No timetable to select UF’s starting quarterback, Mullen says

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Quarterbacks Kyle Trask (11) and Feleipe Franks, left, answer questions from the media during Florida's annual media day Thursday at the Touchdown Terrace in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Lauren Bacho/Gainesville Sun]

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?

Well, no.

“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.”

34 COMMENTS

  1. I’m guessing if nobody really separates to a sufficient degree, we might see all three in the first game. Two reasons: 1) it’s a cupcake, more or less, and 2) the new redshirt rules are in effect with respect to Jones.

    • I say put all three of them in the game at the same time along with the punter. That way, on any given play we can run, pass or kick, and the other team will not be able to figure out which one it will be until it’s too late. What about it, TampaGator?

          • You know, now that you mention it, I recall Steve Spurrier calling a quick kick on 3rd down a couple of times in the 90’s. His connection to Ga Tech? Possibly Bobby Dodd Jr, who was still around the Gators when Spurrier was QB. Interesting!

          • mveal2006–maybe you and g-6 are to little to remember the frequent use of the quick-kick in the 1950’s. “Frequent” might be too strong a word, but its use was surely not rare. And Bobby Dodd used it most, I think, and with great effectiveness. You got to have a good kicker and a strong defense to make it work. Of course, if you had a great offense of the kind Spurrier produced later at UF, you would seldom need it.

          • Now, you are asking me to go back to the 50’s….which I can do…..the early 50’s being more difficult because I was less cognizant of my surroundings (kind of like I am nowadays)…..but I do remember that. It was associated with the “drop” kick, in which the ball touched the ground first, before it was then kicked on its rebound. I think. What about you, mveal?

    • Gator6. You can pack up that red shirt in the closet bag that says “will not be worn or needed” for Jones. He will play in a large percentage of games this year most likely in situational moments, as Tebow was used his freshman year. And Jones needs to get a year ahead on the two new QBs recruits coming in next year anyway. And I think Jones has a real shot of winning the starting job during the season if Franks or Trask do not adapt well to running and executing the spread offense Mullen runs.

  2. Agree with you 6. If we don’t see Jones in first game I would bet we will in the second game. You are on target with the change in redshirt rules (4 games), so there is more incentive and little downside to getting him some early game time. My bet is on Franks though in the long run, barring injury.

    • I tend to agree with you, Dan…..I think Franks is likely to prove the naysayers wrong. That is, if the o-line ups it’s play for both him and that pack of superb running backs we seem to have now, along with some wide receivers too. My “feel” for it — which ain’t worth a hill of beans at the end of the day, but its mine and I’ll say it anyway — is that they will be stronger, have a better mental focus, and certainly motivation. At any rate, we’ll know by the time Tennessee weekend rolls around, and God how I would love to be at that game.

  3. The quarterback who best suits Mullen’s offense is Kyle Trask. Yes, he has never played a down of college football. Yes, he is not a proven passer. But, all he has to do is hand off the football to this stable of running backs 25-30 times a game, run the ball himself 15 times a game (which he is more than capable of doing), and throw the bubble screen, slip screen, shovel pass, and the occasional 7 yard slants that are Mullen’s staple passing plays. Oh, I forgot about the end around to Toney (if he’s still on the team) about 4 times per game. It’s not a complicated offense to run. The passing game of Mullen’s is a joke. You need a quarterback who can run, and make the decisions when to hold the ball, when to pitch the ball, and throw the screen pass. This all fits Trask’s skill sets to a “T”. LOL.

    • Grumpy, it does appear that Trask has the physical tools, but he is an unknown entity. He not only did not play a down last year, he missed most of the practices as well with an injury. Not much film on him from high school either, as he played on a team that ran a read option offense resulting in him being the back up to a more athletic (running) QB for most of his last season. Since you closed with “LOL”, it’s hard to know if your comments were in jest.

      • Yeah, Grumpy, Dak Prescott agrees. Hell, if Mullen had any kind of passing game strategy at MSU, Dak could have possibly made it as a free agent with some joke team in the NFL by now. But he was totally unprepared to play QB in the NFL due to the joke offense Mullen ran at MSU, and Dak had to get a job in the manager training program for McDonalds in Dallas, TX, instead. Only if Mullen’s offense was not such a joke.

    • I think you make a pretty good case for him, Grump, except for the part about Mullen’s passing game being a joke. I don’t think his history at Florida or MSU…..or Bowling Green and Utah, for that matter….really supports that.

