Should the Florida Gators look toward the future and start a freshman quarterback in the Outback Bowl against Iowa? The Campus Insiders team weighs in.
Though they’ve won the past two SEC East titles, the Florida Gators have proven mediocre, at best, on the offensive side of the ball. Much of that is due to an inconsistent and revolving-door quarterback position. In two years as head coach, Jim McElwain has started four different quarterbacks. Perhaps non-coincidentally, his teams have faltered down the stretch.
With a third year of uncertainty facing the Gators’ quarterback position, should Jim McElwain burn the redshirt of one, or both, of his freshman signal callers (Feleipe Franks/Kyle Trask) in the Outback Bowl? The Campus Insiders editorial team discusses.
No. Just flush this season down the toilet and start anew in spring camp. Why burn a kid’s redshirt and waste a full year on a meaningless game? A freshman should have started from the outset, or when Luke Del Rio was injured the first time around. Or when Del Rio was largely ineffective upon his return. Or when Del Rio was injured for a second time. You see where I’m going with this: there was ample time to give one of these guys reps.
Have one of the freshmen quarterbacks practice with the first team? Sure. Burn a redshirt for a glorified exhibition two hours down I-75 from Gainesville? That would be the most head-scratching coaching decision in a season that saw plenty of them.
Sometimes it’s best to know when to count your chips and head home. The future does not start with the Outback Bowl. It begins on January 3.
Yes. Before you get on your high horse about how the Outback Bowl doesn’t mean anything, and it doesn’t make sense to waste an entire year of eligibility for one meaningless game, think about next season.
Florida will open the 2017 campaign against Michigan at AT&T Stadium, and there’s a legitimate shot Luke Del Rio could transfer before then (He’s taking a ton of credits and figures to graduate early). Either way, the Gators are looking at starting either Feleipe Franks or Kyle Trask next season.
And, I maintain, if either player is great, the idea of staying at Florida for all four years of eligibility is basically thrown out the window. Start either Franks or Trask — providing they and their families are okay with burning the redshirt — and give fans a look at the future. Show recruits a glimpse of what is to come in terms of the Florida offense.
A redshirt is a luxury for teams that have too many great players. Florida isn’t doing too well at the quarterback position, so go ahead and burn it. Granted, the redshirt is also meant to give players time to grow, learn and mature, but all indications are Franks has made huge strides this season. So, why the heck not?
Why? So they can display that beautiful Outback Bowl trophy and win free shrimp for some people? The answer is no. You don’t go to Florida to win an Outback Bowl, and burning the redshirt of a freshman for a meaningless bowl game is ridiculous. Florida is going to be in good shape to contend for the SEC East next season and for the foreseeable future. Don’t think too much about one game. The Gators aim for championships, not a second-tier bowl wins. They’re not Mississippi State.
Despite back-to-back SEC East titles, Jim McElwain is in a precarious position. While the division titles are nice, and Florida expects to consistently be in contention for the SEC Championship – something McElwain has provided – he was, first and foremost, brought in to fix the once-proud Gators offense. That has not happened, and now McElwain enters a pivotal Year 3 with zero live-game development at the quarterback position and a defense that will undoubtedly take a step back with a slew of departures. Austin Appleby is graduating, and fellow transfer Luke Del Rio has proven not to be the answer despite eligibility remaining. Del Rio also may not be wearing a Florida uniform for much longer if one looks into his comments on social media this past Sunday.
McElwain shouldn’t have redshirted both freshman this season to start, and should have given at least one in-game experience. But here the Gators are three months later with nothing answered at the position and facing the question of whether McElwain should burn a redshirt for one meaningless game. I get the argument from both sides, but I’m going to lean with the crop that’s against starting a freshman. If McElwain firmly believes redshirting both was the best option, he shouldn’t change course on that now. While it is in-game experience, there’s only so much development one game will provide for either of the freshmen.
There’s no positive for McElwain. If the freshman looks bad in the game, it will further muddy the future of the position considering these quarterbacks have been hand-picked by him; if he looks good, questions of why he didn’t play from the outset will arise.
In an era in which coming out of school early has become more prevalent, having a quarterback start for four years (or even three in some instances) has become very rare in college football. So starting either Feleipe Franks or Kyle Trask in the Gators’ bowl game would not be a bad idea of you’re head coach Jim McElwain and that offensive staff. The offense has been putrid, so it needs new life. While a bowl is just one game, it is often a fresh start and new season for programs, especially those that did not have the campaign that they expected. One of those young signal-callers can have all of the extra practice time to be the No. 1 signal-caller and work toward developing rapport with his playmakers. It may be just one game, but it can be invaluable experience moving into 2017. The move would be smart.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio always inserted a young quarterback into the latter stages of non-major bowl games in order to prepare said quarterback for next season. Put him in an intense situation, and the kid will be better for it, he thought. However, the quarterback who was Dantonio’s starter all year long started the bowl game before giving way.
The Outback Bowl during a four-loss season is a great time for Florida coach Jim McElwain to give a freshman some big-game experience. The problem is, wasting a year of eligibility for a redshirt is just not smart, and that’s the only way McElwain can see what he’s got in his freshmen.
Bottom line, McElwain should just stick with what he’s got now and use the offseason to evaluate his freshmen.