As a dual-threat quarterback, redshirt freshman Emory Jones excels in part due to his decisiveness as either a runner or thrower, and his skill set is clearly well-suited for what UF coach Dan Mullen’s offenses do well.
However, it’s Jones’ patience that’s so far defined his time in Gainesville — until Saturday’s 56-0 win over Vanderbilt, that is.
Jones provided three rushing touchdowns on just five rushes in UF’s shutout of the Commodores as part of an all-around offensive performance for the Gators.
It was a sign of life from not only UF’s rushing attack, but from Jones, who had seen limited action in recent weeks for a variety of football-related reasons.
In all, Jones has been in for just 56 of UF’s 657 plays this season — not an unusually low amount for a back-up at the Power Five level, yet a far cry for what many, including Mullen, expected to see from Jones coming into his second collegiate season.
“I think he’s obviously disappointed, because he wants to get in and go play, right? I think he understands when he looks at it, and he handles it well,” Mullen, speaking after UF’s victory at South Carolina, said. “He’s like anybody. He wants to play.”
Considering the way he performed in UF’s penultimate home game, it’s clear as to why Mullen wants to get the LaGrange, Georgia, native involved more in Florida’s offense.
Addressing the media prior to departing for Columbia, Missouri, for UF’s final conference contest, the 6-foot-2 Jones credited his head coach for helping him stay patient through his development in Gainesville.
“Patience, it’s kind of hard for anybody, especially in my position,” said Jones, “but having (Mullen) around, he always comes and pulls me to the side, tells me ‘It’s a process’, tells me ‘Just be patient’, and tells me one thing I need to work on. So I just focus on those things.”
More often than not, that “one thing” isn’t what many would expect.
It’s not the lack of explosive plays where Jones needs to continue improving — quite the contrary.
“His biggest thing that we always talk about with him, and he knows this, is just consistency. He can make some special things happen on the field. He’s got a lot of talent, both running and throwing. And one of the biggest ones is — and I told him, and we say this a lot with quarterbacks — make the unspectacular plays,” Mullen said of Jones. “Make the easy, unspectacular play. I think that is always a learning curve, especially for younger guys. ‘Coach, did you see this spectacular play.’ ‘I did. Absolutely, I saw it. It was unbelievable.’Right? But what about this little simple one here. ‘I gotcha’.
“Do the little things and the simple things really, really well. That’s a big part of development. That’s what he’s improving on.”
That doesn’t mean Jones wouldn’t like to learn on the job; some athletes are thrown into the fire prematurely, often negatively affecting their games, while others bide their time, frequently due to no fault of their own.
Until recently, Jones may have leaned closer to the former group than the latter, but that didn’t erase his urge to play on Saturdays.
“I kind of knew how it was already. (Mullen) just told both of us, ‘Just stay ready’. When he went down, he came to both of us, like ‘Both of y’all are probably going to play the rest of this game’, Kyle went in, he was hot, so, I mean, there wasn’t a reason I had to come in,” Jones said of UF’s decision to go with Trask following Feleipe Franks’ season-ending injury. “I’ve never seen (Trask) get rattled. I think that’s the main thing, I’ve been learning a lot from him. Just seeing him making mistakes and not getting down about it, that’s probably the biggest thing I’ve learned.”
After the season, UF’s quarterback room faces an uncertain future — both Trask and Franks could return, while Florida is set to sign Eastside signal caller Anthony Richardson — yet Jones isn’t fazed.
Considering his UF career to date, it’s nothing he hasn’t seen before.
He’ll simply be ready when his number is called — although, if Jones’ three-touchdown performance was any indication, that will seemingly be more often than not next season, if not sooner.
“Coach Mullen, he has worked with all different types of quarterbacks and different systems, and all of them seem to revolve around the quarterback. Right now, it revolves around Kyle until I get into the game, so I feel like when I get that spot eventually, it’ll just be crazy. We can do a lot of things,” Jones said. “I’ll approach (the spring) like any spring. Just going in there and trying to be better, and finding little things that we need to work on before getting into camp. I’m focused on getting better myself, and just staying focused on the next step in the process.”