College football programs traditionally show significant improvement from year one to year two under a new coaching staff.
If that happens at Florida under Dan Mullen, the Gators could be College Football Playoff contenders next season after going 10-3 and rising into the top 10 in the nation in 2018.
For it to happen, the Gators will have to improve in some areas and some new, inexperienced players are going to have to come through at certain positions.
Over the next several days, The Sun is going to break down the team position-by-position, one position at a time:
Who’s gone: No one.
Who’s back: Junior Feleipe Franks, who started all 13 games and threw for 2,284 yards and 23 touchdowns with just six interceptions. He also rushed for 276 yards and six TDS; junior Kyle Trask (14 of 22 for 62 yards and one TD in 2018); redshirt freshman Emory Jones (12 of 16 for 125 yards and two TDs).
Who’s new: Highly rated true freshman Jalon Jones, a four-star dual-threat QB from Richmond, Va. Jones will enroll in classes next week and participate in spring practice.
What’s next: Although Franks showed steady improvement over the course of the 2018 season and seemed to establish himself as the potential long-term starter, the competition at the position will be wide open again in the spring. Franks is well-aware of that fact. He said before the Peach Bowl that he understood that and welcomed it, saying the competition will only make him and all the other quarterbacks better.
At one point last season it appeared Franks was on the brink of possibly losing the starting role. After getting benched in favor of Trask in the second half of the loss to Missouri, Mullen opened up the competition in practice and it appeared Trask might be the starter in the South Carolina game. But Trask sustained a fractured foot in practice, making Mullen’s decision for him at QB.
Since the second half of the South Carolina game, Franks and the offensive have been on a roll. Over the final three games of the season, the Gators averaged 48.3 points and 518.3 total yards a game.
Franks will be tough to unseat, but the three others will take their shot at it in the spring.
Trask played well in relief of Franks in the Missouri game and has a strong, accurate arm and a good understanding of the offense. Given his track record, his biggest issue might be whether he can stay healthy. He’s not as fast or athletic as Franks, but like Franks, is a willing runner.
Jones, with his ability to run and throw, seems to have the skill set Mullen is looking for in his quarterback. He played in four games last season and looked good playing most of the second half against Idaho. He improved over the course of the season, and it was fairly obvious Mullen is making his development a priority.
Even if Jones does not win the starting job, it appears likely that he’ll get a package of plays to run in games next season, maybe similar to the way Mullen used Tim Tebow in 2006.
The other Jones, true freshman Jalon Jones, also is a dual-threat QB and will get enough reps in the spring to give the coaches an idea where he’s at in his development.
The two Jones appear to be the future at the position.
Possible scenario: Franks continues to progress under Mullen’s tutelage and staves off the competition, but Emory Jones pushes him hard and shows he’s ready to handle an expanded role in games next season.