Is All-SEC caliber QB on UF roster?

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Florida coach Dan Mullen slaps quarterback Feleipe Franks with a foam block as part of a drill during practice last month at the Sanders Practice Fields on the UF campus. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

It’s not something that you like to think about, but love to talk about.

It’s the second question I usually get asked on a radio appearance or at a Gator Club, the first being — Who is going to start at quarterback?

Because of the second question, perhaps my answer should be — does it matter?

The second question is this — How does a place like Florida go eight years without a quarterback?

The answer to the second question is way more complex than the first, because the answer to the first question is simply a guess until it all starts back up today.

This is the part of this column where you may want to avert your eyes, because I need to present some statistics that will make you want to regurgitate your corn flakes.

These numbers are a reflection of how bad it has been at Florida over the last eight years and I’m not even going to present the annual embarrassing ranking in total offense for the Gators since Tim Tebow.

Tebow’s last game of his career was a doozy, 482 passing yards in the Sugar Bowl against Cincinnati. That gave him five games of over 300 yards passing in his career.

Three players — Rex Grossman, Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel — combined for 46 of those games during their careers.

In the last eight seasons, Florida has two — count ’em, two — 300-yard passing games, one of them against Furman.

Wuerffel threw 74 touchdown passes in his final two seasons at UF. Tebow threw 83 in his three seasons as a starter. Florida has averaged a little over a touchdown pass a game since Tebow.

Need an Imodium tablet yet?

Since Tebow, Florida has trotted out John Brantley IV, Jordan Reed, Trey Burton, Jacoby Brissett, Jeff Driskel, Tyler Murphy, Skyler Mornhinweg, Treon Harris, Will Grier, Austin Appleby, Luke Del Rio, Malik Zaire and Feleipe Franks behind center.

Not once during those eight seasons has Florida averaged 20 completions a game. The most yards the Gators have thrown for in a season during that stretch was 215.8 in 2016. In six of seven other seasons, the average was under 200.

What in the name of Steve Spurrier is going on here?

I’ve got more stats, but you already know Florida has smelled on offense over the last eight seasons. It has been well documented and it’s one reason Dan Mullen is here now. And I know you’re tired of wandering around the desert looking for big plays.

But let’s not blame the quarterbacks I listed above. Two of them are in NFL camps right now. Two others are NFL starters at different positions. Brantley was a big-time recruit. Grier is a Heisman Trophy contender at West Virginia.

The point is that there has been talent. It’s not like Florida hasn’t had quarterbacks with potential.

Which leads us to the biggest reason Florida has been the poster child for bad offense since the 2009 season.

Coaching.

It’s why you think Mullen can get something out of his ragtag bunch at the quarterback position. (Sorry, but one guy was an abject failure last year, one hasn’t played a meaningful snap in three years and the third is a true freshman. And that’s it.)

Mullen has been able to get a lot out of the position throughout his career. We’ll see what happens with this year’s offense.

But this is about the past, not the future.

Quick, name the best offensive coordinator Florida has had since Mullen left for Mississippi State.

I’m waiting.

Steve Addazio? Charlie Weis? (Spit-take optional). Brent Pease is now at Montana, the college football equivalent of the Russian front. South Carolina fans couldn’t be happier that Will Muschamp got rid of Kurt Roper after last season. And then there was three years of Doug Nussmeier — and this is going to make you throw your newspaper down — he probably was the best of them all.

Florida won two SEC Easts with Nussmeier and had its only two seasons of 200-plus yards per game passing under him and it’s best TD-to-interception rate in the last eight seasons in 2015 (20 TDs, 10 picks).

Of course, when Nuss is your best coordinator of the last eight years, you have a problem,

Certainly, one can make the chicken/egg argument. Were those coaches hamstrung by bad quarterback play or were the quarterbacks held back by poor development and play-calling?

I tend to go with the chicken salad theory, that the right coach can make a quarterback out of even mediocre talent.

In the end, the blame goes back to the head coaches. Urban Meyer was stubborn with Brantley, who probably would have flourished in a different offense. Will Muschamp was stubborn sticking with Driskel longer than he should have. Jim McElwain could have handled Grier’s situation a lot better.

