The competition at back-up quarterback for the Florida Gators will get even more interesting this summer as the program now has not one but two new players set to enroll to compete for the job behind junior starter Jeff Driskel.
According to a report from the Orlando Sentinel’s Chris Hays, 23-year-old signal caller Chris Wilkes (Orlando, FL) gave a pledge to head coach Will Muschamp on Saturday after the 2013 Orange & Blue Debut.
Wilkes (6’4”, 225 lbs.), originally a member of the 2008 recruiting class, was rated by Rivals at the time as a two-star quarterback. He had committed to play for Ole Miss but instead chose to try his hand at professional baseball. Wilkes was selected by the San Diego Padres with the No. 675 overall pick in the 22nd round of the 2008 MLB Draft.
In five seasons in the minor leagues, Wilkes, a right-handed pitcher, compiled a 16-13 record with a 3.57 ERA, 2.43 K/BB ratio and five saves. He went 7-1 as a rookie in 2008 but posted a 9-12 record over the duration of his career.
Wilkes is not the first quarterback to sign with a major program later in life after trying his hand at baseball. Two well-known players who have taken a similar path include Florida State’s Chris Weinke and Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden. He will walk on.
Also enrolling this summer at Florida is three-star freshman Max Staver (Brentwood, TN). Both players will complete with redshirt junior Tyler Murphy and redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg for the second- and third-string quarterback jobs.
A portion of ESPN’s scouting report on Wilkes from 2008:
This young man is a ways away from being what he could be, but he has the measurables and a monster of an arm for coaches to work with and develop. Wilkes has a cannon for an arm and can make all the throws anywhere on the field. […] He is a big, strong pocket passer with adequate athleticism, but needs to be protected to be at his best. He shows great velocity on all throws and can fit the ball into tight spots. […] Flashes the ability to throw on time and read progressions. At this stage, he is all arm and Wilkes must learn to be a quarterback. He lacks great feet and quickness in his drop and set up. Can be heavy footed a bit. Is not a guy that will create much on his own and when he gets rushed, he will hold onto the ball too long. As much as you like his arm, he will spray the ball around and can be erratic. Must improve footwork to improve accuracy. Isn’t consistent yet in his production.