For about 20 minutes Saturday, while Kyle Trask was in the locker room having his injured knee examined, the Florida Gators were down to just one healthy scholarship quarterback.
Emory Jones, the last man standing.
Had something happened to Jones, a turned ankle or a twisted knee, in that 20-minute window before Trask came running back out of the tunnel, the next man up at quarterback would have been a redshirt junior walk-on who has thrown only one pass at UF, an incompletion, and is listed as an “athlete” on the roster and in the media guide.
That would be Nick Sproles, who threw for 2,006 yards and 15 touchdowns in his senior season at Winter Park High School but had no scholarship offers from FBS schools.
With only two healthy scholarship quarterbacks on the roster — Trask and Jones — this is the precarious situation the Gators find themselves at the most important position on the field.
They’re an injury away from an untested walk-on being the backup. Two injuries from that walk-on being the starter. Next in line behind Sproles is preferred walk-on Luke Matthews, the true freshman from Gainesville High and son of former UF quarterback great Shane Matthews.
“We’ve had it before (where we have only two scholarship quarterbacks),” UF coach Dan Mullen said Monday. “It’s always a concern. We can’t go sign a free agent this week. That’s stuff you’ve got to deal with.”
The Gators are OK, for now. Trask, who came to interviews with a compression sleeve and a brace on his sprained left knee, said the pain is starting to subside and he’ll be good to go Saturday night at LSU.
“It’s definitely better today than it’s been, it’s been getting better every single day.” said Trask, who replaced starter Feleipe Franks when he was lost for the year in the Kentucky game. “I would say the training staff is doing a great job of taking care of me, and it’s really progressing along very nicely.”
But the knee still needs to heal. And at this stage, he’s only one tweak away from possibly exiting again and leaving Jones, a redshirt freshman, as the only remaining scholarship quarterback.
“It’s definitely kind of a bit of a concern,” senior wide receiver Josh Hammond said. “I think all the guys are preparing. Emory came in and played fine. I don’t think it was much of a drop-off between the two.
“Coach Mullen does a good job, an amazing job, making sure those guys are ready to play. So it’s kind of a bit of a worry, but we’re excited Kyle’s fine and he’ll be able to go on Saturday.”
While Trask and Jones will be getting all the reps in practice this week, Sproles will be in his usual spot on the scout team. This week he’ll be emulating LSU quarterback Joe Burrow.
If the worst case scenario should occur — Trask and Jones both going down with injuries — Sproles would be ready to take over, Mullen said.
“He’d be a great player,” Mullen said. “He does an unbelievable job for us. He does a great job with the scout team every week, he’s the quarterback of the scout team. He’s got a lot of respect within the team. He’s extremely intelligent and a really good decision maker. He’ll understand, he’ll know every aspect of the game plan, I know that.”
Sproles has his teammates’ endorsement.
“I think he’d do fine, actually,” Hammond said. “Nick Sproles is really good. I don’t know how much of the game plan he knew going into (last) Saturday, which probably would have been a bigger concern.
“But he sits in quarterback meetings with those guys. He stays after practice with those guys. I’m pretty sure he would be prepared for the situation.”
One of the biggest goals now for Trask and Jones is to remain healthy and standing the rest of the season.
“It’s very important because there’s not a whole lot of depth,” Trask said. “But it just goes to show how important it is just to stay healthy and make sure we’re staying in the training room. And if there’s any bumps or bruises and tweaks, just make sure we’re staying on top of our bodies.”
The Gators lost a scholarship quarterback when Jalen Jones, a highly-touted freshman in the 2019 class, transferred in the spring. It was later reported that the early enrollee was accused that same month of sexual battery by two women in separate incidents. No charges were filed by either of the women. Jones is playing at Jackson State.
Who: No. 7 Florida (6-0, 3-0 SEC) vs. No. 5 LSU (5-0, 1-0)
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, La.
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850