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The Florida Gators had their first inter-squad scrimmage over the weekend, which gave head coach Dan Mullen an opportunity to evaluate his quarterbacks in a game setting.
The biggest takeaway from the evening is Florida’s ability to pick up scrambling yards on offense from its starting QB Emory Jones. But will he be able to make the right decisions at the right times?
Once considered the most dynamic weapon in college football, the ‘dual threat quarterback’ has faded from prominence a bit, but only because too many gifted athletes tend to rely on their legs instead of their passing ability. Mullen thinks Jones is learning how to balance the offense’s greater goals with his own running ability.
“There’s times I don’t want him to get through the progression,” Mullen said of Jones. “I’m on him, a lot of times in camp you have that fine line like make sure you’re going to stand in the pocket, you’re not allowed to run, go through the progression. Then you gotta flip it around the other way for him… If they’re in this coverage, and they give you a lane, you’re going to run until you get to the band. There’s that aspect to it but I think if you go through the scrimmage last night I thought his decision making was really good. I think he made some really good decisions.”
By all accounts, Jones has squarely won the starting job, but he does have some talented competition waiting behind him. Second-year freshman Anthony Richardson also played well on Sunday, earning some public praise from his head coach.
“He had a huge night last night,” Mullen said of Richardson. “Did really well, made a lot of great decisions. Very accurate. I think he threw three touchdown passes. Obviously (he) is a dynamic runner as well, making good decisions. I feel very comfortable with both guys, which is a good thing. It helps in a way that they have similar skill sets even though they’re a little different in their sets and what they do well. But there are similarities in their ability to create, both with great arm talent and their arm talent to create and extend plays with their legs. It allows you, you don’t have to have one package or this package, and you can kind of coach in a similar style where if you see this look don’t be afraid to take off running.”
Regardless of starter, it seems that the offense is going to look much different than last year’s campaign under second-round NFL pick Kyle Trask, who now backs up Tom Brady in Tampa Bay.
Florida defenses are always athletic and stout, so it feels like the offense will really be in charge of the Gators’ trajectory this year. If Jones can rise to the occasion, take care of the ball, and pick up yards with his feet only when the defense offers big running lanes, Florida will have a good shot at winning the SEC East. Sloppy quarterback play, however, will doom the Gators throughout their SEC gauntlet.