Can Florida’s Anthony Richardson Be The Leader That Billy Napier Needs This Season

There were moments last season for Florida when many thought that the change in quarterback could turn things around. Turns out, head coach Billy Napier will now get to the opportunity to see if Anthony Richardson can lead this team in 2022.

Florida will kickoff fall camp Wednesday, looking to right the ship. It’s a new era in Gainesville, with players building relationships with the gigantic staff that Napier brought in to help the Gators return to relevance. It wasn’t long ago that this team was playing for SEC championships, so the most important thing for Florida at the moment is to not lose sight of Georgia.

For the Gators to have success, Richardson will have to become the central figure on offense. He will need to take the reigns and be the leader. His first start came against Georgia in 2021, when he compiled 108 yards of total offense against the dominating Georgia defense. Granted, there weren’t many teams that could say they had success against the Bulldogs. For Richardson it comes down to building trust with teammates and the new coaching staff. He must also block out the noise from outside the facility.

When asked Tuesday about the expectations for Richardson, with a reporter mentioning a 2023 draft projection, Napier said that being the leader comes with not letting the whispers effect your direction as a player. It will be important for Richardson to continue growing and developing as a leader.

“That’s one thing I am learning about being at Florida, we probably got more media coverage, it’s like being an NFL team in the northeast,” Napier said. “I think part of the job for a player like Anthony, really any player, is not allowing some of this noise to effect your process, in terms of how you prepare, your character, your values, expectations and standards. 

“I think when your standards and expectations are much higher than anyone on the outside could have for you, that gives you an opportunity. I think Anthony is very aware, he has god self-awareness, he is an inexperienced player, that he has potential, but that also he can improve.”

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At times last season, players were leaning in different directions on who should be taking snaps, whether that be Emory Jones or Richardson. One of the problems for Dan Mullen was his inability to gain back the trust of the locker room after the ship started taking in water.

Now with a fresh start, Richardson can turn his talent into production on the field. But there still is a lot for him to learn in terms of being a great leader, according to Napier.

“There is lots to learn, getting comfortable with his role as a leader,” Napier said. “The importance and value of his example is to the other players. I think quarterback in particular, there’s a certain responsibility that comes with that. So, Anthony is focused on the work and there’s certainly a lot of work to do. Improving as a leader, growing and maturing as a person, increasing his football intelligence, developing his skill. 

“There’s just so much more out there for the young man. Anthony has lots of work to do here. He is fully aware of that and understands that and comprehends and has worked extremely hard. I think his focus is on the work and that’s where it should be.”

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA – NOVEMBER 27: Anthony Richardson #15 of the Florida Gators celebrates after defeating the Florida State Seminoles 24-21 in a game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 27, 2021 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

The Gators have the talent to turn a few heads this season, but they’ll have to do a better job at playing together and not individually.

If there’s one thing Napier stresses, it’s that one player isn’t going to win them a game. Winning comes down to working as a unit.

“Individual players don’t make a great team, and I think we have a lot of really good individual players on our roster. But if you’re going to have an exceptional team, then there’s gotta be a certain level of detail and discipline on the roster in a buy-in.”

It’s time to see if these Gators have learned from their mistakes and can take advantage of the fresh start.

Written by Trey Wallace

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