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Yes, Florida should pursue Joe Burrow — but it doesn’t have to

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Once again, Florida fans are pining after a graduate transfer quarterback. Dan Mullen doesn’t have to do that.

NCAA Football: Ohio State Spring Game Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

You may have recognized, over the last decade or so, that the Florida Gators have not had great quarterback play on a consistent basis.

You may have seen Florida’s spring game, in which potential starting quarterbacks Kyle Trask and Feleipe Franks largely underwhelmed, and likely backup Emory Jones flashed more potential than prowess.

You may have heard of future former Ohio State quarterback Joe Burrow — who officially became a future former Ohio State quarterback earlier this week, when he announced his plans to head elsewhere as a graduate transfer — and his status as perhaps the best graduate transfer QB currently available.

You may be able to put all of these pieces together to make Burrow announcing a transfer to Florida seem all but a fait accompli, given your brilliance and Florida’s unquestionable appeal and Burrow’s obvious interest in the Gators.

And you would, seemingly, be wrong to do so.

Just days after announcing his plans to transfer, Burrow is taking visits. Reportedly, he heads to Cincinnati on this Thursday, and will spend the weekend at LSU. And the hints about Burrow wanting a fast-paced process suggest that he may already have finalists for his quarterbackery picked out.

Add that to Florida coach Dan Mullen saying at a booster club speaking engagement earlier this week that he does not anticipate adding a graduate transfer quarterback — an obviously non-binding statement, but a public one — and it would seem that the Gators aren’t exactly in hot pursuit of Burrow.

This is, perhaps, disappointing to many in the Florida fan base who see a potential savior in Burrow. They’re not wrong to see that potential, I suppose, though it does require some squinting. Burrow played sparingly at Ohio State, but was efficient in his garbage time duties, and was a four-star passer with gaudy stats in high school.

But like graduate transfers Luke Del Rio, Austin Appleby, and Malik Zaire before him, Burrow is leaving his previous school because he couldn’t win a starting job there, having ended this spring behind Dwayne Haskins, Jr. — and possibly freshman Tate Martell — in the Buckeyes’ pecking order at passin’ dude, despite at least one observer calling for Burrow to start.

And while it was plausible — on message boards, anyway — that any of Del Rio, Appleby, and Zaire were being cast off by misguided coaches, it is harder to conclude that Urban Meyer, whom Florida fans know quite well, is simply wrong in his quarterback selection. Even if the Buckeyes toggled between Braxton Miller, Cardale Jones, and J.T. Barrett over the last few years, they also won a national championship with them, and Meyer’s got two more of those rings largely because he figured out how best to deploy Chris Leak and Tim Tebow at Florida.

Burrow might be better than Haskins or Martell; Burrow might have been very good at Ohio State if elevated to starter; Burrow might be great somewhere else, should he win a job after transferring; Burrow might merely be a replacement-level player. There’s at once enough evidence to have hope for his future, and not enough evidence to conclusively rule out any possibility for it.

And there’s also enough evidence — Florida having Franks and Trask as its leading candidates at quarterback, Florida cycling through quarterbacks like flavors of gum for both performance and availability reasons over the last decade — to argue strenuously for the Gators to pursue Burrow.

But there is logic behind not doing so, too.

Perhaps Mullen, who was hired as Florida’s head coach largely because of his own acumen in selecting and shaping quarterbacks, does not see a savior in Burrow. Perhaps Mullen, who purloined Jones from Meyer’s recruiting class at the 11th hour, is staying away from Burrow as a sort of quid pro quo. Perhaps Mullen, who is still friendly with Meyer, got some intel from Burrow’s previous coach that helped him conclude that Burrow is not a great fit for Florida, or not likely enough to pick Florida if pursued to spare the Gators the minor blemish to prestige that would come from failing to land a big-name transfer. Perhaps Mullen actually likes Franks and/or Trask and/or Jones enough to want to start and develop one or more of them this fall, rather than putting a graduate transfer between them and the field.

Perhaps, most of all, Mullen doesn’t feel a pressure to win huge immediately, and is content to rebuild the Gators over more than a few months, rather than swinging for the fences by pursuing a graduate transfer and possibly alienating his personnel on hand.

I think, given the timeline Burrow seems to be following and Florida’s apparent lack of interest in getting on it, that it’s very unlikely Burrow ends up at Florida. And I think Florida not trying to add another talented player at a position where depth is a major asset, if that player is even remotely interested in Florida, is probably a mistake, if only a very minor one.

But I also think Mullen has more than earned my benefit of the doubt when it comes to handling quarterbacks, and that I’m more than willing to wait and see on his football-related decisions, rather than overreacting to any of them before he takes the sidelines on a Saturday in the fall. I can see Burrow being an excellent player, either at Florida or elsewhere — but I can also see Florida returning to prominence and dominance at some point in the future without going to extraordinary lengths to land Ohio State’s backup QB in May 2018.

And I would hope I’m not alone in that regard.