Skyler Mornhinweg doesn't wear No. 17 anymore.
Florida's redshirt sophomore backup quarterback swapped his double digits for No. 8 in the offseason. Perhaps that is an effort to distinguish Florida's four scholarship quarterbacks — who wear No. 3, No. 6, No. 7, and No. 8 now — from its non-scholarship quarterbacks. Perhaps Mornhinweg is merely wearing his favorite number. Perhaps he's trying to make us forget his 2013 campaign. Who knows, really?
But Mornhinweg's three games as Florida's starting quarterback were unforgettable for all the wrong reasons — and the lessons of those games should be indelible for all of us.
The first one is simple: If you're down to your third-string quarterback, and that quarterback has never played college football before, you're probably in dire straits. I never got around to writing something I wanted to call "The Florida Test" this summer — basically, a sprawling piece that would have tried to contextualize exactly how much Florida lost to injury in 2013, and when, and how that would cripple many teams, if not any team — but, while Mornhinweg alternated between average and awful for much of his time under center, I'm really not convinced that he's that much worse than most third-string FBS quarterbacks. He's a limited player who was thrust into a very difficult situation, and though he actually kind of outperformed my minimal expectations in those three games, I suspect Florida will be better off if Mornhinweg never took a snap at QB for it again.
The second is also simple: You should probably take every possible precaution to prevent your team from getting down to its third-string quarterback. Florida's going to move Jeff Driskel around and use Treon Harris to give Driskel a slightly lighter load this fall, it would seem, and that — and Will Muschamp's repeated mentions of having to keep his quarterback healthy — evidence that that one lesson was learned.
The third lesson is more subtle, and one that didn't really sink in for me until the spring: Recruiting backup quarterbacks just doesn't work at Florida. Florida sort of had to go with Mornhinweg in 2012 because Charlie Weis left with six weeks left in a recruiting cycle, and had previously stocked the Gators with two starter-caliber prospects who would compete to be the Gators' quarterback of the future; Brent Pease was able to reel in Mornhinweg, which I thought, at the time, was a good move for depth.
But Florida already having a backup behind Driskel and Jacoby Brissett as it entered the 2013 recruiting cycle helped force the Gators to pluck Max Staver out of Tennessee as their QB for that class, and Staver's transfer at the end of the 2013 season qualifies his commitment as a bust.
There are negatives to recruiting two starter-caliber QBs in one year — Florida's done that three times in the last 15 years, or four if you count Rex Grossman and Brock Berlin, and it hasn't really worked out all that well — but recruiting more starter-caliber QBs leaves you with more starter-caliber QBs should injuries occur. Florida's got three of those on the roster in 2014, and having Will Grier as the emergency QB is dramatically better for Florida's hopes of winning games (and for my psyche) than having Mornhinweg in that role, with all due respect to Mornhinweg.
I don't know what his future holds, and I do wish him the best no matter what, but Skyler Mornhinweg's past has either scarred me for life or taught me valuable lessons, depending on your perspective. I wouldn't be disappointed if it's taught Florida some of the same lessons.