Leadership role a vital step for Florida QB Emory Jones

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Florida reserve quarterback Emory Jones answers questions from members of the media during the annual Florida Football Media Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on July 25, 2019. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Although he’s entrenched as one of Florida’s back-up quarterbacks, Emory Jones isn’t complacent in his role. 

That’s simply not who he is. 

“I wish to play a lot, like everybody on the team hopes for that,” Jones admits. “But, I mean, I’m just going with the flow right now, just perfecting every day and trying to be the best I can be.”

With Feleipe Franks leading the way at quarterback and fellow redshirt junior Kyle Trask poised to be the team’s primary back-up, Jones isn’t expected to play a vital role in 2019.

But, like the entirety of the Gators, he’s preparing as if it’s his year. 

In many ways, however, Jones’ redshirt freshman season will be valuable preparation for a program lacking starting experience behind Franks at the position. With the possibility of Franks and Trask departing Gainesville after this season, the time for Jones to gain experience at the Power Five level is now. 

And, according to Jones, Florida’s coaching staff is building for the future while preparing for the present. 

“(Coach Dan Mullen) talks about that a lot, especially with me. He always tells me (to) just keep focusing on my development and just keep trying to get better,” Jones said, “and just not focusing on the present and just focus on the future for me.” 

As was the case in his inaugural season at Florida, Mullen has an entire package built around Jones, and the hope among the coaching staff is that the LaGrange, Georgia, native will be utilized in late-game situations as well. 

Yet Mullen, possibly sensing the urgency of the situation, has ensured Jones is ready to run Florida’s entire offense if need be. 

“I definitely feel like I’m more prepared for that. He put a load on me last spring and this camp,” Jones said of his preparation under Mullen. “He’s been putting a lot on me, just so if the time comes, I’m ready.”

While many prospects arrive on campus expecting to make an instant impact, Jones acknowledged the process isn’t seamless. When it comes to the ability to guide a football team, that’s an aspect of the game Jones has honed over the past year in his off-the-field preparation. 

As a result, Jones is one of a handful of Gators on the team’s leadership council this season — a vital step for a player in line to shepherd the program in 2020. 

“I would say my leadership (has improved the most). Last year as a freshman, I hadn’t really played a lot here, I hadn’t played a lot of college ball. But now my second time going through it, these guys, they trust me a lot more,” Jones said. “I’ve been working out with them and helping the guys out, so they obviously trust me now, so I’d say that’s where I grew the most.” 

That’s a sentiment echoed by the one trusted with his development, Gators quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson — someone who also knows a bit about leading as an underclassmen. After backing up former Heisman Trophy winner Alex Smith at Utah as a freshman in 2004, Johnson took over the reins as the team’s starting quarterback and helped guide the Utes to a 7-5 finish before a knee injury ended his sophomore campaign. 

Jones doesn’t have to look far to find someone familiar with the challenges that come with being an underclassmen leader.

“Quarterback is a natural position of leadership. That’s one of the prerequisites that we require for our guys to go ahead and play that position,” Johnson said. “He’s done a good job of stepping in and taking care of that.”

When the time does ultimately come for Jones to step in and lead, the Gators can breathe a sigh of relief knowing their quarterback put in the work necessary to succeed. 

“I had to just work hard during the summer. They always are going to trust the guy that works hard. Like me, I watch Freddie Swain and Josh Hammond go at it like every day in practice, in summer workouts, stuff like that,” Jones said, “So I’m always going to turn to those type of guys, ’cause I trust them, I see that they put the work in. Everything falls back to your work.” 

25 COMMENTS

  1. Nice Graham. We have an improved FF, hopefully a healthy KT and a young EJ getting ready for the future. They used CL and TT in the 2000’s. in the 90’s SOS went a game changing QB almost every play. if our LO is up to it changing QB every 2 o3 plays would be daunting for an opposing D.

  2. I read on a different site that EJ will have specific packages for games this year. If our team can get far enough ahead, well that should allow for more playing time for those in need of experience. 14 days and a wake up – them UF and Miami. GO GATORS!!!

  3. Nice to read that Jones is progressing well. Of all the QB’s on the roster, he certainly seems to be the best fit for CDM’s offense.

