GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Jim McElwain believes he can win with his dog, Clarabelle, playing quarterback. Fortunately for her sake, and his, it won’t come to that.
With the commitment from 5-star QB Matt Corral and the recent additions to the roster, the Gators football team is set for years to come with the depth, numbers and talent they’ve assembled.
Two and a half years ago, McElwain pledged to repair, rehab and revitalize the open wound that has been Florida’s QB position. After failing to flip Louisville commit Lamar Jackson and losing promising starter Will Grier in 2015, McElwain has brought in a few stop-gap quarterbacks, one of whom may start this season in graduate transfer Malik Zaire.
The offense didn’t meet McElwain’s standards in his first two years, but his starting quarterback also hasn’t made it through a season. McElwain went 11-1 with Grier and 2016 starter Luke Del Rio under center. Then again, those games didn’t come against Florida’s toughest opponents.
McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier can’t be judged on the quarterback play until their starter is someone who has been recruited, developed and groomed for their system. The track record of McElwain and Nussmeier affords them that luxury.
They’ve won five combined rings as offensive coordinators in the SEC. Nussmeier has produced a 3,000-yard passer in three of the four instances where his starting quarterback worked with him for more than a year.
2005: Drew Stanton, Michigan State (3,077 yards)
2011: Keith Price, Washington (3,063 yards)
2013: A.J. McCaron, Alabama (3,063 yards)
In 2012, McCaron’s first year with Nussmeier, he threw for 2,933 yards, had the No. 1 passer rating in the country and led the Crimson Tide to their second straight national championship.
Not included in the list above is former Washington quarterback Jake Locker, who Nussmeier developed into the No. 8 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Former St. Louis Rams QB Marc Bulger also had his best pro season under Nussmeier’s tutelage, throwing for 4,301 yards in 2006.
McElwain, meanwhile, won three titles at Alabama, had top-30 offenses in his final two years and turned Colorado State QB Garrett Grayson into a 4,000-yard passer.
These guys know what they’re doing. And in the near future, Florida’s offense will feature a hand-picked signal caller.
The first in line will likely be Feleipe Franks, the nation’s No. 5-ranked pro-style quarterback in the 2016 class. His flip from LSU to the Gators was a big deal for McElwain, especially after losing Grier and not signing a QB in the previous cycle.
With a redshirt year under his belt, Franks is expected to challenge Del Rio and Zaire for the starting job this year. Florida could have its quarterback of the future if Franks wins the competition in fall camp.
If not, Franks better be ready to take the reins in 2018. The Gators will have Del Rio as a redshirt senior, Corral enrolling early and two more quarterbacks pushing for playing time in Jake Allen and Kyle Trask.
It will be interesting to see who Florida’s 2019 starter is, because there’s a potential scenario for each player. The good thing for the coaches is they finally have options to work with this season and beyond.
History shows McElwain and Nussmeier will get one of them playing at a high level.