LAKELAND, Fla. — Florida football coach Dan Mullen met with reporters before his speaking event with the Polk County Gator Club on Monday afternoon, and the first questions concerned the Gators’ quarterback depth and whether Mullen would look to add a graduate transfer at the position.
That’s been a hot topic within the fan base with rumors and speculation that Ohio State quarterback and recent graduate Joe Burrow would look to transfer if not assured the starting job with the Buckeyes in 2018, and that the Gators could be a fit for his services.
“Not right now we’re not really looking at it. I feel pretty good about the guys that we have, you know, the depth that we’re creating at that position and the competition at that position,” Mullen said.
Mullen was not asked directly about Burrow as he is not allowed to comment on a player still on roster at another school.
But he was asked if his comment meant Florida was closing the book on a potential grad transfer QB in this cycle.
“This year? I don’t know. I don’t think we would take one,” Mullen said. “Baker Mayfield left, right? He graduated and left. You know, I don’t think that’s a spot we would look to take anyone. … At this point there’s no plan of taking a grad transfer.”
If Burrow did decide to transfer, which again he has not announced to this point, he would have two years of immediate eligibility as a graduate.
In 10 career games at Ohio State, he’s completed 74 percent of his passes (29 of 39) for 287 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.
Florida has three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster in redshirt sophomores Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask and freshman early enrollee Emory Jones. Franks is the only one with college game experience. He struggled last fall in his debut, completing 54.6 percent of his passes for 1,438 yards, 9 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in 8 starts and 11 games overall.
Franks and Trask led the quarterback competition in spring practice while Jones, a 4-star touted freshman, was eased in to the mix.
Redshirt freshman Jake Allen also went through spring practice and then announced his intentions to transfer out of the program.
Mullen said he’s not concerned about his quarterback depth, though.
“I feel great. I mean, I had two on scholarship last season, so three is like a luxury,” said Mullen, of his 2017 Mississippi State roster. “So we feel pretty good about that situation.”
Mullen did note that he reached out to the father of former Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson after he announced his plans to transfer, but it doesn’t sound like Florida was close to getting his services. Patterson ultimately ended up at Michigan.
“I just was seeing what his interest was. I knew who he was and knew of him and knew he was transferring and reached out,” Mullen said. “He grew up in Michigan. The family is from Michigan or lived up there. Actually, I just talked to his dad. I knew him from playing against him.”
However it sorts out, quarterback is the biggest question Mullen has to answer. It’s part of the reason his predecessor, Jim McElwain, is no longer with the Gators. Aside from Will Grier’s brief tenure as Florida’s starting quarterback, the Gators haven’t found an answer at the position since Tim Tebow wrapped up his storied career in 2009.
Mullen is renowned for his track record of developing quarterbacks, including Tebow during his time as Florida’s offensive coordinator from 2005-08.
Asked how close he felt Franks and Trask were in their spring competition, Mullen said he doesn’t look at it that way.
“I haven’t paid attention to that because, part of me, it has no relevance on who plays. It’s what they do moving forward and really through 25 practices in training camp and five is game week, so really they’ve got 20 opportunities in practice to try to separate themselves,” he said.
More primarily, though, Mullen reiterated his challenge to Florida’s quarterbacks to make the most of the next few months leading into fall camp.
“My biggest stress point to all of them, and I don’t know that they understand this yet — I hope they do, I keep pounding it home — is between the end of the spring game and the start of fall camp is when quarterbacks make their biggest improvements,” he said. “Everyone that I’ve had, whether it’s been Alex Smith — whole different player. Dak Prescott — whole different player. You look at guys that are real legit NFL [prospects], big-time Heisman Trophy-candidate quarterbacks, that’s when they make their huge steps. We’ve got to see what the demeanor of our guys are if they’re that type of players.”