CFB Insider: Florida's pending QB battle, an Urban update, Jimbo's reputation and more
Each week, Matt Hayes uses his sources around the country to bring you insider knowledge about what’s going on in and around the SEC ahead of this week’s games.
This is what he’s hearing from coaches and NFL scouts in Week 12 …
The QB question at Florida
We’re still a handful of games from the end of the 2019 season, but Florida coach Dan Mullen already is looking at a significant decision for the 2020 season at the most important position on the field.
As well as Kyle Trask has played replacing injured starter Feleipe Franks, he isn’t the prototypical Dan Mullen quarterback. Translation: Mullen can’t run his full offense because Trask isn’t a legitimate threat in the quarterback run game.
Mullen has worked with Trask over the past few weeks to scramble and pick up yards if the play breaks down – instead of making a difficult or dangerous throw or taking a sack. Will he ever be a threat in zone read concepts? Probably not. He could be a willing runner.
But when Mullen has more than a willing runner (see: Alex Smith, Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott, Nick Fitzgerald), his offenses are both more dangerous and prolific. That leads us to 2020, and what Florida’s quarterback room will look like.
Franks hasn’t made a decision about returning to Florida, but multiple coaches I’ve spoken to expect him to not leave for the NFL or play professional baseball (he was drafted by the Boston Red Sox), but to transfer to another Power 5 school and play immediately as a graduate.
That would leave Trask, rising sophomore Emory Jones and freshman signee Anthony Richardson competing for the job – and potentially, former Auburn backup QB Joey Gatewood, who is interested in Florida, among other schools.
Jones, Richardson and Gatewood – who will try to get a waiver to play in 2020 — are all prototypical dual-threat quarterbacks.
“I don’t know how you sit down a guy that can throw it like that,” one SEC coach said of Trask.
Jones said this week that Mullen has preached patience and has used Trask as a prime example. He also has pointed to Prescott, who redshirted his first season at Mississippi State, was a backup as a redshirt freshman, started 7 games as a sophomore and started his final 2 seasons.
The pursuit of Meyer
USC hired Mike Bohn as athletic director last week, but only after numerous Power 5 athletic directors declined to interview.
The reason, according to one P5 AD who declined: the idea that former Florida and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer would be someone boosters would push for the head coaching job.
While new USC president Carol Folt spoke last week about the university’s sports programs winning with “integrity” when introducing Bohn – who was at Cincinnati — it was Bohn who later said Folt did not give him parameters when hiring coaches.
In other words, if Meyer is available and interested – and USC decides to fire coach Clay Helton – Bohn could, in theory, pursue Meyer.
Meyer won 2 national titles at Florida but left a dysfunctional program that hasn’t won a conference championship since his 2008 team won the SEC. He won a national title at Ohio State in 2014 and had the highest winning percentage in the storied history of the program before leaving in a cloud of controversy.
At Florida and Ohio State, Meyer said “medical issues” forced him to retire sooner than expected. Unlike his Florida departure, Meyer left a solid foundation at Ohio State, which is unbeaten this season and headed toward the College Football Playoff.
Big stretch of games for Jimbo Fisher
The final 3 games of the season are critical for Jimbo Fisher’s early tenure at Texas A&M. While he’s not under pressure – he does have a guaranteed $75 million contract – this season has at least been a reason to pause for deep pocket boosters, according to 2 industry sources.
“Just looking at the résumé this season, it’s not good. Jimbo knows that,” one industry source said. “He really needs to win one of those two big games left for momentum and goodwill.”
It’s not just that Texas A&M hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record, it’s the look of the 3 losses to Clemson, Auburn and Alabama. Fisher’s offense, the foundation of his coaching résumé, has struggled in those losses, averaging 19.3 points per game.
Fisher and the Aggies can’t afford to slip this weekend against South Carolina in the final home game of the season, leaving fans with an ugly home loss heading into critical road games to finish the season against Georgia and LSU.
Georgia and LSU are potential Playoff teams, and Texas A&M will get a clear idea of where it stands among the nation’s elite.
Has Plumlee saved Luke?
The best thing to happen to Ole Miss (and coach Matt Luke)? QB John Rhys Plumlee. Not only is Plumlee setting school records while taking over after the first month of the season, he might be doing enough to keep Luke employed. There’s little question Luke was put in a difficult situation when he was elevated to permanent head coach at the end of the 2017 season.
The embarrassing firing of successful coach Hugh Freeze, and the NCAA investigation both gave Luke a buffer of sorts. But an industry source said Luke began the season with a legitimate edict to improve and show a path back.
Luke responded by hiring Rich Rodriguez as offensive coordinator and Mike MacIntyre as defensive coordinator, and Rodriguez has developed Plumlee into one of the most exciting players in the SEC.
That development might just be enough to secure another season in Oxford, despite the 15-19 record (including the interim season of 2017) and 6-16 SEC mark.