Florida’s offense has made its official pivot toward a new philosophy and a new style under Dan Mullen. It happened around noon Wednesday, when Heard County (Ga.) quarterback Emory Jones announced in Atlanta that he is a Gator.
Mullen has found his man, a four-star, dual-threat quarterback whose skill set seems an ideal fit for Mullen’s offense and where he wants to take it at Florida.
“Obviously it’s huge to get a quarterback, a guy that kind of ends up being a big leader for the class. As everybody looks at it, a leader for the future of the program,” Mullen said. “And we couldn’t be happier to have Emory coming in and being our quarterback for the future.”
Jones appears to have everything Mullen is looking for in a quarterback. He’s got a big arm, he’s athletic, he can run and he can extend plays with his mobility.
And then there’s the biggest QB attribute of all.
“He’s a winner,” Mullen said. “It starts there, of somebody that has that mindset. He even sent me a text about 10 days ago. He said, ‘Hey, you know what, when all is said and done, I’m your man, I’m going to help you win championships at Florida.’
“When you see a text like that, that’s what I want to see out of my quarterback, someone that has that confidence and that expectation, not worried about what jersey number or worried about a lot of the other stuff that goes on in recruiting. He’s someone who’s worried about coming in and doing what it takes to win.
“So, he checks all of those boxes. Obviously he’s got a strong arm. He’s got the size and the athletic ability to improvise. He can run, but he can also improvise and extend plays, and he does have a cannon for an arm.”
Jones’ flip to Florida from Urban Meyer and Ohio State was the highlight of a successful first day of the early signing period for the Gators.
In only a little more than a month, Mullen and his staff not only held UF’s committed class together, but added two highly rated prospects Wednesday — Jones and four-star defensive back Trey Dean, who also is from Georgia (Hampton).
The Gators signed 13 prospects, including two four-star running backs (Iverson Clement and Dameon Pierce), two four-star tight ends (Dante Lang and Kyle Pitts), three highly rated defensive backs (Dean, John Huggins and Randy Russell), two offensive linemen (Noah Banks and Chris Bleich), a top linebacker (David Reese) and the nation’s No. 2 place-kicker (Evan McPherson).
Mullen and his staff will fill out the class over the next six weeks leading into National Signing Day on Feb. 7.
They’re certainly off to a pretty remarkable start considering how little time Mullen and his assistants had to put this foundation together heading in to the early signing period.
“Exciting day for us today. I’m really pleased with how today went,” Mullen said. “I thought our coaching staff did a great job. Usually you have a new staff coming in, you’re kind of under crunch time, and that’s when signing day is in February.
“For the December 20th signing day, I think our guys did a fabulous job working, getting to know these kids, getting out there, developing the relationships, finding out the things we needed to find out that the guys fit, what the expectations within our program are as we’re bringing them in here. I’m really proud of all our assistant coaches, how they worked.”
Only a few days earlier, many in Gator Nation seemed ready to step out on the ledge when longtime four-star quarterback commitment Matt Corral backed off his official visit to UF and promptly switched his commitment to Ole Miss.
Mullen certainly didn’t panic. Over the last few weeks, Jones had emerged as the Gators’ No. 1 QB target. Mullen and Jones already had a relationship. Mullen was the first to offer Jones a scholarship three years ago when Mullen was the head coach at Mississippi State. When Mullen took over the head job at Florida, the two reconnected.
“I think it was him reaching out to me,” Mullen said. “I think we were both kind of looking and feeling everybody, and he was feeling out his situation and we were feeling out our situation. I think that was his word to me of, ‘Hey, I can’t wait to get you in the house and sit down and let’s see if this works for both of us.’
“I think the familiarity we had with each other really made it easy because he knew what he was getting with us and we knew what we were getting in him.”
Mullen said Jones has a clear understanding of what he’s stepping into. Expectations at Florida, especially for the starting quarterback, are traditionally off the charts.
Mullen said Jones can cope.
“He’s not just coming to play quarterback, he’s coming to play quarterback at the University of Florida, and there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that,” Mullen said. “It’s the history of the position here, and you have to find somebody that can handle the responsibilities of not just the quarterback position for the football team, but the quarterback at the University of Florida, which is something special.
“His comfort with us and our comfort with him, I know that he is somebody that can handle that, that can handle that scrutiny, handle that pressure, handle those expectations. And, really, not handle it, but thrive on it, and that’s what he was looking for is to be the quarterback at really the premier quarterback school in America.”
Jones is one of eight early enrollees. He’ll have a chance to start competing for the starting role with UF’s three other scholarship quarterbacks — Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask and Jake Allen — in the spring.
Jones hasn’t been promised anything, other than the chance to compete.
“The opportunity for him graduating early and going through spring practice will give him a chance,” Mullen said. “But I’ll be honest with you, there are a couple quarterbacks on campus that are going to have something to say about that because they’re going to have a competitive edge to them as well.
“I think that that mindset, the competitiveness at the position, is certainly going to elevate the play of all of the quarterbacks.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.