Florida quarterbacks are dropping like open passes this season.
Injuries have sidelined four scholarship signal callers, the most recent being Malik Zaire, who is out for the Gators’ home matchup with UAB (7-3) after suffering a knee injury in UF’s 28-20 loss to South Carolina on Saturday.
And while the injuries guarantee Feleipe Franks will start on Saturday, questions concerning his lack of a backup lingered until being answered Monday by interim coach Randy Shannon.
Shannon said receiver Dre Massey will step in as second-string quarterback.
“He was a quarterback in high school,” Shannon said. “We just have to water down a little bit what we're trying to get done on offense.”
Massey, a junior-college transfer, hasn’t thrown as pass in a game since he’s been at UF. But the Gators don’t have many other options. The Gators (3-6) are understandably unwilling to play their walk-ons in Nick Sproles, a redshirt freshman out of Winter Park, and Jack Ruskell, a freshman from Illinois who joined the team over summer.
That leaves Massey and quarterback-turned-receiver Kadarius Toney, who has been a fan favorite since he wowed at UF’s spring game in April. This season, Toney has taken double-digit snaps at quarterback, usually coming on designed runs out of the wildcat formation. Toney has also thrown two passes this year, a 50-yard completion against Kentucky and an off-target incompletion on a screen pass against Vanderbilt. While Toney would give the Gators explosiveness and a strong arm out of the backfield, Shannon said Toney isn’t a viable second-string option because a shoulder injury has kept him from practicing at the position.
“Kadarius has been out a couple of weeks,” Shannon said. “So, you can’t just throw somebody back in there.”
While it’s unclear how much time Massey will spend under center against UAB, his teammates believe he has the tools to be effective.
“I'm confident with him at quarterback as long as the coaches are calling plays that are comfortable with him,” running back Mark Thompson said.
Meanwhile, Franks didn’t realize how limited UF’s choices at quarterback were until he was asked about it after the South Carolina game.
“I didn’t think about that,” the redshirt freshman said Saturday before Shannon named Massey his backup. “We got some good players, like Nick Sproles, walk-on guy but good quarterback.”
And while Shannon indicated Zaire could return for Florida’s last game against Florida State, for now, he has confidence in Massey given recent reps in practice.
“He can execute things,” Shannon said. “We're happy that we have been working on Dre Massey playing some quarterback.”
You can follow Matt Brannon on Twitter @MattB_727, and contact him at [email protected].