Almost predictably, the first football question fired at Dan Mullen during Florida’s media day Thursday had to do with the quarterback competition.
Is there a timeline for naming a starter?
He’s heard this one before. Lots of times. Right in his own living room, as a matter of fact.
“I get this question from my wife,” Mullen said. “I get it from her quite a bit: ‘Can we get this resolved, can we have a starter that we feel good about?’
“I said, ‘Listen, I would love to get that done.’ That’s something that I want to feel comfortable with.’ ”
So, is there a timetable?
“I don’t have the timetable because if I give myself a specific timetable, I don’t know when we’re going to be ready to make that decision,” Mullen said. “I hope it’s a clear-cut decision that we know this person is going to give us the best opportunity to win games and lead our program into the future.
“Also, I have to make sure that we have one that we feel good about as a starter, but you’re talking whoever our backup is is also one play away from being a starter. So, I hope I feel really good about that position and that situation as well.”
The search for a starting quarterback begins in earnest Friday with the opening of preseason camp.
Redshirt sophomores Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask and true freshman Emory Jones will begin about even in the competition, all having a chance to win the job following a spring that saw no significant separation between the three.
Being last year’s starter, Franks likely will get the first snaps with the No.1 offense, but then it’s likely going to be wide open after that, with all three sharing reps.
Franks and Trask — the two QBs at media day — said they’re ready for the competition to begin.
“It’s going to be intense, but it’s going to be exciting,” Trask said. “You come to a big university to compete in spots like this. You come to play in places like The Swamp. I’m really excited for this competition. Feleipe, he’s a great competitor. We’re both great competitors. It’s going to be a fun and intense competition. Friendly.”
Said Franks: “I’m a competitor. I love competition. So, (let’s go).”
Franks and Trask are similar in style — more traditional pocket passers who also are athletic enough to make some plays with their legs if they have to or are called on.
Jones, an early enrollee, is more of a pure dual-threat quarterback who is more of a threat in the running game than the other two.
Franks made some impressive plays last season and exhibited a big-time arm at times, including his 63-yard touchdown pass to Tyrie Cleveland on the game’s final play to beat Tennessee.
But he also struggled with consistency, particularly with his reads and accuracy.
“He has a tremendous skill set,” Mullen said. “He has the ability to make big plays. He has great athletic ability, has a really strong arm.”
Franks has shown he can make spectacular plays with his arm. Now, he needs to show he can consistently make the routine throws that can start drives or keep them alive.
Mullen calls those non-spectacular plays.
“Learning how to make the non-spectacular plays and making them every single snap with consistency is really a huge trait for a quarterback,” Mullen said.
“Does Feleipe have the skill set to do it? Absolutely, because he can make spectacular plays. Can he make non-spectacular plays on a consistent basis is going to be a big growing curve for him moving forward.”
While Franks was making some spectacular plays and gaining experience on the field last season, Trask was stuck on the sideline with an injured knee.
The two, along with Jones, started competing for the starting role in the spring. That competition carries over to now, with the start of preseason camp.
Franks and Trask were asked what they feel they have to do to win the starting job.
“I think there are a lot of things coach is looking for,” Franks said. “Somebody who can lead the team, get drives started, keep us on the field. What it boils down to is who’s more comfortable in the offense, who the team rallies around. That’s all part of it.”
Trask said he needs to continue showing progress like he did throughout the spring.
“I feel like to win the job I’ve just got to keep believing in myself and keep doing what the coaches want me to do to the best of my ability,” he said.
Mullen said earlier this summer that there’s a chance he could end up playing two quarterbacks early in the season, maybe even all three.
Junior safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson said he’d be comfortable with that.
“All three of our quarterbacks can help us in different ways,” he said. “We’ve got multiple quarterbacks we can help us. I feel like all three of our quarterbacks are going to be utilized this season.”
So, Mullen has options. What he doesn’t have is a timeline for naming a starter for the Sept. 1 opener.
“I’d love to give you a timetable. I’d love to say on this date, we’re going to know,” Mullen said. “I’ve learned through the years not to do that because I’ve thought in the past I’m going to know the starter on this date. That date comes, and I’m like, ‘I thought this guy was going to be it, the last three days he’s been terrible, this other guy has been great.’
“I hope it defines itself for us during training camp, and the team, everyone knows, this is the guy that’s going to help us win.”