During this shuttered time, where college football players are on their own to train and make sure they’re taking care of themselves, one Florida quarterback has a big potential advantage over the others.
No, it’s not Kyle Trask, the certain starter who is coming off a successful junior season and has a high comfort level in Dan Mullen’s offense.
No, it’s not redshirt sophomore dual-threat quarterback Emory Jones, whose ceiling is way, way up there.
And, no, it’s not true freshman Anthony Richardson, who seems to perfectly fit the Mullen QB profile — big, fast, athletic, strong arm.
It’s preferred walk-on redshirt freshman Luke Matthews, who has daily personal access to a coach who was a two-time SEC player of the year and 14-year NFL quarterback.
His father, Shane Matthews.
So far, though, young Matthews has yet to take advantage of pop’s expertise.
“No, we haven’t even thrown a football,” Shane Matthews said Wednesday. “ I don’t know if he even brought a football home. I’m sure he could swing by his dorm and get one.”
There is time to do that, and certainly there will be time for father to coach up son in the coming days, weeks, maybe even months.
The Gators, like all other sports teams around the globe because of the threat of COVID-19, are shut down, with no timetable for a return. During the down time, the UF players likely are going through a similar daily routine that Luke Matthews is following.
“Right now, he’s doing his online classes, online tutoring and his workouts that they send him,” Shane Matthews said. “We’re all trying to adjust to this. It’s just crazy.”
Workouts are being sent to the players via cell phone from strength and conditioning coordinator Nick Savage and his staff.
Father and son have shared that experience.
“I’ve done the Gator workout the last two days with him. I’m sore as crap,” Shane Matthews said. “This is just something to keep them active. It’s not something that is going to get you ready for the football season.
“It’s just body weight stuff. It’s squat jumps, push-ups, sit-ups, lunges. It’s all body weight. And they can do some running outside. If you were to have some dumbbells you could add that to your workout. They’ve got to have these kids do something to stay in some type of shape.”
When/if the Gators eventually return, it’s going to take some time to get the players back into football shape, Shane Matthews said.
“Regardless of when they’re able to come back as a team, it takes months to get your body ready to prepare to practice football and play football,” he said. “I think that’s going to be the biggest issue if we’re able to play.
“OK, when is the start day of the season going to be, but when are these kids going to be able to get back to working out and eating proper? That’s another issue, a lot of these kids (who have gone home) don’t get to eat properly.”
Luke Matthews is back home with his father. Many other UF players also have gone home, so this is a team that is scattered.
Luke and Shane will eventually get a football out and start throwing passes and working on quarterback skills.
But what about the other UF quarterbacks? What do you do if you’re Trask?
“That’s a good question,” Shane Matthews said. “None of us have been in this situation. I don’t know if he’s back in Texas or where he is.
“Obviously, he can’t round up a bunch of receivers. Maybe get a friend or a brother or what have to at least throw some balls. I don’t know.”
Having a son on the team, and having been around the team and watching the Gators play, Shane Matthews does have a good idea what the UF quarterbacks will be looking to work on during the current down time.
Here’s Matthews’ take on the four Gator quarterbacks:
“Kyle’s story is tremendous,” Matthews said. “He played really well last year. The only thing you can critique him — and, again, you’ve got to go back and know the play calls, know whether a guy ran a wrong route or what have you — is sometimes he holds the ball a little too long in the pocket trying to make things happen. There’s nothing wrong with throwing a ball away and having second-and-10.”
“Man, he’s an explosive runner,” Matthews said. “He can make things happen. He’s got a live arm. I thought he threw the ball well when he had the opportunity this past year. He’s a guy that can really cause defenses problems.”
“He’s the Dan Mullen prototypical guy,” Matthews said. “He’s 6-foot-4, 230, has a really good arm. He needs to keep working on his accuracy. He wasn’t that accurate at the high school level. That could be because of a lot of reasons. Once (quarterbacks coach) Brian Johnson and these guys get their hands on him, he has the opportunity to be a really good player.”
“Luke’s issue is his height, right there at 5-10,” Matthews said. “He’s 100 times better than I was as a quarterback. Way better high school quarterback, wasn’t even close. He was all-state two times in the state of Florida. He’s a lot better player than I was.
“He’s enjoying his role on this team. He loves Brian Johnson. He had a great time this past year being able to go to a bowl game. Hopefully, he’ll have another three or four more years of them going to major bowl games and hopefully win us an SEC title.”
Before the Gators, and everyone else, can get to next season, the current situation with the coronavirus has to be resolved. And there’s no timetable for that.
This summer, this season, both could be in jeopardy.
“I don’t know what the world would do if we don’t play football,” Shane Matthews said.
It’s an unpleasant thought, for sure.