Here is the list of starting quarterbacks for the University of Florida since 2010: John Brantley, Trey Burton, Jordan Reed, Jacoby Brissett, Jeff Driskel, Tyler Murphy, Skyler Mornhinweg, Treon Harris, Will Grier, Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby.
It goes without saying that there isn’t a single star among them although Jacoby Brissett (New England Patriots) and Jeff Driskel (Cincinnati Bengals) earned tickets to the NFL by transferring to other schools and Will Grier had star quality before he ran into trouble with PEDs and then transferred to West Virginia. Burton (Philadelphia Eagles) and Reid (Washington Redskins) play tight end in the NFL and Murphy led the nation’s QBs in rushing after transferring to Boston College then played a year of wide receiver in the NFL. He reached an injury settlement with the Miami Dolphins last summer.
Del Rio and Appleby are a combined 201-346 for 2,322 yards (6.6 per attempt) and 14 TDs with 10 interceptions this season. At best they’ve been adequate. At worst, they’ve had a part in Florida’s offensive struggles. Appleby will be gone after the Gators face Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and the bowl game he never got to play in during his time at Purdue. Del Rio has missed the last three games with an injury and who knows what his status will be for either of the next two games. One thing for sure, he’s not the future.
At this moment, the future at QB is locked up with freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask and well-regarded 3-star commit Jake Allen out of St. Thomas Aquinas. All three have stronger arms and a bigger upside than Del Rio and it stands to reason that Jim McElwain will commit to one of those three next year unless a transfer factors into the Florida recruiting equation.
As of Tuesday night, there were reports from Irish Illustrated and ESPN that Malik Zaire will be taking the grad transfer route out of Notre Dame and that Florida is on his hot list along with Pittsburgh, Michigan State and Wisconsin. Zaire was the starting QB at Notre Dame in 2015 when he broke his ankle in the second game of the season. He never regained his starting job. His three years at Notre Dame produced 58-98 passing for 816 yards and 6 TDs with 0 interceptions and 324 rushing yards with 2 more TDs. Zaire is best remembered for a brilliant 19-23 passing performance for 313 yards and 3 TDs in the 2015 season opener against Texas.
Florida is also said to be in the mix for Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham, who saved a year of eligibility by sitting out at McLennan Community College. As a freshman at Baylor in 2015, Stidham completed 75-109 passes for 1,265 yards (11.6 per attempt) with 12 TDs and just 2 INTs. He also ran for 70 yards and 2 TDs. Auburn has recruited Stidham hard since he announced his transfer back during the summer. Texas A&M is also recruiting him hard and it’s expected that new Texas coach Tom Herman will make a pitch.
Stidham is a former 5-star recruit with a big arm who has experience and would fit nicely into Florida’s pro spread attack. Zaire would bring mobility and speed to the position.
But how many of Florida’s current quarterbacks (that includes Allen) would hang around under those circumstances? Del Rio has two years of eligibility but he’s already at his third school and would he be willing to sit another two years? Supposedly he will graduate either in December or May so he could maybe transfer somewhere and play immediately. Franks and Trask already sat a year when they both were more talented than either of the two QBs Florida elected to play. Would one – or both – sit again? Would Allen find the situation too crowded?
In a best case scenario, McElwain will land one of the transfers and keeps everybody happy. Best case isn’t always realistic however. The situation is dicey and will have to be handled with extreme caution. One thing for certain, however, is that this position has to upgrade for 2017.
The quarterback situation in the rest of the SEC
Alabama: Barring injury, Alabama is set for the next two years with Jalen Hurts (209-317 for 2,454 yards, 21 TDPs; 154-840 rushing for 12 TDs), who will probably break all the school offensive records before he’s through. His backups will be fifth year senior Cooper Bateman (12-14 for 119 yards, 1 TDP) and fourth year junior David Cornwell. Alabama has a commitment from Tua Tagovailoa, a 4-star dual threat QB from Hawaii.
Arkansas: Austin Allen (227-370 for 3,152 yards, 23 TDPs) will be back for his senior season. The backups will be Ty Storey, Ricky Town and huge (6-7, 258) redshirt freshman Cole Kelley.
Auburn: The Tigers were obviously better this year with Sean White (129-198 for 1,644 yards and 9 TDPs) in the game but he’s fragile and the offense is at its best with a dual threat QB. John Franklin III (11-19 passing, 179 yards and 1 TD; 41-414 rushing, 2 TDs) doesn’t throw well enough to play QB in the SEC so he likely leaves as a grad transfer to a school that runs some sort of option Auburn desperately needs to sign Baylor transfer QB Jarret Stidham, who spent the year at a juco.
