Now under a week away from the return of football in The Swamp, Dan Mullen, redshirt junior quarterback Emory Jones and the Florida Gators prepare to defend their home turf against the Florida Atlantic Owls Saturday.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham seems to have been studying for this game for a while, as he rattled off a thorough scouting report of the Owls’ offense at media availability Monday.
Florida is already familiar with FAU’s starting quarterback. Owls’ head coach Willie Taggart gave the nod to Miami transfer N’Kosi Perry. Florida previously scouted Perry ahead of its Week 0 matchup versus the Hurricanes in 2019, as Perry participated in a heated quarterback competition with eventual starter Jarren Williams and Tate Martell.
Perry transferred to FAU this offseason after playing in only five games and primarily serving as the Hurricanes’ backup in 2020. He finished his Miami career with a 52.4% completion percentage, 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 24 career games. Perry beat out FAU incumbent Nick Tronti, Penn State transfer Michael Johnson Jr. and sophomore Willie Taggart Jr.
“We had already done a little work on him and understood his strengths and the things he brings to the table,” Grantham said. “When you look at their offense it’s still a system offense from the standpoint of the guys that were there last year, they were very involved in the quarterback run game because they're athletic. This guy (Perry) probably brings a little more dimension from a passing standpoint, so you'll have to account for that.”
Junior linebacker Mohamoud Diabate echoed a similar sentiment, saying he’s spent most of his time studying FAU’s different formations.
“They’re more of a scheme team, they're not really going through any specific player,” Diabate said. “They’re just running the things that they run through Coach Taggart.”
Diabate also said there’s a lot more certainty around the program and college football entering 2021 after a tumultuous 2020 preseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re definitely way more comfortable, we know what's coming for us,” Diabate said. “We didn't know what was coming last year, last year was a year of uncertainty. And when things are uncertain, it’s kind of hard to prepare.”
Speaking of preparation, Jones has been visualizing Saturday since he stepped on campus in 2018. He said his mindset hasn’t really changed ahead of his first career start.
“Just competing every day, trying to get better every day,” Jones said. “Just trying to find different ways to bring the team together and get us through any adversity that we have to face.”
Despite his cool demeanor at the podium, Jones did admit he’s excited for Saturday. The quarterback has family coming down from LaGrange, Georgia, to watch his first start.
“They've been contacting me already, just telling me how proud they are for me, how proud they are of me, just for sticking to this,” Jones said. “Now it’s about to be that time for me to show the world what I can do.”
The quarterback said he’s most excited for the return of fans to The Swamp after a limited crowd in 2020.
“I'm just waiting to see the atmosphere, have The Swamp light back up and the amount of fans that go crazy,” Jones said.
Jones finally gets his chance to shine under the lights of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Michael Hull is a third-year journalism major with a specialization in sports & media. He has a minor in business and leadership and is a struggling Jacksonville Jaguars fan.