Patience is easier in theory than in practice.
A four star, all-everything quarterback that has the likes of Nick Saban and Urban Meyer calling and asking for his commitment, Emory Jones ended up in Gainesville and then on the sidelines.
It’s a lot to process going from the big man on campus to second or third string on the depth chart but Jones took the challenge head on. Jones was committed to Ohio State and the coaching staff pushed him to shut his recruitment down and to not take any more visits. Alabama kept calling — Florida was going through a coaching debacle so they weren’t in the picture at this point. Jones found out that while Ohio State was looking for him to shut down his recruitment, they weren’t practicing that same commitment and they were looking around for another quarterback. That, and the addition of Dan Mullen and his staff at Florida is what helped flip Jones from Ohio State to Florida.
Jones arrived early and was thrown into the mix during spring camp.
“It’s probably my fourth time going through the install and stuff like that, so it’s obviously more smooth for me,” Jones said after practice on August 8. “I feel more comfortable out there.”
That first spring was a whirlwind. Jones was behind both Kyle Trask and Feleipe Franks. He sailed passes high and bounced balls to receivers while mentally swimming in the playbook. His athleticism is undeniable. He’s an electric runner but it was clear to anyone at practice that his arm and accuracy weren’t there yet. Still, Dan Mullen wanted to get his talented rookie involved. Jones saw action in the first game but Mullen knew he wanted to redshirt Jones and that meant he could only play in four games. So Jones sat on the sideline with a headset and a clipboard the next six weeks.
It was hard.
“Just because the competitor I am. So, I mean, it’s kind of hard, but I trust (Mullen), and I trust in his system and his program,” Jones said.
Then the Georgia week came and behind closed doors of practice Jones’ package of plays was a focus. The Bulldogs hadn’t seen the freshmen outside of limited action in the season opener and Mullen was going to use Jones more than he ever had.
Jones came in during the Gators’ third drive and picked up five yards on the ground on a 1st and 10 run. Jones continued to play, throwing a nice deep pass that fell incomplete to Van Jefferson but was ultimately ruled as pass interference. It was still a smaller role than Jones may have liked but it was a huge stage, against a massive rival and Jones’ home state university.
“He might put me on a big stage with a small package, so it’s not a lot for me to do. So, it’s not that hard, but then I’m on a big stage,” Jones said. “So then, when that time comes that he gives me the whole offense on those type of stages, I’ve already been there.”
Jones played some against Idaho in mop up duty and then again in the bowl game against Michigan. He finished the season 12-of-16 (75%) and threw two touchdowns.
This year is kind of more of the same for Jones. This is Feleipe Franks’ team and Jones knows it. That could be hard to handle, especially for a quarterback.
More than 100 quarterbacks across the country entered the transfer portal, according to 247 Sports. That list includes Justin Field, Jalen Hurts, Tate Martell, Kelly Bryant and Deondre Francois. There’s only one ball and only one player can play quarterback at a time. It’s led a mass exodus every offseason but Jones had no interest in leaving.
“I think it’s just constant communication of understanding where you are in the process,” quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson said of Jones. “Being very, very open, honest, direct and transparent of exactly what you see on the tape and what you need to improve on and what you are doing well. I don’t think it’s anything more than that.”
Jones is still behind Franks and, while he may be able to do more this year, will still be a backup. His attitude and the way he approaches that has impressed his teammates and coaches though. Jones was voted by his teammates to represent them on Florida’s leadership council. It’s a group of players that speak directly with the coaches and have constant communication so the staff knows what the mood and temperature of the team is at all times. It’s a big deal to be on the committee and it shows how respected Jones is in the locker room.
“When it’s his time he’ll be ready to shine and do good things. I’m a big fan of Emory,” starting quarterback Feleipe Franks said. “He knows that. Everybody on the teams really loves Emory. You never hear him complain one time about, ‘I didn’t get this rep’ or ‘I’m not getting in the game.’ It’s not the kind of guy he is. He’s a team player. Always wants to win no matter what. I think that’s one of the best traits he has.”