It would be irresponsible not to point out the injuries to Driskel, Brantley, Murphy and Del Rio that certainly were a factor in their development and the lack of success offensively. And certainly, Grier’s bone-headed judgment changed the quarterback dynamic drastically.

So I guess what I’m saying is that there are a lot of reasons why Florida hasn’t had an All-SEC candidate at quarterback in eight years.

And I’m not sure there is an SEC quarterback on the roster now.

We’re about to find out.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

28 COMMENTS

  1. Old news – The Gators haven’t had a decent qb since Tim Tebow. How? Why? This has been covered ad nauseum.

    Older news – UF hasn’t had a STUD running back in since Fred Taylor (Ciatrick Faison gets honorable mention). Meanwhile, the Nolies trot out First Down Machines every damn year. How? Why? We’re working the same recruiting grounds, right? I have seen precious little ink about this even though a good running game obviously helps any qb. Of greatest concern to me has been the sub-par (to anemic) O-line play. Most of our qbs (especially Jeff Driskel) have been tackling dummies. Better blocking would help both the running game and qb production. Will Muschamp had this part right – in theory. The SEC is a line of scrimmage conference.

    Ah, classic philosophical debate. Coaching v. talent? Nature v. nurture? Chicken v. egg? Where to start? C’mon, Pat. Where to start is 1990. Place holder (this guy’s on scholarship? who knew?) Shane Matthews throws (3) TDs in the Orange & Blue game and Steve Spurrier’s preseason declaration that the Mighty Gators would field the 1st Team All-SEC Quarterback looks like a slam dunk. Coaching matters. Player development matters (Kozo the Clown, Mucshump & MacElfail should be writing that down). Coach ’em up, Dan. Coach ’em up.

  2. Bad mo-jo article for start of season Dooley! Your title was, ”Is All-SEC caliber QB on UF roster?” Not, ”This HOW BAD U.F.’s Offense has been since Tebow left.” As WE ALL KNOW… already!
    In fact, maybe you coulda’ gave us some TRUTH about Mullen 1st year at Miss. State: LIKE THESE FACTUAL STATS: Mullen’s FIRST YEAR at Miss. State final record was 9-4, ranked 15th in the Final AP poll, his offense averaged 29.0 pts. per game. His offense averaged 400 yds. per game offensively, and average play yardage: close to 6 yds. per play.
    Go Gators Just DO IT!

  3. We don’t need an All-Sec quarterback. We just need a competent game manager who can move the chains and protect the football. And there is no question. It always comes back to the coaching. You know who blames the players? Coaches who suck.

    Urban Meyer beat Alabama a few years back with his third string QB. When the first two went down he didn’t cry or complain or give up. He figured it out. That’s what the best coaches do. They figure it out.

    Spurrier was the same way. I remember many times when he was on his show and people would call in complaining about Doug Johnson blowing a quarterback sneak or whatever Spurrier would say I didn’t do a very good job coaching him up. When the defenses caught up with the Fun n Gun he went to more of a running offense at South Carolina. He didn’t just spit the bit like the members of the loser’s gallery mentioned above.

  4. Well we know that coaching can make a difference. Under Galen Hall…Shane Matthews was probably 100th string…but under SOS he was ALL SEC in his three years as a starter and SEC Player of the Year. Muschamp was the biggest disaster as he did have talent.

  5. What UF has been missing since Meyer left has been effective Game Day Coaching, which means making adjustments during a game in order to produce offense based in part on what the other team is giving you. Both Muschamp and McElwain were terrible in making adjustments on offense. Here is where Mullen will be the real difference maker.

  6. Great painfully true story. I think some of those QB’s were in situations with coaching and coordinators that were a wrong fit for each other. The constant change in coaching and assistants made them square pegs in round holes. Brantley and Weis were a result of pressure from boosters. Pat I think you are 100% right on a good coach can make a QB out of talent. The injuries to some of the QB’s was due to poor play calling and missed assignments all I feel was coaching. You mentioned staying with a QB and forcing a situation. I think Mullen will not do that Leak-Tebow and put the best guy in to make the play. At least going by past performance. Could use the financial disclaimer that past performance is not an indicator of future gain. Spurrier would pull QB’s if they were not executing and yes Jaws he took the blame later for not having them ready. In the modern day of it’s not me and pointing fingers good coaches take responsibility for their actions.

