Looking back on the 2020 season for the Florida Gators football team, it was certainly full of some bright moments, as well as some painful headaches. Whether it was watching the Kyle to Kyle connection, or seeing an LSU cleat fly 20 plus yards, there was certainly a feeling of excitement each time the Gators took the field last season. They were only a few mistakes away from a College Football Playoff bid, and they kept up with the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Title game, but were dismantled by the Oklahoma Sooners in the Cotton Bowl 55-20.
The Bowl game in particular was a tough task for the Gators, as they had several players opt out for the NFL draft, and ended up relying on their young freshmen and sophomores to step up. That was obviously going to be a tall task for players who were not in the flow of the offense and the play of the game, and it certainly showed. Kyle Trask was just one of the players who struggled due to the lack of chemistry with his new receivers, resulting in multiple interceptions throughout the game.
Should Trask even have played that game? He showed leadership and determination by wanting to play in the Cotton Bowl, but in the new age of College Football, numerous players opt out of games like this due to the NFL draft. The Gators definitely felt that when they faced Spencer Rattler and the Sooners. The stars of the team, such as Trask, Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney, Marco Wilson, Treveon Grimes, and Evan McPherson all left for the NFL Draft, which does cause some concern for what the team will look like when the 2021 season rolls around. The Gators were able to get their quarterback of the future some reps this past season, providing a nice tease to what the 2021 season could offer for the fans in the Swamp.
Quarterback Emory Jones was able to take snaps in the New Year’s Six Bowl, which Gator fans watched intently. Jones has been the backup for Kyle Trask since 2019 and commanded the huddle several times over the 2020 campaign. He has run read option or pass option plays in a somewhat limited role, but was able to display his abilities as both a passer and a runner in those limited situations.
Jones came out of high school in the class of 2018 as a four star recruit from Franklin, Georgia and stands at 6’2. Other names in this quarterback class were Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, with both getting selected in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft. Jones has been limited to the sideline for three years now studying Dan Mullen’s high-powered offense and waiting his turn to be #1 on the depth chart, and now he will get his shot to prove he can lead this offense.
Most of Jones previous snaps have come when the Gators were winning by large margins, or if they wanted to get a read option look in the red zone. His passes typically were inside the numbers and less than 20 yards down the field. In his nine games so far, Jones has thrown for 221 yards, run for another 217 yards, while scoring a combined four touchdowns in the process.
Mullen understands he has playmakers in his running back and wide receiver rooms, so he relied on their separation abilities and talent to move the Gators offense down the field. Jones will allow the Gators to spread the playbook more than they previously could with Trask, as Trask lacked the threat of scrambling or being used as a running option. Jones diversifies what Mullen can call, so expect the early part of the 2021 season to involve a run heavy, short passing offense that will evolve as Jones gains comfort in the system.
Outside of quarterback, the Florida Gators have posted a top 15 finish in recruiting rankings in the last three years, as they have added numerous star players on both sides of the ball. Returning starter Kaiir Elam is looking to solidify his name as a top secondary player in the nation, as he will be eligible for the draft after next season. As a defensive back, his 2020 campaign rounded out with 28 solo tackles and 2 interceptions. Pro Football Focus has both Emory Jones and Kaiir Elam being top 10 picks in next year’s draft, and Florida fans should be excited about these two stars taking the field. Expect the Florida Gators to be back at the top of the SEC East division this fall, blasting “Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to The Swamp’s full capacity.