Gators may be forced to start untested Skyler Mornhinweg at QB

Tyler Murphy has played through pain for almost a month and might finally have reached his limit.

As floundering Florida gets ready for Saturday’s game at No. 10 South Carolina, it is preparing do so without its starting quarterback. Third-stringer Skyler Mornhinweg — a redshirt freshman who has never played — is running the offense this week as Murphy rests his injured throwing shoulder.

Murphy, the backup who took over when starter Jeff Driskel broke his leg early in the season, has played through what the school is calling a sprained acromioclavicular joint. Gators coach Will Muschamp has a history of being secretive about injuries, so it is difficult to discern the seriousness of the injury.

Murphy is not expected to practice any sooner than Wednesday and is questionable for Saturday’s game (7 p.m., ESPN2). That means the Gators, who desperately need a victory to have a shot at bowl eligibility, are preparing for Mornhinweg to make his first career start.

“He’s ready to go,” offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. “You hope you never have to play with a redshirt freshman. Nothing against him because he’s a smart kid and he works hard, but you hope that you get into your sophomore and junior year before you’re in that situation.”

Banged-up Florida does not have that luxury.

After Mornhinweg, walk-on Christian Provancha is the next quarterback. Neither has taken a snap. The Gators (4-5, 3-4 in the SEC) also have true freshman Max Staver, but are planning to redshirt him this season and would not want to burn a year of his eligibility at this point.

Murphy suffered the sprain in Florida’s loss at LSU on Oct. 12 and played through it against Missouri, Georgia and Vanderbilt. The Gators were off the week after playing LSU, and Mornhinweg took most of the snaps in practice heading into the Missouri game so Murphy could try to heal.

The pain in his shoulder was made worse by throwing 46 times and taking five sacks in Saturday’s loss to Vanderbilt. He completed 30 passes for 305 yards and a touchdown, but threw three interceptions and lost a fumble.

He also suffered a minor leg injury when a Vanderbilt player stepped on him, and Mornhinweg began warming up in case he was needed.

“There was a point where I was kind of limping a little bit, but I was able to just shake it off,” Murphy said. “But Skyler’s a guy who’s working very hard. If his number’s called, he’s going to be ready to step up.”

Pease said the Gators are willing to wait until kickoff to decide on Murphy’s availability if it comes to that. They are open to playing him against South Carolina (7-2, 5-2) without him practicing beforehand.

Since taking over for Driskel, Murphy has completed 60.5 percent of his attempts and is averaging 135.1 yards per game. He has six touchdown passes, five interceptions and has rushed for three touchdowns.

Florida won his first three games against the lowly trio of Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas, but has since dropped four straight.

If Mornhinweg’s unique last name sounds familiar, that is because he is the son of New York Jets offensive coordinator and former Detroit Lions head coach Marty Mornhinweg.

Skyler Mornhinweg originally committed to Penn State, which was mired in the aftermath of its infamous scandal, but Pease swayed him to the Gators in January 2012. He is 6-foot-2, 206 pounds and was rated a three-star recruit by Rivals. He came to UF from St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia.

After spending his first year with the Gators running the scout team offense, he took more significant reps in the ensuing off-season. He was the No. 2 quarterback when Driskel missed the opening week of training camp following an appendectomy.