GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Quarterback Emory Jones is leaving Florida after just two days of spring practice.
Jones announced he is entering the NCAA transfer portal, an about-face for a fifth-year senior who said earlier this week he wanted to give new coach Billy Napier and his staff a chance.
“After many conversations with my family and after putting a lot of thought into my future, I have decided to enter the transfer portal,” Jones said in a social media post. “I am proud to say that I will continue my education at the University of Florida with the goal of becoming a Gator Graduate at the end of the spring semester.”
Jones started 12 games for Florida in 2021, completing 64.7% of his passes for 2,734 yards, with 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Jones will have two years of eligibility remaining wherever he lands.
“Emory has conducted himself with nothing but class and selflessness,” coach Billy Napier said in a statement. “It is not surprising that he has earned the respect of his teammates, coaches and this entire organization.
“I am proud of him for everything he’s accomplished and for his commitment to complete his degree this spring. He is a young man with a bright future, and I wish him nothing but the best.”
Jones must have felt like he didn’t have much of a shot at starting for the Gators this fall. He entered spring football vying for the No. 1 job with front-runner Anthony Richardson, who is recovering from offseason surgery to repair cartilage damage in a knee.
Jones was always considered a wild card, especially since he had one foot out the door before Florida played UCF in the Gasparilla Bowl. That game, a 29-17 loss in Tampa, seemed to seal his fate. Jones completed 14 of 36 passes for 171 yards and no touchdowns in one of his worst performances of the season.
But Napier and his staff convinced Jones to stick around and see what happens.
“I honestly went in telling them I didn’t want to be here,” Jones said. “They watched the film, went over everything and said that I am very talented, and they can do a lot to change how I played in the past. And I watched film on their quarterback last year. He’s very talented, and he did a lot of great things. That definitely sold me.”
But not for long.
Transferring could qualify as the latest setback for Jones, who tied for the Southeastern Conference lead in interceptions (13) with Kentucky’s Will Levis last season. His 19 TD passes landed him ninth in the league.
Former Florida coach Dan Mullen benched Jones during a loss at LSU last October and finally turned to Richardson, who looked dynamic in a backup role early in the season. Richardson played well against the Tigers and started the following week against top-ranked and eventual national champion Georgia. But he threw two interceptions and fumbled before leaving the game with a concussion in the lopsided loss.
Richardson sprained a knee the following week dancing in the hotel the night before playing at South Carolina. Richardson, who dealt with injuries in high school, also missed two games earlier in the season following a strained right hamstring.
Jones started against the Gamecocks despite dealing with flu-like symptoms all week and played with a sprained thumb on his throwing hand. He got the nod again during the final four games of the season.
He thanked teammates, coaches and fans in his announcement.
“We have shed blood, sweat and tears together,” he said. “We have had ups and downs together. We have seen the light at the end of the tunnel together. And through it all, you have had my back and have been by my side. All I can say is thank you.
“The memories that we formed will never be forgotten.”