The competition at the quarterback position in Gainesville recently took a hit when former starter Emory Jones decided to enter the transfer portal. Now, the one man who should take the ball and run with it is Anthony Richardson, who is getting most of the first team reps right now at spring practice.
Emerging from the shadows last season, Richardson has all the tools new Florida head coach Billy Napier needs to put a solid offense on the field. Richardson completed 38 of 64 passes for 556 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions during Florida’s 2021 season, so he made good use of his limited playing time.
The back and forth chatter about which quarterback should start last season put former head coach Dan Mullen in a hole he wasn’t able to dig out of, and if it weren’t for Richardson dealing with a knee injury, the noise would’ve been louder.
But now that Napier and the new staff have started to get their feet under them in Gainesville, the future looks like the Richardson show.
It is all new for the players and staff in Gainesville, but that doesn’t mean that Richardson’s style of play will change. Billy Napier spoke about QB development a few days ago, and said that he spends his time gaining knowledge about the system and becoming the leader the football team needs.
“I think the quarterbacks, as a whole — this is a developmental game. Right? I think it’s important to understand that we do a lot more in practice than we do play, right, when it comes to football. So this is where you learn. This is where you develop, right, as a player. And regardless of your experience level, this is where you get your first experience.
“And we like to think, as a staff, that we’re replicating a game. I think that’s your job as a coach, to replicate the game for the players on the practice field,” Napier added. “And that’s our job as teachers, that’s our job in terms of the way we approach practice, the way we meet, the way we walk through and work in individual and group drills and then translate that to the team. We’re four days in. We’re moving our way through the field zones. We’re moving our way through the downs and distances. We’ll scrimmage Practice 8. So we’re about halfway through here, in terms of the whole picture, and I think the reality is this is where you get the most experience as a football player.”
There’s nothing easy about getting acclimated to a new offensive scheme and coaches at the same time. Just ask all the Tennessee quarterbacks in the last six years. But it feels as though Napier and his staff are trying to instill the leadership qualities just as much as the overall development on the field.
The one positive situation to come with spring practice is that the camaraderie between teammates is there, as they went through the rough situations of 2021 together. Plus, a quarterback who has tremendous talent gives the staff someone to build around. Now I am not saying this Florida offense will come out next season and set the world on fire, but I do think Richardson has proven himself worthy of being the favorite.
Maybe things change in the next few weeks, with an upcoming scrimmage for the team. Don’t forget that the Gators also added former Ohio State QB Jack Miller to the roster. Maybe Miller just looks so darn impressive that the staff has to reconsider their options with the position moving forward. I highly doubt that will be the case, but you just never know with a new staff.
But if the Gators are going to make noise in 2022, I think Anthony Richardson will be the one to turn up the volume. We’ll find out over time, but Billy Napier might’ve walked into a better situation than he imagined at first.