Craig Stephens

Gators Land 23-Year-Old QB

Created on Apr. 18, 2013 5:12 AM EST

The 23-year-old quarterback Chris Wilkes has decided to play for the Florida Gators this fall. Wilkes is fresh out of the San Diego Padres’ minor league system, where he showed promise in A ball, but struggled when moved to AA.

Wilkes signed with Ole Miss coming out of high school but decided to forego college football when he was drafted in the 22nd round by the Padres. He managed to put together a 16-13 record with a 3.57 ERA as a right-handed pitcher, but decided to go back to football this spring.

Wilkes (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) is from Orlando, Fla., and looks like a professional athlete. While he was only a two-star recruit coming out of high school, the Gators hope that years in the Padres’ farm system have polished him into a gem. After Jacoby Brissett transferred to North Carolina State, the Gators found themselves searching for quarterback depth. Will Muschamp and staff are hoping that Wilkes can provide some veteran leadership and productivity behind Jeff Driskel.

There are a couple cases of minor league pitchers finding success in big time college football. Florida fans remember Chris Weinke’s years at FSU very well. The Seminoles had a lot of success with Weinke at the helm. More recently, Oklahoma State was able to go to a BCS bowl on the arm of Brandon Weeden, a former New York Yankees prospect.

The Gators are hoping that the years of development in a professional athletic atmosphere have helped Wilkes improve. There is little doubt that Wilkes is a better prospect now than when he was leaving high school. The developmental differences between a 23 year old and an 18 year old are enormous, they are potentially the difference between a college and NFL quarterback.

Wilkes will be battling Tyler Murphy for the backup quarterback job and if Wilkes manages to see the field this season, Florida will have to adjust their offense for a more stationary, strong-armed type. Wilkes has a great build, but lacks the quickness of Driskel. Florida is hoping that Wilkes can provide a spark and a high level of play if he is called upon from the bench. While it is all projecting now, Florida fans will soon see what Wilkes can do on the football field after several years away.

Due to Wilkes’ professional baseball experience, he is ineligible for a scholarship and will walk on.

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