      Let’s see tho what shakes out — it won’t be long now before a whole lot of questions will be answered!

    • You might want to review games such as MSU-Alabama from last year before making generalizations about Mullen’s passing game. It has a definite down-field element to it. The problem for many Florida fans, I suspect, is that they still pine for the days of Spurrier’s fun-n-gun. But even Spurrier had to change the nature of his offense while coaching at USCe. He depended much more on the run than he ever did at Florida.

      • gator67. Spurrier always ran a balanced offense, with about a 50/50 split of run to pass almost every year, including his time at South Carolina. But he did have to adapt his passing game when he came back to college from the NFL. The college defenses had caught up and passed the Fun n Gun approach by then. As it has now with the hurry up offense, which was not as effective last year in college football.

        • I agree that his offenses at UF were roughly 50/50, but, as I recall, passes were dominant in the first half and running became more of the offense in the second half to help run out the clock once the game was in hand. It was an offense that used the pass to set up the run. There was a clear shift after he went to USCe. His greatest success there was with quarterbacks who were good runners (e.g., Conner Shaw).

  4. ”The search for a starting quarterback begins in earnest Friday with the opening of preseason camp.”
    -Robbie Andreu.
    And…
    ”I hope it (starting Q.B.) defines itself for us during training camp, and the team, everyone knows, this is the guy that’s going to help us win.” -Coach Dan Mullen.
    Those 2 quotes say it all!
    But with the stable of R.B.s, the O-line improving (it must), and a Q.B. who only needs to throw it UP and NEAR Grimes and Jefferson (who will go up and GET IT, no alligator arms with those 2 wide-outs), and it’s an all NEW Gator ‘O’ for us gator fans!
    Go Gators! Just do it!

  5. Did I read Frank’s was making spectacular plays last season, while Trask was on the sideline injured. Spectacular. A dead clock is right twice a day. Watching the first spring Frank’s was part of 3 consecutive ints. Last Year Toney made some better plays which I’m wondering why he wasn’t given the opportunity to play qb. Del Rio is all we had, if he had not been injured we would have went to a bowl game. Frank’s has a lot to prove, From a Qb anticipation stand point Trask looked the part this spring. If Trask continue to grow he will get the nod.

  6. Hoping Franks can grow under Mullen. He’s experienced and give him a shot. He has some limitations but with quality coaching he may be be a quality QB. Not sure why there is questoin mark. Trask is unproven but should Franks falter then all for T but…. If Jones excels in training camp then all good. Go with freshmen audacity and build the future. Running game and D will keep games in check.

  7. Get all 3 of them in there as much as possible the 1st 2 games. Great time to put skills on display while pounding the line with RBs 70% of the time. If the O-line finally decides to play football we should control games on the ground setting up killer strikes through the air.

  8. At this point I don’t really care who Dan picks, as long as they play well and are a long term solution. This “who is going to the be quarterback” situation we’ve been in the last 8 or 9 years is getting old. It would be nice to have a stable and productive QB for a few years.

  9. The main comment Coach Mullen made that really stood out was that he wants a QB that makes the UN-spectacular plays consistently. The right reads, finding the open receiver, taking what the defense gives him, knowing when to keep the ball and when to get rid of it, throwing it out of bounds instead of forcing a bad pass. One of the reasons Alabama has been so good the past decade is that they had a QB who didn’t put them in bad situations. They managed the game efficiently and didn’t make the bonehead plays we’ve become accustomed to. They were not the most talented players on the team and you don’t see any of them starting in the NFL. They simply made the plays and managed the team in a consistent and efficient manner. If we can get that kind of production out of any of the three we have now, we have the surrounding talent to carry the offense. Also, play calling will be much smarter and better suited to the on field situation. Hopefully no more 5 yard passes on 3rd and 10, etc. Having a QB coach who knows how to manage the mental aspect of the position as well as the physical should produce better results. We must consider what Mullen has to work with as well.

  10. CDM has a tough choice to make. All three quarterbacks have demonstrated pluses and minuses. If CDM could only be Dr. Frankenstein, he could piece together Trask’s head on Franks’ torso on top of Jones’ legs. We are just going to have to trust CDM’s decision on which quarterback gets the nod for the first game. My guess is at least 2 play in the first game so he gets to see live action before making a final decision before the SEC schedule.