.”
Unfortunately, Florida doesn’t have a season to spare to let a quarterback find himself in the offense. At least not if it wants to be competitive in 2018.
Since another year to develop is not an option, Johnson is pushing them as hard as he possibly can in these 25 practices before Charleston Southern comes to town. The less comfortable they are right now, the more poised they will be when 90,000 screaming fans are in the stands.
“We are going to give them different looks and throw as much as we possibly can at them so the game is a bit slower than practice,” he said. “They did a good job of bring resilient and bouncing back and taking coaching and coming back really being intentional in what they are working on after the corrections and getting stuff corrected.”
Besides time, another challenge the Gators are facing right now is lack of experience in the quarterback room.
Feleipe Franks has the most experience of the three as he played in all 11 games last season and made eight starts as a redshirt freshman. His experience would be more comforting had he performed at a higher level in his time on the field.
Behind him, Kyle Trask has yet to have an opportunity since he got to Florida after redshirting his freshman year and then missing last season due to injury. There is also the minor detail that he did not even start on his high school team as the backup to Houston quarterback D’Eriq King.
Meanwhile, Emory Jones is just barely out of high school.
With so little combined experience, Johnson said mistakes have to be acceptable right now. There is no way around it. Mistakes are going to happen.
The thing he is stressing the most to them is not making the same mistake twice and paying attention to the mistakes of the others so that time does not have to be wasted on coaching the same things over and over.
Mullen, Johnson and the rest of the offensive staff have a tall task at hand to prepare a quarterback to give the team a chance this season, but they are working every day to make it happen.
“I’ve always said experience is life’s best teacher,” Johnson said. “Part of playing this position is you got to play and you got to go through some ups and downs and some peaks and valleys. Our thing is we have to minimize that and accelerate that as much as possible, with not as many practices as you normally would have in a training camp. But those guys are up for the challenge. They’re competing, they’re working hard and we have time to make sure we get them right.”