McGee acknowledges Jones as Florida's No. 1 QB, but plans to play Richardson regularly
During his first year at Florida in 2020, Garrick McGee developed a new level of respect for UF coach Dan Mullen.
McGee already relished the opportunity to work with him given their history together as up-and-coming coaches. But after joining his staff, McGee — a former quarterback at Oklahoma — came to appreciate Mullen’s philosophy on rotating players.
“One thing I really respect about how Coach Mullen does things — and I learned last year — is that everybody that’s ready to play gets to run out there and play,” said McGee, who was promoted to quarterbacks coach in January. “There’s times where it’s an important part of the game, first quarter, and all the backups are out there.
“And I think that’s his vision of building depth in the team. It gives everybody a chance to get prepared for the game and have passion about their preparation because they know at some point they're going to be out on the field. So I think it’s a really good thing for our program and that's how we’ll go about it.”
That includes at his position, where McGee said redshirt junior Emory Jones and redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson are both “ready to play right now.” They’ve been battling for the job since the spring, with McGee executing a plan from Mullen to split reps between the two.
“Emory takes the majority of the reps with the 1’s. At some point in the practice session, Anthony will go with the ones so that he’s comfortable with the No. 1 center and communicating with the No. 1 center,” McGee said. “Coach makes us track every rep that they’re going to take. We had a rep count at the end of practice and the rep count better be right.”
Does Mullen knock him if it’s wrong?
“Knocked is a pretty good word for it,” quipped McGee, who will be Mullen’s eye in the sky this season as he coaches from the booth.
Mullen acknowledged Jones as the frontrunner heading into the offseason, and that’s still the case coming out of fall training camp, McGee revealed Wednesday.
However, in the spring Mullen also said he was trying to create two starters at the quarterback position. According to comments this week from McGee and Mullen, they feel that’s been accomplished with Richardson’s readiness.
“Those two guys, they get about the same amount of reps, but Emory is the No. 1 quarterback,” McGee said. “So he gets most of his reps with the 1’s and Anthony gets most of the reps with the 2’s. But at some point in practice, they switch.
“I think they're doing a really good job. I think it started with them gaining a better understanding of our offensive system, better understanding of defensive structure and how protections and everything works. Then your confidence starts to build and you have the ability to activate your leadership skills. And I think they're doing a good job, you know, a really good job so far.”
McGee said he has high expectations for Jones and believes he can be one of the nation’s top quarterbacks by the season’s end. After first working with him in the spring, McGee saw several areas of growth in Jones during preseason camp.
“His footwork. His understanding of the passing game. The ability to throw the type of ball that he needs at the right time. Understanding angles and how defenders are dropping and what their shoulders are telling him. Getting pre-snap reads of the defense and then making post-snap decisions based on what happened once you get the ball,” McGee said. “From spring ball to now, he understands the details of our offense and he has an understanding of defensive structure. And I think he’s growing because he’s starting to understand the timing and how the angles work when you’re trying to move the ball down the field.”
As a backup, Jones gave the Gators a different skill set behind center whenever he checked in for Kyle Trask, a pro-style passer. With Jones now QB1 and Richardson in his role, McGee said the offense won’t change with Richardson in the game because both are dual-threat quarterbacks.
“I think it’s going to be about the same as when Emory is out there in regards to what we’re doing to move the ball on the field,” McGee said. “Coach [Mullen] has done a good job with the installation and who we’re going to be as an offense, and both guys can execute that plan. So I think we’ll just continue business as usual when Anthony is out there. He’s going to be expected to execute the offense at the same level that Emory executes the offense. I mean, that should be the expectation because he has that skill set.”
After practice Wednesday, Richardson said his mindset as the backup is to be ready for his opportunities and when they come, “go out there and be clean-up.” He views himself as a one-two punch with Jones, who is “like a big brother” to Richardson.
“That’s my guy. He’s been there throughout my recruitment,” Richardson said of Jones. “Emory is an electric, electrifying guy. He's very talented. He has a strong arm. I feel like I have the same things. I'm capable of doing the same things he’s doing. I feel bad for a lot of teams this year because once he does his thing, I'm going to come in there and try to do the same thing. That’s why I call it a one-two punch.
“I feel like whenever Emory needs a break and they need me to come out there, I have to bring the same intensity Emory’s bringing and bring the same energy, all of that, just be the clean-up. So whenever he does his thing, I come in there and it’s just a one-two punch. Never let off the gas.”