What Billy Napier is looking for in the Gators next starting quarterback

On3 imageby:Nick de la Torre04/03/23

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ORANGE PARK, Fla. — The Florida Gators don’t have a starting quarterback. The Gators are still 150 days until they’ll kick off the 2023 season against the Utah Utes. That means they have some time, but still, you would feel a lot better about your situation if you had the most important position on the field figured out.

The Gators have two transfers in Graham Mertz and Jack Miller, as well as redshirt freshman Max Brown competing for the job. There are also walk-ons Parker Leise as well as Micah Leon.

While there are five listed there, the starting quarterback job — at the moment — is truly between Mertz and Miller with Brown coming in third. Brown has made strides from his freshman year but has worked mostly with the third-team offense. Mertz and Miller have split reps with the first and second-team offense with neither pulling away in the race.

Florida will hold a second spring scrimmage on Thursday. It’s another opportunity to compete and another opportunity to get a leg up on being the next starting quarterback for the Florida Gators.

What is Napier looking for in Gators’ next starting quarterback?

“Ultimately, I think you’re looking for a guy that wins over the staff. But also, more importantly, wins over the team,” Napier said to the media before speaking to the Clay County Gator Club. “You know, I think at some point the leadership component, there’s a trust part of this relative to, do the players trust the guy? Does the staff trust the guy? Certainly for me as the play-caller.”

Mertz spent three years at Wisconsin. He became familiar with the scene, the calls, and the people around him in the locker room. Mertz gave that all up for a fresh start at Florida but that came with unknowns. He worked tirelessly to make the unknowns second nature.

“This position you got to know your stuff, and it’s half the battle is just knowing it, but the other half is applying it,” Mertz said. “So I mean, for me, I wanted to know it through and through and be able to apply it day one of Spring. Yeah, there were long days, but I know it’ll be worth it.”

Miller had the chance to go through spring last year but missed all but one game in 2023 due to thumb surgery. He may have had a leg up on Mertz in terms of knowing the playbook, schemes, and expectations inside the program but he has 31 fewer college starts than the Badger transfer.

“I think that spring practice is a small sample size. We’ve been through phases one and two, we’re right in the middle of three, we’ll have the opportunity to observe these guys during summer OTAs, and training camp. And at any point when we feel like it declares, we’ll make that decision.” Napier said of the quarterback competition. “So, you know, the bottom line is when we put the ball down, can you distribute the ball and move the team and score points? So, we’re watching them every day do that.”

Mertz or Miller?

Miller or Mertz?

Brown?

Transfer portal?

The Gators don’t have a starting quarterback but have 150 days to figure that out. Napier and the Gators will be better suited if one of the quarterbacks makes the decision easy for them like Anthony Richardson did in 2022.

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