For the first time since Jeff Driskel returned in 2013 the Florida Gators will head into spring camp without a quarterback battle. Feleipe Franks had a career year in 2018 and he’s earned the right to be QB1 in 2019.
Except, it’s not a right.
Success isn’t owned. It’s leased and rent is due every day.
That’s the mentality Dan Mullen has and the one his players need to have if they’re going to step on the field. It’s not a Feleipe Franks issue. Mullen had that same mentality when he was coaching a Heisman trophy winner in Gainesville.
“When I was here before, I didn’t even have a position set,” Mullen said on Monday before the start of spring camp. “That was Urban’s deal. ‘Well you can go do the press conference and say Cam Newton’s gonna start over Tim Tebow.’ It’s like, ‘I’m not doing that press conference.’ But no, I just love competition.”
One can only imagine the ire Mullen would have endured had he not said Tim Tebow was the number one quarterback but in his eyes there isn’t a starter at any position.
Surely Franks season in 2018 would warrant him getting the nod. He’ll take the first snap when spring camp starts. He’ll get the lion’s share, if not all, of the reps with the first team this spring too. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other quarterbacks in the room that will be trying to take that spot. It doesn’t mean that Franks can’t play his way out of reps or a job either.
“I wouldn’t want a quarterback that wouldn’t want it that way, that doesn’t want to be pushed every day to compete to be his best. They should have the confidence,” Mullen said. “I know they have the confidence in themselves. You walk in there, Emory Jones expects to be the starter. Kyle Trask expects to be the starter. That’s how they kind of, they have that little chip on their shoulder. That’s how you do it. You work as hard as you can so you’re ready when your number’s called.”
Jones is entering his second season with the Gators and his second spring camp as well. There’s now a familiarity with the offense, the plays, the schemes and most importantly the expectations. Trask won’t let up either. The redshirt junior hasn’t been able to unseat Franks, but if not for a broken foot would have almost certainly had an opportunity to start at some point in the season.
Obviously Dan Mullen’s offense runs best with a quarterback that can run. He doesn’t need Tim Tebow or Cam Newton to bulldoze through defensive linemen and linebackers but he needs a willing runner. Jones is clearly the most dynamic runner of the group — the most physically gifted athlete in terms of carrying the football, but that’s not necessarily what Mullen needs.
“I don’t need a dynamic runner, a great runner or even any bit of runner. You just want somebody who is going to have kind of a toughness edge to him,” Mullen said. “I think you saw as the year went on, he kind of played with some toughness. And I think (Franks) upped his confidence and I think it upped the team’s confidence in him and upped everyone’s level of play when every once in a while he goes and drops his pads on somebody to run into an end zone.”
There are 14 practices to be run before the Orange and Blue Debut. Franks will take the first snap with the first team offense when camp kicks off and he should. That doesn’t mean the job is his, even though it is. Mullen wants Franks to feel the pressure behind him in hopes that it will continue to give his quarterback the edge he needs to keep improving.