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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — New Florida coach Dan Mullen has his dual-threat quarterback of the future, maybe even the now.
Emory Jones, of Franklin, Georgia, signed a national letter of intent with the Gators on Wednesday. He chose Florida over Florida State and Ohio State. He expects to enroll in school next month and compete for the starting job in spring practice.
The 6-foot-3, 196-pound Jones projects as an ideal fit in Mullen's spread-option scheme. Mullen first recruited Jones to Mississippi State, believing he could be next on a list of developmental success stories that includes Alex Smith at Utah, Tim Tebow at Florida and Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald with the Bulldogs.
"You have to find somebody that can handle the responsibilities of not just the quarterback position for the football team but the quarterback at the University of Florida, which is something special," Mullen said. "You know, I think his comfort with us and our comfort with him know that he is somebody that can handle that, can handle that scrutiny, handle that pressure, handle those expectations and really not handle it but thrive on it.
"And that's what he was looking for is to be the quarterback at really the premier quarterback school in America."
Jones is ranked fourth in the country among dual-threat high school quarterbacks and the No. 40 overall prospect, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. He initially committed to Ohio State in July 2016, but visited Auburn and Alabama this fall and ended up taking strong looks at Florida and Florida State following coaching changes.
He should be an immediate help to the Gators, who finished 4-7 this season and parted ways with coach Jim McElwain partly because he failed to fix a lackluster offense in three years.
Mullen said one thing that stood out about Jones was when he stepped in and played free safety for his Heard County High School team following injuries.
"He's a winner. It starts there," Mullen said. "He even sent me a text about 10 days ago. He said, 'Hey, you know what, when all is said and done, I'm your man. I'm going to help you win championships at Florida.' Just when you see a text like that, that's what I want to see out of my quarterback, someone that has that confidence and that expectation, not worried about what jersey number or worried about a lot of the other stuff that goes on in recruiting. Someone who's worried about coming in and doing what it takes to win."
Florida has failed to find consistency at quarterback since Tebow left following the 2009 season. Feleipe Franks, Luke Del Rio and Malik Zaire started games this past season, but only Franks is slated to return in 2018. Although Franks has plenty of athleticism, he seems more suited for a pro-style system.
Mullen spent four years as Florida's offensive coordinator before taking the head coaching job at Mississippi State and recalled the high expectations for lots of points.
"Yeah, people like offense here, don't they?" Mullen said. "I remember it was a rough walk to my car after the game if we didn't score 40 when I was here before. You'd kind of put the head down and try to run in and sneak out of the back of the stadium. But I loved that. I love scoring points. It's not going to get me upset. I love scoring points."
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