Here’s my take on why there remains mutual interest between the Florida coaches and Notre Dame graduate transfer quarterback Malik Zaire:
Both parties can clearly see that the quarterback situation is no more settled now than it was before the start of spring drills last month. Those 14 practices and a spring game established only one thing — one inexperienced redshirt freshmen is slightly ahead of another heading into the summer.
The spring did not reveal who the starter is going to be. And it certainly has not offered any assurances that the next great (or even just efficient) Florida quarterback is even on campus yet. Who knows, maybe that guy is still a sophomore or junior in high school.
It could turn out to be Feleipe Franks. Or Kyle Trask. Or Luke Del Rio. Or maybe even true freshman Kadarius Toney, who lit up the fourth quarter of the spring game with his electrifying performance.
It probably isn’t going to be Zaire, unless the SEC changes its graduate transfer rule and allows UF to accept one even though the last one did not complete the required academic work.
So, let’s assume the Zaire thing is not going to happen. That leaves the Gators with four options, and the coaches have an idea how only one is going to perform in an actual game (Del Rio). The other three are great unknowns at this stage.
Franks moved slightly ahead of Trask in the second half of the spring and enters the offseason on top of the depth chart. He had an OK spring game, but there was no wow factor with his performance. And there’s no way to tell yet if he’s going to have the it factor coaches always like to talk about with quarterbacks. At this stage, all we know for certain about Franks is that he’s a big kid with a big arm and he threw a lot of interceptions in practice and struggled to convert in the red zone.
Is he ready to go play against Michigan in a nationally televised game? No one knows yet.
Trask does not seem ready. He was overwhelmed in the spring game leading the No. 2 offense against the No. 1 defense. When he finally had a chance to jump in with the ones, he led the offense to a touchdown in the second half, which was encouraging. But his overall body of work in that game was certainly less than impressive, and there are some nagging doubts about his leadership ability.
Del Rio showed some leadership last year during an injury-riddled season, but his spotty performances when he did play and his questionable arm strength have convinced many in Gator Nation that he is not the answer at quarterback. But, he’ll have a chance to jump back into the mix in August.
As for Toney, he’s obviously an explosive playmaker who will have an opportunity to run a package of plays in the fall. But he’s still raw and seems a long way from being ready to be an every-down quarterback in coach Jim McElwain’s offense.
This is an offense that now has some promising pieces in place — playmakers at receiver, running back and tight end and a line that finally has some experience and depth — but there remains an element of uncertainty at the most critical position of all.
There is some doubt about quarterback. And it is a doubt that will nag many in Gator Nation throughout the summer.