By Zach Abolverdi, Correspondent
Florida coach Dan Mullen did not want to go into the regular-season finale at Florida State without getting more game experience for freshman quarterback Emory Jones.
The Gators’ 63-10 win over Idaho on Saturday afforded Mullen that opportunity. Starting QB Feleipe Franks put up points early and UF jumped out to a huge lead against the Vandals, paving the way for Jones to take over in the second quarter.
“I wanted to get him in the game as soon as possible,” Mullen said Saturday. “Our decision is if we’re going to get him in, we want to get him in as soon as possible. … I think it was 42-0 (when Jones replaced Franks). And as soon as it hit that, I said, ‘You’re going.’ ”
Jones threw for 125 yards and two touchdowns on 12-of-16 passing. He also rushed seven times for 19 net yards, including a 15-yard run on third-and-8, but was sacked once for a loss of five yards.
Prior to Saturday, the former top-100 recruit had seen limited action against Charleston Southern and Georgia. The injury to backup quarterback Kyle Trask (foot fracture) elevated Jones to the No. 2 role for South Carolina game, but he did not play against the Gamecocks.
With the road trip to FSU looming, Mullen felt it was important to use the Idaho game as a chance to get Jones prepared for the possibility of playing in Tallahassee.
“I was really pleased to get him in as early as we did and get him as many reps as we could,” Mullen said. “He is one play away from being in the game next week. He can be in the second play of the game. And now he’s got a little bit more experience on gameday, in there, running the show by himself. Not just with a small package — having to run the whole offense.”
With a six-touchdown lead, Jones also didn’t have to worry about drowning while getting his feet wet. He was able to try new things and work out the kinks — such as his red-zone fumble — without the game on the line.
Franks didn’t enjoy that luxury as a redshirt freshman in 2017. His first time playing was against Michigan in AT&T Stadium, and Florida’s home game the following week was cancelled because of Hurricane Irma.
“They changed the redshirt rule where you can get playing time, and I think that’s gonna help (Jones) out tremendously,” Franks said. “That’s one of the things I never had. I never got to get like game-time experience and go into the next year. That’s something I never got.”
Jones now has three games under his belt and can play one more time this season without burning his redshirt. Mullen isn’t revealing when that will be, but Trask is expected to be available for the bowl game.
If Jones does see the field at Florida State, his coach is comfortable with him running the offense.
“Over the last couple weeks, obviously now you’re getting even more reps in practice. I think (that) has helped him,” Mullen said. “But he’s a guy that has been very confident the whole season. With the new rule, the ability to get on the field and play a little bit here and there, it’s perfect for someone like him.
“He’s got the experience to be the backup without potentially burning the redshirt here. He’s got one more game to play in, possibly. We’ll see. You never know how things are going to play out for the rest of the year for him.”