Georgia: The Bulldogs are set for the next two years with Jacob Eason (192-349 for 2,266 yards, 14 TDPs in his freshman year). Brice Ramsey can return for his senior season or go the graduate transfer route. The Bulldogs have a 5-star commit in Jake Fromm of Houston County (GA).
Kentucky: The UK offense took off when dual threat juco transfer Stephen Johnson (126-231 for 1,862 yards and 12 TDPs; 83-278 rushing for 2 TDs) replaced injured Drew Barker. Johnson will be the starter again next year. Barker has back issues and he is a pocket passer, while Johnson runs read option so well. The Wildcats have a couple of highly regarded freshmen committed in 4-star Danny Clark and 3-star Walker Wood.
LSU: Finding a QB who can step in and get the job done is critical. Brandon Harris, benched for Danny Etling, may or may not be back. The Tigers have dual threats Justin McMillan and Lindsey Scott Jr. on the roster and the Tigers have 4-star commits in Lowell Narcisse and Myles Brennan. Brennan is a pro style QB and he could decommit. LSU is trying to poach Alabama commit Tua Tagovailoa out of Hawaii.
Mississippi State: Dan Mullen has his QB for the next two years in Nick Fitzgerald (183-335 for 2,287 yards and 21 TDPs; 177-1,243 and 14 TDs rushing), whose sophomore season was better than Dak Prescott in 2013. Damian Williams could go the grad transfer route, leaving Nick Tiano as the primary backup. The Bulldogs have a 4-star commit in Keytaon Thompson.
Missouri: Drew Lock (237-434 for 3,399 yards and 23 TDPs) was perhaps the league’s most improved player in 2016. Dual threat Marvin Zanders looked good in backup duty (35-198 rushing for 2 TDs; 10-12 passing for 114 and 1 TDP) but he might elect to go the grad transfer route in the spring. Micah Wilson took a redshirt in 2016. Dual threat Reyondous Estes is a 3-star commit.
Ole Miss: When Chad Kelly went down with an ACL, Hugh Freeze didn’t hesitate to burn the redshirt of Shea Patterson (73-132 for 880 yards and 6 TDs; 41-169 rushing), who will be the QB for at least the next two years if he can stay healthy. Jason Pellerin (11-22 for 104 yards and 2 TDs; 29-90 rushing for 3 TDs) is the only scholarship backup. The Rebels don’t have a QB committed for 2017.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks found their QB of the future when they pulled the redshirt off of Jake Bentley (93-147 for 1,030 yards and 6 TDs), who led them to a 4-2 record and bowl eligibility. Brandon McIlwain (62-118 for 600 yards and 2 TDs; 127 rushing yards for 2 TDs) got some starts as a true freshman and he will likely hang around as a backup since he also will play baseball. Michael Scarnecchia is the other scholarship QB. The Gamecocks have a commitment in 3-star Jay Urich.
Tennessee: Josh Dobbs is gone so first crack at the QB job goes to Quinten Dormady (24-39 for 357 yards and 1 TD in 2 years as Dobbs backup), who is a pocket passer. The Vols redshirted Jarrett Guarantano, who was one of the top prep QBs in the country in 2015. Sherriron Jones is a dual threat. Currently, the Vols don’t have a quarterback committed for the 2017 class.
Texas A&M: Jake Hubenak (101-179 for 1,283 yards and 9 TDs in 2 backup seasons) is the only scholarship QB on the roster once Trevor Knight departs after the bowl game. The QB of the future is dual threat 4-star commit Kellen Mond. The Aggies are actively trying to land former Baylor QB Jarrett Stidham, who has three years of eligibility.
Vanderbilt: By season’s end, Kyle Shurmur (185-329 for 2,251 yards and 9 TDPs) had developed into a capable QB. His backup is Wade Freebech (42-91 for 479 yards and 1 TDP in three backup seasons). Vandy redshirted Deuce Wallace and has a 3-star commitment for 2017 in Jacob Free.
OPPOSITE ENDS OF THE SPECTRUM
Even with all the injuries, Florida’s defense has played at an admirably high level. The Gators rank #6 nationally in total defense, giving up 291.9 yards per game. Although the Gators gave up 31 points to Florida State in their last game, UF still ranks #5 in scoring defense, allowing just 14.6 points per game.
Over on the other side of the ball, the Gators are down at the bottom. The Gators are #114 in total offense (352.7 yards per game), #104 in scoring offense (24.1 points per game) and #104 in rushing offense (141.6 yards per game).
