What does Florida do at QB if it can’t land ready-to-play 2018 recruit?
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Top quarterback recruit Matt Corral’s announcement on Twitter late Thursday that he has flipped his commitment from Florida to Ole Miss has been all the buzz within the Gators fan base, eliciting strong opinions, questions and a dash of panic.
As Corral’s father, Peter, tweeted Friday, the No. 3-ranked pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2018 (according to the 247Sports composite) didn’t feel the same commitment from new Florida coach Dan Mullen as he did when he made his pledge to former coach Jim McElwain and his coaching staff in July.
Matt was always 100% commited to the Gators. Unfortunately, they weren’t commited to him.
— Peter Corral (@CorralPeter) December 15, 2017
Florida had talked to other quarterbacks, offering JUCO prospect Terry Wilson (who ultimately chose Kentucky) and making a renewed push to flip Georgia commit Justin Fields, the No. 1-ranked dual-threat QB in the Class of 2018.
But new Florida assistant coach Billy Gonzales did visit Corral at his high school in California, and Mullen and new Gators quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson made an in-home visit to Corral on Monday.
Whatever their true level of interest, Corral clearly felt more wanted at Ole Miss. He’s moved on, and now so too must the Gators.
Which leads to a suddenly very relevant Gators Mailbag Question of the Day:
What does Florida do at QB if it can’t land a ready-to-play recruit in this class?
Florida will continue to pursue Fields, and news broke Friday that the Gators will get an official visit this weekend from Ohio State quarterback commit Emory Jones, the Franklin, Ga., prospect who is the No. 4 dual-threat prospect in the class.
If Florida can flip Fields or Jones, either would be the overwhelming favorite to start at quarterback next season. That opportunity to start right away would be an obvious selling point to either player.
But what if the Gators can’t secure Fields, Jones or another star prospect this late in the process? That’s where the Florida quarterback picture gets especially cloudy.
Feleipe Franks had a full season to audition for the role and it didn’t go well. Mullen will make his own evaluation, but Franks’ experience would actually seem to work against him given what the 2017 game film reveals.
Meanwhile, Kyle Trask, who will be a redshirt sophomore next season, and Jake Allen, who will be a redshirt freshman, have yet to play in a college game and remain unknown commodities at this level.
It seemed like convincing Malik Zaire to petition the NCAA for a medical hardship waiver (for his broken ankle in 2015 at Notre Dame) and have him return for an extra season would provide a logical stop-gap solution. But according to a source, Mullen had yet to reach out to Zaire as of the middle of this week, making it look more likely that the dual-threat quarterback would not return.
Anything can change, of course. But if Florida strikes out on Fields, Jones (and maybe Auburn commit Joey Gatewood from Jacksonville), then what?
If Zaire decides his frustrating debut season at Florida was enough, and/or the coaching staff doesn’t express interest in his return, a once-forgotten option on the Gators QB depth chart could suddenly look a lot more appealing.
Trask played in a spread offense at Manvel High School in Texas, but he was a backup to D’Eriq King, a speedy dual-threat quarterback who went to Houston. Manvel coach Kirk Martin explained the division of roles this way, while talking to SEC Country after Trask’s commitment to the Gators.
“Everybody talks about Kyle being a backup, I never viewed him that way,” Martin said. “D’Eriq was just so electric with the ball in his hands that it was hard to take him out. We run a wide-open spread offense with a lot of zone reads and quarterback runs that Kyle couldn’t do. He’s truly a pro-style quarterback. He can run now, but he’s not a 4.4 guy like D’Eriq.”
But can Trask run enough to operate Mullen’s spread offense? More importantly, can he make the reads and quick decisions required of the position, which is the main concern/question with Franks at this point. That may be something the new coaching staff takes a close look at in the spring, especially given his size (6-foot-5, 239 pounds) and strong arm.
Depending on what happens the rest of this recruiting cycle, that is.
Allen is a pro-style quarterback as well. And while some fans continue to pine for Kadarius Toney to get a shot at QB, he doesn’t have the size (5-11) of a typical Mullen quarterback, and I remain skeptical that he can be a consistent enough passer to succeed at the SEC level in that position. (I do not have any doubt, though, that he can be a star as a versatile playmaker).
Clearly, the only way to truly assuage Florida fans’ worries at this point is to pull a coup in recruiting and land one of those aforementioned marquee prospects.
Otherwise, it’s anybody’s guess who takes those first snaps next fall.
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