No position on the field makes as much of an impact on the gameplay of a football team, or, frankly, the health of a program, more than a quarterback. The positional value of a good quarterback is through the roof and a transcendent one can vault a team well above their peers. The Gators enjoyed excellent production from Kyle Trask for some time, but they haven’t had a truly great quarterback in a while.
As the football calendar turns to the 2022 season, the outlook for Gators quarterbacks is pretty good. Florida has three players on-roster who could reasonably be called upon to start games and still more who show some promise. That kind of team building is a key building block for this new coaching staff as they install an unfamiliar offense. If some players take longer to adapt to the new scheme than others, it’s no big deal.
Discovering which quarterback looks most ready to lead this offense will be the most crucial information this coaching staff can gather during the Gators’ upcoming spring camp activities. Therefore, let’s dive into Florida’s quarterbacks room for the first segment in Gators Wire’s Spring Camp preview series.
UAA Communications/Courtney Culbreath
Quarterbacks on roster:
The quarterbacking responsibilities were divvied up between Jones and Richardson last season, producing mixed results from both. Jones seemed unable to adapt when forced to progress past his first or second read. As a result, he wound up going through a detrimentally large number of check-downs and squandered his talented running ability with poorly timed throws.
In an effort to add some dynamism to the offense, Anthony Richardson was given a share of snaps. His athletic abilities provided a spark for a while, but lingering leg injuries and inexperience while being thrown to the SEC jackals produced frustrating results. He’s expected to snag the starting gig this year and could be an exciting star to stir the drink for Florida if he’s healthy.
Miller III transferred from Ohio State, where he was totally blocked on the depth chart. We don’t know a ton about him — he didn’t get enough run with the Buckeyes to get a bead on how well his talents will play in the SEC — but he’ll serve as healthy competition for Richardson, forcing the redshirt sophomore to earn the starting job. Read and Reaction is quickly becoming my favorite source for Gators analysis, and Will Miles’ article breaking down how we should set expectations for Miller III for R&R was very enlightening. Check it out here.
None of Del Rio-Wilson, Kitna, Engel, Anders, or yet-to-enroll signee Max Brown are expected to make much of an impact on the field. If any of these players find themselves starting for the Gators in 2022, something has most likely gone terribly wrong.
Star: Anthony Richardson
AP Photo/John Raoux
Richardson’s ability to earn starts in a Dan Mullen offense as a redshirt freshman speaks volumes about how much of a punch he packs under center. His energetic running style keeps defenders honest and he can make them pay for overcommitting to run defense with his cannon arm strength. The 2021 season made clear the areas of needed growth for Richardson, but the problems with his game are correctable. It’s much tougher to teach the things he seems to have instinctually, like the ability to move linebackers with his eyes or outrun defensive backs.
Again, I’ll have to point to Will Miles’ work on the subject. It’s impossible not to get excited about what’s in store for the future after reading his article analyzing Richardson’s performance last season. Here’s a snippet I especially enjoyed, from a section comparing Richardson’s performance to Kyle Trask’s incredible 2020 season.
“Richardson was actually equivalent to Trask on short throws,” wrote Miles. “This is something that definitely shows up on film as the vast majority of the time, AR was throwing into single coverage. That’s an indication he is reading the defense rather than just throwing to a predetermined spot.”
The entire article deserves reading. You can find it here. Whether Richardson can actually live up to his athletic gifts and promising understanding of the position remains to be seen. What is clear is that if things click for him in 2022, he’ll be in the NFL the year after.
Breakout Candidate: None
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Let’s get this out of the way: to say that there are no candidates to break out isn’t completely fair. There’s always a chance for someone to break out. Jones has a whole bunch of experience and a new scheme with better coaching may improve his performance. Richardson’s potential was covered thoroughly in the previous panel and he hasn’t actually become a transcendent talent yet. Miller III has prospect pedigree but there’s a big fat question mark instead of any real understanding of his abilities.
Any of these situations could produce a breakout, but to thumb any of them in particular is disingenuous. Regardless of what the coaching staff says, Richardson has the starting job all but buttoned up. It’s tough to call him a breakout candidate when everyone knows he has star potential and he’s expected to have enough run to show what he has in the tank.
Furthermore, if Jones couldn’t succeed last year with a staff that trusted him and in a scheme that he’d spent three years studying, there’s little chance he’ll do better this year (if he’s even a Gator at all.) In Miller III’s case, I’m not comfortable saying anything definite when there’s virtually no substantial recent game film to base an opinion on. Among the quintet of other rostered quarterbacks, none have anything more than the narrowest of avenues to playing time.
So, could we slap the “breakout candidate” label on someone? Sure, and a reasonable justification could be concocted. It’s just not a responsible outlook.
Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner
Will this spring be the last time we see Emory Jones play as a Gator?
My answer: YES
This question has been on the minds of Gators fans since mid-December, when it was reported that Jones would enter the transfer portal following Florida’s bowl game. That didn’t happen and he’s going to be playing spring ball with the Gators, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s around for the long haul.
Jones is wrapping up the final semester of his senior year, meaning he’ll graduate with a degree from UF in short order. That’s no small thing, both from the standpoint of building a post-football résumé and because of the sentimental attachment Jones has to the university itself. It makes total sense he’d stick around to complete his degree.
However, if Jones wants to play, he’s better served seeking greener pastures. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but Richardson is really, really good and Miller III was brought in to light a fire underneath him. Unless he blows away the coaching staff in spring ball, the road to playing time for him is a long one.
Football is a quarterback-hungry sport, and there will surely be some school ready to offer Jones playing time. The ability to play immediately after transferring makes the portal an appealing option for a buried player who is as late into his career as Jones is.
It’s a shame he never put it together in the Swamp. There’s Blue and Orange in his blood and he seems like a high-character guy. Gators Wire wishes him all the best wherever he’s playing in 2022. However, that destination probably won’t be in Gainesville. Once he has his degree, it doesn’t make much sense for Jones to stick around, and I doubt he will.
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