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF POLL, WEEK 5
SEC teams in bold face
1. Alabama 12-0
2. Ohio State 11-1
3. Clemson 11-1
4. Washington 11-1
5. Michigan 10-2
6. Wisconsin 10-2
7. Penn State 10-2
8. Colorado 10-2
9. Oklahoma 9-2
10. Oklahoma State 9-2
11. Southern California 9-3
12. Florida State 9-3
13. Louisville 9-3
14. Auburn 8-4
15. FLORIDA 8-3
16. West Virginia 9-2
17. Western Michigan 12-0
18. Stanford 9-3
19. Navy 9-2
20. Utah 8-4
21. LSU 7-4
22. Tennessee 8-4
23. Virginia Tech 9-3
24. Houston 9-3
25. Pittsburgh 8-4
PLAYOFF THOUGHTS (AGAIN)
If Alabama, Clemson and Washington win their conference championship games this weekend, the playoff is going to be set with the addition of Ohio State in the final four. It doesn’t matter what Penn State and Wisconsin do in the Big Ten Championship Game unless either Clemson or Washington lose or stink up the joint in winning their conference title games.
Should Penn State beat Wisconsin, there will be weeping, gnashing of the teeth and genuine nastiness from Happy Valley as well as the Big Ten Conference higher ups, but the playoff is supposed to be about the best four teams over the course of the season and not the best team on one particular day. The playoff committee prefers conference champions but it’s not a necessity. The conference champion is supposed to get the nod over a non-conference champ if you have two teams that everything else is even, but otherwise it’s about the team that played the best for an entire season.
I still believe the best idea is a 6-team playoff that would allow the power 5 conferences to send their champ and allow for a wildcard. It would allow a pair of doubleheaders and a championship game, which would more than satisfy the networks.
STEWART MANDEL’S BOWL PREDICTIONS FOR SEC TEAMS
Peach Bowl (College Football Playoff): Washington vs. Alabama
Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Auburn
Outback Bowl: Nebraska vs. FLORIDA
TaxSlayer Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Kentucky
Citrus Bowl: Louisville vs. LSU
Music City Bowl: Minnesota vs. Tennessee
Liberty Bowl: Kansas State vs. Georgia
Belk Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Arkansas
Birmingham Bowl: South Florida vs. South Carolina
Texas Bowl: TCU vs. Texas A&M
Independence Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Vanderbilt
Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State vs. Mississippi State
Other bowls of interest:
Fiesta Bowl (College Football Playoff): Clemson vs. Ohio State
Orange Bowl: Michigan vs. Florida State
Cure Bowl: South Alabama vs. UCF
Russell Athletic Bowl: West Virginia vs. Miami
As expected, Oregon fired Mark Helfrich after the worst season in the last 20 years. The sentimental pick to replace Helfrich is former Oregon and current San Francisco 49ers coach Chip Kelly, but he’s expected to remain in the NFL. Nike chairman Phil Knight reportedly will spent $10 million or more for the right coach. He wouldn’t have to spend nearly that much to land P.J. Fleck of Western Michigan or Dana Holgorsen of West Virginia. It’s rumored that Florida’s Jim McElwain is on the short list. If Oregon elects to shoot for the moon, then FSU’s Jimbo Fisher will listen. LSU was willing to pay him $8 million but wasn’t willing to give him a 10-year contract. Oregon might.
Former Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, who retired to deal with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, announced Tuesday that his cancer is in remission.
Baylor is up to its wazzoo in problems. The anticipated end to the difficulties when football coach Art Briles, athletic director Ian McCaw and school prez Ken Starr were forced out never happened so the scandal lives on and only grows in magnitude. The football team lost nearly all its 2016 recruits and has lost its last 5 games by an average of 20.4 points after starting the season 6-0 under interim coach Jim Grobe. The Bears are favored to lose their final regular season game with West Virginia Saturday, but even with all these problems mounting on a daily basis the school says it will still go to a bowl game.
Indiana backup QB Zander Diamont plans to quit football after the Hoosiers’ bowl game rather than return for his senior season. “I think that for my safety and my future – I’m not going to the NFL – I need my brain,” Diamont said. “So that was my decision.”
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Forget Nick Saban and Urban Meyer. They aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. So, if you are an athletic director with big pocket boosters and you need a head coach who would be your plans A, B and C?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
The double album “Hooker ‘N Heat” which was a collaboration between blues master John Lee Hooker and the San Francisco Bay area band Canned Heat is still one of the best blues rock albums I’ve ever heard.