Hoover, Ala. — QB or not QB — that is the question.
For the Florida Gators, it’s Groundhog Day every year at SEC Media Days, when reporters flock into central Alabama and ask who the starting quarterback is going to be and whether that quarterback is good enough to make Florida’s perennially pitiful offense at least presentable.
Florida coach Jim McElwain is once again facing a quarterback quandary — just as every Gators coach has since Tim Tebow graduated seven years ago. In fact, the quarterback situation is so confusing that McElwain himself seemed to be sending out conflicting messages at Tuesday.
Michigan opens the regular season against Florida on Saturday, Sept. 2 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Oddly, some reporters in a small, private gathering with McElwain this week said the coach indicated that perhaps he already knows who his starting quarterback is going to be. Is it more than just coincidence that McElwain would drop that nebulous nugget just a few days after Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire officially joined the Gators?
When McElwain was questioned again later in front of larger group of reporters, he backtracked and said he is unsure about his starting quarterback situation. Will it be Zaire or will it be redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks, who won the job during spring drills?
“I know we will start a quarterback,” said a smiling McElwain, who just returned from his vacation home. “I figured out a lot of stuff at the lake place in Montana. Starting quarterback wasn’t one of them.”
The natural assumption is McElwain will start Zaire, who obviously didn’t transfer to Florida to ride the pine in his final year of college eligibility. “I would hope no one comes here to hold a clipboard,” McElwain said. “You know, there’s a certain expectation you’ve got to have and a drive to be successful. He definitely has that.”
When asked how Franks handled the news of Zaire’s transferring in, McElwain didn’t seem overly concerned.
“Look, worry about what you do,” McElwain said. “I think sometimes in life, too many of us worry about the things that have nothing to do with how we control what we do. That’s really what it’s all about. Be confident in who you are, go out and do your best.
“I don’t see any of our guys being afraid of competition, turning and running the other way. And if they do, that’s OK, too. That probably tells us something.”
Obviously, McElwain has to start the quarterback who he believes gives him the optimal chance to win in the monumental opener against Michigan, but wouldn’t it be better for the long-term stability of the program if McElwain starts Franks — a quarterback he actually recruited and developed?
Starting Zaire would continue the nearly decade-long trend of instability and transience surrounding Florida’s quarterback position. Hard to believe that the Gators haven’t recruited and developed a decent SEC quarterback since Tebow left in 2009.
In every season since Tebow graduated, there have been only two SEC programs that have not averaged at least 400 yards of offense even one time during that seven-year span — Vanderbilt and Florida. Frankly, unless you’re talking graduation rates, it’s never good for an SEC football program to be mentioned in the same sentence as Vanderbilt.
The common denominator for Florida’s abysmal offense is Florida’s poor track record of developing quarterbacks. Since Tebow left, the Gators have had nine starting quarterbacks — John Brantley, Jacoby Brissett, Jeff Driskel, Tyler Murphy, Skyler Mornhinweg, Treon Harris, Will Grier, Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby — and none have been successful.
Here’s all you need to know about the volatility of Florida’s quarterback position: Of the last eight starting quarterbacks, all of them have either transferred out or transferred in.
What’s even more frustrating is that many of those quarterbacks went on to have more success elsewhere.
Grier, who was starting to thrive in McElwain’s system as a redshirt freshman before he was suspended for a year after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, transferred to West Virginia and will be the starter this season.
Driskel, the highly-recruited dual-threat quarterback from Oviedo, threw for more yards (4,026) and touchdowns (27) in one season at Louisiana Tech than he did in three seasons at Florida.
Brissett went on to star at North Carolina State and is now a reserve quarterback for the New England Patriots.
Murphy transferred to Boston College, where he broke the ACC’s all-time single-season rushing record for a quarterback.
Meanwhile, here we are back in Alabama at SEC Groundhog Days.
You know the drill.
QB or not QB — that is the question.