  7. Pat. I can tell you now that Florida does not have a QB on its roster that will be named all-SEC over the Alabama QB, the Ole Miss QB, the Vandy QB, the Missouri QB, the Auburn QB, the Miss. State QB, the QB at South Carolina, the Georgia QB, or even the QB at LSU now. But the good news is, the Gators could have a better QB than the one that plays at Tennessee. But either Franks, Trask, or Jones do not have to be all-SEC for the Gators to become a very good team this year. They just need to play decently and not make too many mistakes, which has not been the case for about eight years now. Just improve and play decently this year and let the RBs and receivers do their thing. Go Gators.

    • Tampa if we can have plays that go in the right direction for more than 3 yards I’ll be happy. You are right they don’t have to be great just not make mistakes. At least there won’t be Mac with that stupid look on his face after a bad play. Was never sure if he knew how to fix it or couldn’t understand that the defense knew what he was doing. Guess I answered my own question he was lost.

  8. UF won 2 SEC east titles in spite of not with Nuss. Defense got those teams to Atlanta period. As far as Brantley is concerned, Meyer didn’t recruit him because he was never going to be a good fit.
    The only reason JB4 ended up here was because of a few well healed boosters from Ocala and Mr Foley. He should have stayed committed to Texas, it would have worked out better all around. Urban’s QB of the future left campus only to return at Auburn, win a NC and a Heisman. How different would the last 8 years be if Cam Newton never left. Turns out, the success of UF football went out the window along with that laptop.

  9. I’m honestly not super concerned about the QB position any more. Mullen can figure that position out and even if the position is just too wrecked to become a strength this year — this team can win a good amount of games this year with the talent it has everywhere else.

    C’yontai Lewis, Tyrie Cleveland, Kadarius Toney, Vosean Joseph, Brian Edwards, Luke Ancrum, Emory Jones, Rick Wells, Christopher McWilliams, Malik Davis, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and of course Justin Watkins have all been in the news within the last month for potentially criminal behavior. Did I miss anyone?

    This is what I am concerned about — the completely out of control culture at UF over the last few years. I do not envy Mullen the task but he has to figure out a way to turn this culture around. The above list includes some of the most important players on this team. Even if the current incidents do not end up with most of the above players losing time — they or others on the team will eventually do something that warrants suspension or being kicked from the team. Despite constant evidence otherwise, they seem to think they are in FSU and will get away with absolutely idiotic decisions. Additionally, parents aren’t about to send their kids to a university where the kids face a significant likelihood of ruining their lives.

    Mullen’s first task is to get through a season without a single felony charge or mass behavioral issues. QB is the number 2 priority now as far as I am concerned.

  10. The QB play HAS been horrendous, but it must also be mentioned that during that time that we haven’t had an OL that could even block the DLs of the directional schools we’ve played. They’ve been that bad, and have contributed to the hurried throws, happy feet, feeling pressure even when it’s NOT there, and, yes, injuries of some of these QBs. That has to change whether Mullen or anybody else is calling the plays and coaching the QBs.

  11. Great piece Pat! Thank you for taking the impartial route. That’s the way reporting should be. Leave the judgement up to readers. Too often in this era, the press tells people how and what to think as if they are lobbyists but I suppose that’s the way the lazy minded readers like it.

    By the way, just like there’s been a QB coach carousel, hasn’t there also been a receivers coach carousel?

  12. The conclusion of this piece makes a jump from all-SEC to SEC caliber. The all-SEC question is a pretty easy call — though surprises are possible. However, the suggestion that none of the current quarterbacks may belong in the SEC at all is much harder to support. I realize that Franks looked bad last year, and still needs to show that he can read defenses, but he has the physical tools to be outstanding. With some improvement in the offensive line (one can hope) and a little better coaching, I would not be surprised to see Franks look much better this year. And maybe Trask or Jones will look even better than Franks. The grim note at the end, then, seems overly pessimistic.

  13. I have great respect for Pat and his work. However, can we drop the mantra of over the top in trying to prove that I am a journalist. Maybe just for while anyway…and get on the band wagon to boost a fan base that needs an injection of “It’s Great to be a Florida Gator! Go Gators!