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Early Signing Period 2017: QB Emory Jones signs with Florida Gators

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Florida’s 2018 class has its signature prospect — a signal-caller.

NCAA Football: Florida-Head Coach Dan Mullen Press Conference Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

One week ago, the Florida Gators appeared to be losing their quarterback of the future.

Now, they have him — and that quarterback of the future is an entirely different person.

Four-star Georgia passer Emory Jones of Heard County High committed to the Gators in a ceremony at his high school on Wednesday — and, as Florida revealed with contemporaneous tweets, has signed with the Gators as part of the early signing period.

And just like that, Jones has become the centerpiece for Dan Mullen’s first recruiting class as Florida’s head coach.

Jones had been an Ohio State commit for many months, but had also been looking around for almost as long. Jones spent much of the fall flirting with the idea of flipping to Alabama, leading to the Buckeyes offering then-Kentucky commit Jarren Williams in November and taking the commitment of Texas quarterback Matthew Baldwin earlier this month.

But with Alabama seemingly set at QB1 and QB2 thanks to Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, Jones never consummated that long-awaited flip — and, as of December, found himself as one of two Ohio State QB commits.

That, and Mullen’s hiring at Florida, set the stage for the Gators’ pursuit of Jones.

Mullen inherited California four-star passer Matt Corral when he took over in the wake of Jim McElwain’s firing, and spent his first few days and weeks in Gainesville seeming to do more to pursue other passers — notably Georgia commit and five-star dual-threat QB Justin Fields, seen by many as an heir to the same Cam Newton Mullen successfully landed a commitment from at both Florida and Mississippi State — than to reassure Corral of Florida’s desire for him.

Mullen appeared to not make significant headway with Fields, and could not land JUCO passer Terry Wilson — who ended up committing to Kentucky after Williams flipped his committment to Miami — which made Corral’s flip to Ole Miss last week a potentially devastating loss.

But Mullen did ultimately persuade Jones — whom he had recruited extensively at less prestigious Mississippi State, to little end — to schedule an official visit, taken last weekend. And the combination of that visit and a Monday report that Jones would not sign with Ohio State during the early signing period made the Gators seem like a strong favorite to get Jones to sign on their dotted line, despite a visit to Florida State and the suggestion by some that FSU remained in the mix for Jones as late as Wednesday morning.

Now, Jones is set to be a Gator.

In Jones, the Gators are getting one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the 2018 recruiting class. In his highlights, he dazzles, showing the speed and mobility to be a threat on the run and the arm strength to stretch the field.

At 6’2” and 195 pounds, Jones likely does not yet have the bulk to be take the physical toll that quarterbacks who have run — and run the ball in — Mullen’s offensive system have taken over the courses of seasons and careers. But he is also set to enroll early, and could add good weight under new Florida strength coach Nick Savage’s watchful eye — and while Florida does have Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask, and Jake Allen on its roster, it’s fair to say that Jones could have justified confidence about his chances of prevailing in a quarterback competition next spring or fall.

Jones is Florida’s 14th — and, as the nation’s No. 40 player per the 247Sports Composite ranking, highest-rated — commitment for the 2018 recruiting class, and the Gators’ 11th signee of the early signing period.