Maybe it was the nerves of being on a big stage. Maybe it was a lack of in-game experience.
Freshman quarterback Emory Jones took a shotgun snap in the second quarter against Georgia and ran right. Running back Jordan Scarlett trailed behind, his hands raised in anticipation of a late toss.
It’s a staple in the Dan Mullen offense, the pitch option. Dak Prescott, Nick Fitzgerald and Tim Tebow can probably run that play in their sleep. Even Feleipe Franks, who runs like a giraffe trying to catch the elevator, consistently executes that play.
Jones took several steps toward the right hash marks until he was met by defensive lineman Malik Herring. Then, near disaster. Jones tried to pitch it out to Scarlett but was hit in the process of the exchange, forcing the ball to the TIAA Bank Field turf. Jones recovered the fumble, but the damage was evident. Florida punted on the next play and nixed the momentum it had from a first-down run earlier in the drive.
It marked the end of the half for the Gators’ offense. It didn’t mark the end of Jones’ day. He entered again in the fourth quarter and, after an 8-yard run off the left tackle, heaved a deep ball to receiver Van Jefferson. It was a well-placed ball on which Jefferson earned a pass interference call and eventually led to a UF field goal.
Jones wasn’t terrible. He just wasn’t that good, either. His other three carries netted four yards and struggled for a semblance of consistency. Granted, nobody outside of the Florida locker room expected him to play. But he knew. He prepared for two weeks for an opportunity against the No. 7 team in the country.
He didn’t embarrass himself on national TV, but he didn’t make the case for playing time for now.
Mullen teased the media — and Gators fans — somewhat in his postgame press conference regarding the future of his youngest quarterback.
“I think our plan moving forward will probably (be) to redshirt him still, so we will see how the rest of the season plays out,” Mullen said. Then he added a line to feed internet conspiracy theorists enough fodder for the remainder of the year.
“You never know.”
I think I do, Dan. You’ll probably play him in two of the remaining games in some capacity. You’ll probably get some good looks from him against Idaho and either Missouri, South Carolina, FSU or a bowl game. You’ll probably get to use that redshirt on him and get him on the roster for four more years. Franks and backup Kyle Trask have two more years of eligibility at UF.
It’s clear that, at the very least, Mullen would like a couple of years with a more experienced and comfortable Jones behind center. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind an always-improving Franks in the interim.
Besides, Florida is likely going 10-2, barring any major upsets from the previously mentioned teams. Fans and journalists alike would’ve been incredulous at that result if you’d claimed it before the season. That’s also with every player adjusting to a new offense and a new defense. It’s remarkable we’re still having this discussion with a 6-2 (4-2 SEC) team whose only two losses were against two teams competing for top spot in the SEC East .
The Gators are a work in progress. The quarterback position is doubly so. Let Jones marinate a little longer, UF faithful. You’ve waited this long for a quarterback with promise and natural talent. You can wait a bit longer.
Morgan McMullen is the sports editor at The Alligator. Follow him on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin and contact him at email@example.com.
Freshman quarterback Emory Jones (5) got meaningful playing time against Georgia on Saturday. He carried the ball four times for 12 yards and threw a deep pass that drew a pass-interference call.