    On a side note, if no one else will say it, I will: Alex Smith is not a Heisman Trophy winner. Maybe I’m nitpicking, and I know I’ve opened myself up to an accusation of criticizing CDM, but truth is truth. It would probably be a pretty big nit to the Downtown Athletic Club.

    • You’re not wrong Joe…..but he has played (at a high level at times) in the NFL for 14 years 🙂

      And it’s okay to criticize anyone, including CDM, where warranted. But not sure any criticism is warranted here as CDM did coach a future long-time NFL QB in Alex Smith.

  4. Joe, in all fairness it’s certainly fair to criticize CDM when warranted……he pulled a couple of boners last season, and wasn’t immune at all despite our constantly increasing glimpses of the simple fact that he was a great hire. Now we know that, but it’s still OK to point out when he may or may not have stepped on his poncho liner. I’m only addressing this, certainly not because you actually criticized him in your comment, but because it reminded me that there were some very wild and ridiculous accusations during and after his hire…..with the corresponding defenses of him being often over the top as well. I guess the point is that the guy has a very big job to do and may stumble here and there, but since he has proven that he is the man for the job I think we can all relax a bit now. One of the best indicators of that may well be that we don’t need to get all hyper anymore when somebody fires a HEAT round his way. He’ll get the job done, I think we can all at least agree on that.

    • I didn’t really think I was being critical, since the fact that Smith didn’t actually win the Heisman in no way detracts from the job that CDM did in coaching him up. I was simply alluding to the hypersensitivity that many fans have exhibited toward any perceived slight of Coach Mullen. In particular, I had in mind all the grief Pat Dooley got in the comments section of his article on explosive plays. I simply saw it as Pat pointing to a stat that shows the Gators are improved but not yet elite. In fact, I think the tone of the article and the title itself indicate that Dooley thinks Mullen has the Gators primed to produce a significant number of explosive plays this season. Still, many saw it as criticism, because Pat had the nerve to suggest there’s still work to be done for CDM to elevate the Gators to the level of Clemson and Bama. To me, that’s an obvious fact, but to many it’s an offense worthy of proclaiming Dooley to be everything from a hack who should retire to a traitor to Gator Nation. I agree with you that CDM had/has a big job to do, and, like you, I think he’ll get it done. In the mean time, I’m sure there’ll continue to be some over the top criticism and over the top defenses of Mullen’s honor, so we can probably look forward to many more interesting comment boards. And after all, that’s a big part of why we come to this site.

        • I’ll rely on your research, 6. I have nothing personal against CDM, and I think he’s a great coach. My only gripe was/is the spread option offense which I believe is inferior, but is often necessary these days due to the lack of good pocket passers. However, I’ll admit I have sarcastically referred to Mullen as the Six Million Dollar Man, mostly just to tweak those who think he can do no wrong. If his spread option continues to produce and ultimately generates a championship, I’ll grow to love it and be thankful for it. I do think it’s a trip onto thin ice to insist that CDM is superior to Kirby Smart at this point, as many on this site do. Kirby can match Dan’s NC’s as a coordinator and raise him an SEC title and a NC Game appearance. But given time and the resources available at UF, I think Mullen will prove himself. He’s off to a great start, and I hope to see it continue. Go Gators!

          • Well, since you broached the subject, Joe — until I went back in history I had forgotten you were pretty hard on Mullen as well. But I think you’ve changed your perspective somewhat; I know I have too (BTW, how’s that for showing off the proper use of a semi-colon?). Now CDM vs Smart? I’m willing to give ’em both their due, but I do think Kirby inherited a better over all situation than CDM. The guy I’m worried about may surprise you though — Pruitt. No kidding.

          • Very smooth on the semi-colon! Can’t argue with Kirby inheriting the better situation. He certainly did. You may be right about Pruitt as well. I know he ticked-off Mark Richt when he was at UGA, so maybe our best defense against him is to hope that his grating personality angers the wrong person(s) at UT. That, and the fact that CDM is pretty darn good.

  5. Every now and then even the best step on there crank with a pair of combat boots. But the good ones fix the mistake pick it up and get back in the game. CDM will step on it every now and then he’ll come out better for it and the team will too.

  6. i too hold pruitt in high regard, its early. also i like the two cdm former defensive coaches now charged with turning former elite programs back into top ranked ones, diaz at miami and collins at georgia tech. either way you have to have a good offensive coordinator if you are a defensive coach though, and you have to not screw up the play calling like champ did.