Because Feleipe Franks started every game last season and has been working exclusively with the No. 1 offense this spring, many in Gator Nation are probably wondering why Dan Mullen doesn’t just go ahead and state the obvious.
Franks is Florida’s starting quarterback.
But Mullen won’t do that. Because that’s not what he does. He doesn’t name starters at quarterback — or any other position on the team.
He cleared that up Monday.
“That’s how the program works at every position,” Mullen said. “There’s as much competition at the kicker, at the d-tackle, at the linebacker, as at quarterback.
“Every week, everybody is competing for their reps to go play.
And they know that in the program. That’s how I’ve always run it.”
It’s no different now than it was when he was UF’s offensive coordinator from 2005-08 under Urban Meyer. The competition never ended at quarterback. And he never actually named a starter, even though everyone knew who the starter was: Chris Leak in 2006, Tim Tebow after that.
“Chris Leak was always competing with Tim Tebow. Chris played 70 plays a game, Tim played a couple plays a game,” Mullen said. “There was always a competition going on. Tim had to compete with Cam Newton.
“I’ve just always … I believe in that. Guys are competing for playing time. Guys are competing for the starting center job, with leadership that is just as important as the quarterback position. Your safety, that’s as important as the quarterback in leadership. Middle linebacker, similar. They’re all competing in all those things to get reps.
“That’s how we always run the program. That’s how it’s always worked for me.”
So, throughout the rest of the spring — and then in the summer and in preseason camp in August — the competition at quarterback will remain wide open between Franks, Kyle Trask, redshirt freshman Emory Jones and true freshman Jalon Jones.
That being said, it’s still obvious who the No. 1 quarterback is: Franks.
“I would think they all (know). I would think Feleipe thinks he’s the starter,” Mullen said. “I think the other guys are trying to do that.”
But the competition continues.
“Always,” Mullen said. “There’s competition at every position every day. There’s one every day during the season. Feleipe was the starter every single game and there was never a doubt one time last season.”
Mullen was reminded that he benched Franks in the second half of the loss to Missouri.
“No, there wasn’t (any doubt who the quarterback was),” he said. “I pulled him when I pulled our starting tailback and our starting O-line.”
Mullen was then reminded that there was an open quarterback competition in practice the following week.
“I had a competition the week going into it, too. That’s how the program works at every position,” he said.
And it’s not going to change. So, the Gators are not going to leave the spring with a No. 1 quarterback — even though everyone is going to know who it is.
“(The players) should be able to rally around all your quarterbacks,” Mullen said. “That’s a huge thing. I hope we have more than one No. 1 quarterback that guys are really comfortable with because we’re a sprained ankle from that guy having to play.
“The fact that Feleipe has played in big games and won a lot of big games, the team’s going to have a lot of comfort in him. I hope the other guys grow to that level.”
So, the competition continues.