Whitley: Do backup college quarterbacks have patience to stay?

David Whitley
Gator Sports
Emory Jones, right, was patient before taking the mantle from Florida quarterback Kyle Trask.

Spring football practice is largely hidden from public view, so we don't know what's really going on. We do know that one of the key figures in Florida's system is at least saying the right things.

"My role on the team is to just be a good teammate to Emory," Anthony Richardson said this week.

He was in a Zoom news conference after practice. The person he referred to was Emory Jones — as if you didn't know.

Most people around here probably couldn't name their congressional representative (Kat Cammack. I cheated and looked it up), but they can rattle off Florida's depth chart at quarterback.

Jones is in line to replace Kyle Trask. Richardson is in line to replace Jones. Freshmen Jalen Kitna and Carlos Del Rio-Wilson are still learning where the cafeteria is.

As for how everyone is doing behind the spring-practice gates, it's an educated guessing game. The most educated guess is Dan Mullen's hybrid QB system will return in full this fall. Jones will start but Richardson will get quality playing time.

But highly-acclaimed recruits like Richardson are increasingly antsy to get off the bench.

The question Richardson and other QBs will eventually have to answer is whether patience is a virtue.

That saying was supposedly coined by Roman statesman Cato the Elder. There was no transfer portal in 2,000 B.C., so statesmen had an easier time imparting such pearls of wisdom.

Transferring has always been a part of the game. Troy Aikman was an Oklahoma Sooner before leaving for UCLA. Before NFL scouts noticed him throwing to Randy Moss at Marshall, Eric Kresser was lost in Danny Wuerffel's long shadow at Florida.

But kids these days, they really don't want to stick around and pay their dues. Recruiting addicts will recognize names like D'Wan Mathis (Georgia to Temple), J.T. Daniels (USC to Georgia) and K.J. Costello (Stanford to Mississippi State), Jacob Eason (Georgia to Washington).

Kirby Smart should have installed a toll booth at the entrance to Georgia's quarterback room. Maybe the arm could have gotten stuck and kept Justin Fields from bolting to Ohio State.

Plenty of other QBs have left in search of more playing time. Perhaps the leading nomad is Tate Martell, a five-star recruit who's bounced from Ohio State to Miami and is now back in the transfer portal.

Martel was a featured player in the first season of "QB1: Beyond the Lights," a Netflix documentary that follows three highly-recruited high school quarterbacks around during their senior seasons.

Season No. 4 hasn't been released yet, but one of the stars is none other than Eastside High's Anthony Richardson. And why not?

He's a 6-foot-4, 232-pound athletic freak. He looks perfect for an offense based on dual-threat quarterbacking. Of course, so does Jones.

The buzz Richardson is generating used to go to Jones, because backup QBs are always fan favorites. Jones kept that praise in perspective and served his apprenticeship admirably.

He thought he might become the starter when Felipe Franks broke his ankle, then Trask turned a passing revelation.

“It has been hard," Jones said, "but it’s all been for a reason."

He'll be more of a running threat than Trask, which makes him more of an injury threat.

"You’re one play away from that guy being the starter," he said. "And being the starter at Florida is a great, great responsibility."

That's what he's been selling to Richardson, and the kid seems to be buying it. It helps that Mullen can back it up with history. He was giving backup quarterbacks quality snaps even before Tim Tebow showed up to make fans forget Chris Leak existed.

Tebow was a special case, of course. It would have taken a Biblical plague to make him abandon UF for another school.

The escape hatch will soon be even easier for today's kids. The NCAA is working on one-time transfer legislation that would allow players to transfer and be immediately eligible.

It's bad when a promising linebacker transfers. It can be devastating when your quarterback of the future decides he's tired of waiting his turn.

Mullen the Elder has a good track record of keeping the QB pipeline flowing. But

ultimately, it's up to the QB.

Richardson is saying and doing all the right things. In the Zoom call, he also was asked if he was ready to play.

"Of course," he said, cracking a grin. "I know what I'm capable of doing."

If he lives up to his own expectations, we'll find out if he's capable of buying into another old saying:

Good things come to those who wait.

— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com. And follow him on Twitter: @DavidEWhitley

Whitley