Although he’s entrenched as one of Florida’s back-up quarterbacks, Emory Jones isn’t complacent in his role.
That’s simply not who he is.
“I wish to play a lot, like everybody on the team hopes for that,” Jones admits. “But, I mean, I’m just going with the flow right now, just perfecting every day and trying to be the best I can be.”
With Feleipe Franks leading the way at quarterback and fellow redshirt junior Kyle Trask poised to be the team’s primary back-up, Jones isn’t expected to play a vital role in 2019.
But, like the entirety of the Gators, he’s preparing as if it’s his year.
In many ways, however, Jones’ redshirt freshman season will be valuable preparation for a program lacking starting experience behind Franks at the position. With the possibility of Franks and Trask departing Gainesville after this season, the time for Jones to gain experience at the Power Five level is now.
And, according to Jones, Florida’s coaching staff is building for the future while preparing for the present.
“(Coach Dan Mullen) talks about that a lot, especially with me. He always tells me (to) just keep focusing on my development and just keep trying to get better,” Jones said, “and just not focusing on the present and just focus on the future for me.”
As was the case in his inaugural season at Florida, Mullen has an entire package built around Jones, and the hope among the coaching staff is that the LaGrange, Georgia, native will be utilized in late-game situations as well.
Yet Mullen, possibly sensing the urgency of the situation, has ensured Jones is ready to run Florida’s entire offense if need be.
“I definitely feel like I’m more prepared for that. He put a load on me last spring and this camp,” Jones said of his preparation under Mullen. “He’s been putting a lot on me, just so if the time comes, I’m ready.”
While many prospects arrive on campus expecting to make an instant impact, Jones acknowledged the process isn’t seamless. When it comes to the ability to guide a football team, that’s an aspect of the game Jones has honed over the past year in his off-the-field preparation.
As a result, Jones is one of a handful of Gators on the team’s leadership council this season — a vital step for a player in line to shepherd the program in 2020.
“I would say my leadership (has improved the most). Last year as a freshman, I hadn’t really played a lot here, I hadn’t played a lot of college ball. But now my second time going through it, these guys, they trust me a lot more,” Jones said. “I’ve been working out with them and helping the guys out, so they obviously trust me now, so I’d say that’s where I grew the most.”
That’s a sentiment echoed by the one trusted with his development, Gators quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson — someone who also knows a bit about leading as an underclassmen. After backing up former Heisman Trophy winner Alex Smith at Utah as a freshman in 2004, Johnson took over the reins as the team’s starting quarterback and helped guide the Utes to a 7-5 finish before a knee injury ended his sophomore campaign.
Jones doesn’t have to look far to find someone familiar with the challenges that come with being an underclassmen leader.
“Quarterback is a natural position of leadership. That’s one of the prerequisites that we require for our guys to go ahead and play that position,” Johnson said. “He’s done a good job of stepping in and taking care of that.”
When the time does ultimately come for Jones to step in and lead, the Gators can breathe a sigh of relief knowing their quarterback put in the work necessary to succeed.
“I had to just work hard during the summer. They always are going to trust the guy that works hard. Like me, I watch Freddie Swain and Josh Hammond go at it like every day in practice, in summer workouts, stuff like that,” Jones said, “So I’m always going to turn to those type of guys, ’cause I trust them, I see that they put the work in. Everything falls back to your work.”