MIAMI — The list of quarterbacks that have learned under Dan Mullen is impressive. It includes two Heisman trophies, first round picks and National Champions. He’s had a hand in handling Tim Tebow and Dak Prescott since they were both freshmen and knows how important it is to handle a freshman quarterback properly.
Heading into the 2018 season the Florida Gators only have three scholarship quarterbacks and only Feleipe Franks has game experience. On Wednesday down at Marlins Park in Miami Mullen detailed how he handles that.
“The key is not putting them in a situation unless you had to put them in a certain situation. Then you just help them manage that situation. One of the things when you have a young quarterback, I had a young quarterback in Keytaon Thompson last year got thrown in to a situation and played really well in he game,” Mullen said. “When you have those young backups or young guy that has a chance to play you sit down with them and say ‘tell me your 10 favorite calls in the gameplan.’ Then you keeps those in your back pocket in case something happens and this guys goes in then he first play you’re going to call is going to be his A1A favorite play in the gameplan. Building confidence. That’s the play he picked as his favorite play that we have in this week. We’re going to let him run that play in the first snap that he takes.”
Feleipe Franks was able to redshirt his first season on campus but he didn’t really get thrown into an offense that suited his game and he certainly wasn’t given a vote of confidence by the previous staff when he was yanked out of the first game of the season. There’s a delicate balance in handling the emotions and confidence of a young player and the consequences are magnified at the quarterback position.
“You have to be able to laugh that stuff off and just go worry about your personal performance, not what everybody around you says,” Mullen said.
That conversation with Mullen quickly turns to his four-star freshman quarterback Emory Jones.
Jones enrolled early this spring and went through camp with the rest of the Gators. Mullen has had good things to report of the freshman, but it’s still early and he’s handling Jones with white gloves.
“I think Emory has a great future,” Mullen said of Jones. “The key is to make sure we’re developing him and developing him the right way and putting him in positions early on in his career to be successful. That gets to building the confidence.”
What should fans expect to see from Jones? Mullen isn’t even sure at this point.
“We’ll keep evaluating that in fall camp as it keeps going and see where he’ll be at. I mean it’s such a long way you never know. He could very easily start next year, I don’t know,” Mullen said. “Maybe he wins the job, maybe it’s injury based. He could have a small package he may redshirt, I don’t know. It’s still a long way away to make those decisions.”
All three quarterbacks on the roster will have an opportunity to start. If Jones wins the job outright that would be fine by Mullen. The head coach is hoping that each of his passers are working hard and that when they come back one of them will separate from the pack but the more realistic approach for Jones would be something similar to what Tim Tebow or Dak Prescott handled in their freshman seasons. Granted, Tebow and Prescott came into situations with older, veteran quarterbacks on the roster, but Mullen takes building confidence with a young quarterback serious and believes that you can ruin a young quarterback by throwing them in too early.
“Like what we did with Tim Tebow, what I did with Dak Prescott is you protect those guys and put them in certain situations where they’re going succeed and have the confidence to handle more situations.”