With spring practices only a couple of weeks away, it’s time to start previewing what the 2020 Gators might look like position-by-position.
The quarterback is the most important position on the field, so it’s only right that we kick off this series with them.
Here are three observations, two questions and one prediction about UF’s signal-callers entering the spring.
1. As much as some fans want to stir up a quarterback controversy, the reality is that Kyle Trask should have a firm grip on the starting job to start the spring. While he doesn’t possess the athleticism that is most often associated with a Dan Mullen quarterback, you simply don’t bench a guy who threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in just 10 starts unless you’ve got an extremely talented player waiting in the wings. So far, Emory Jones hasn’t proved that he is that type of player. The ceiling is higher with Jones under center because of his running ability, but the floor is also lower because of his untested passing skills. With the Gators playing a relatively weak schedule in 2020 and hauling in a great group of skill players, it’s probably wise to go with the sure thing in Trask. This isn’t to say that Jones can’t make this a close competition, but he’ll face a steep uphill battle to do so.
2. That being said, look for Jones to get more opportunities to run the full offense this spring. For the first time in his career, he enters the offseason as the clear-cut No. 2 quarterback, so the Gators will likely try to get him game-ready in case Trask gets hurt. He’s no longer just a gimmick that only has to know a handful of plays. Now in his third year in the program, expect him to look more comfortable as a passer. Reading defenses and consistently hitting the intermediate throws should be his focus this spring.
3. It’ll be interesting to see how Trask and Jones adjust to throwing to a retooled receiving corps. Florida lost four seniors after last season, and Trevon Grimes is the only proven commodity returning at the position. Texas transfer Jordan Pouncey is the only newcomer who will participate in spring practices, so a trio of redshirt freshmen figure to receive a lot of reps. Building a rapport with receivers can sometimes take a quarterback a year or more, but the Gators don’t have that kind of time. Trask and Jones need to spend a lot of time throwing to the group outside of practices to build that chemistry heading into the fall.
1. Can Trask improve some of his weaknesses? Obviously, he’ll never be able to run drastically faster or throw a ball 20 yards farther, but there are a couple of things that he needs to work on to elevate UF’s offense from good to great. First, his deep ball accuracy needs improvement. He doesn’t throw a lot of catchable balls. Sometimes, he puts too much air under the ball and overthrows his receiver. Other times, he doesn’t put enough air under it or throws it out of bounds. Second, he seemed to rely heavily on his pre-snap reads to decide where to go with the ball last season. Most of the time, it worked for him, but defensive coordinators that were good at disguising their coverages were able to bait him into some poor throws. For Florida to win the biggest games on its schedule, Trask needs to clean up these two areas.
2. Will Anthony Richardson show signs of being the future at the position? The bulk of his snaps will come on the third team with walk-ons and other freshmen, and Richardson is obviously far from a finished product. Still, he’s the Gators’ most hyped quarterback signee since Feleipe Franks, so you want to see some signs that he’s capable of living up to the lofty expectations sometime down the road. He’s made a lot of progress as a passer over the last year or so, and it’s important that he continues to move in that direction.
1. Despite Trask being named Preseason All-SEC – and possibly even First Team – in July, a segment of the fan base will still clamor for Jones to be the starter entering the fall. Because quarterbacks aren’t even allowed to be breathed on during the spring, you don’t learn a whole lot about the position. This storyline isn’t going anywhere, even though the competition probably isn’t as close as you might think.