Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Florida QB Anthony Richardson aims to push tempo, take the next step as Gators usher in Billy Napier era

ATLANTA — Anthony Richardson, the first-year starting quarterback for the Florida Gators, has received plenty of offseason hype. It’s reached the point that the redshirt sophomore is garnering some NFL love from scouts and draft gurus — and the season hasn’t even begun. For example, Richardson checks in at No. 43 in the CBS Sports player rankings for the 2023 NFL Draft

Those are lofty expectations for a guy who only had 529 yards passing and 401 yards on the ground last season as the backup to Emory Jones. However, that was under former coach Dan Mullen, who refused to put Richardson in for consistent snaps despite the fact that Jones struggled to take care of the ball. With Jones transferring to Arizona State earlier this spring, however, Richardson has become the unquestioned starter.

With Jones gone, the first order of business for first-year coach Billy Napier was to evaluate the player who’s charged with leading his first team in Gainesville.

“I’ve been impressed,” said Napier of Richardson at SEC Media Days. “I think he’s remained humble. He’s got a little bit of an edge. I think he wants to prove himself. He’s still a relatively inexperienced player … played 221 plays or something like that and completed 33 passes. He has tremendous ability. He’s working hard to develop, improve as a person, as a leader. He’s working hard to increase his football IQ. His skill is developing. I think he’s prime to have a phenomenal year.”

It’s safe to say that Napier sees Richardson’s upside, but what about Richardson himself? It’s one thing to have confidence in yourself, but it’s another to have a tailor-made offense fall into your lap. That’s what has happened in Gainesville. Asked about the schematic differences between this year and last, Richardson said he expects to operate at light speed — just as he did in the spring game.

“The tempo,” Richardson said. “I’m going to push the tempo a lot.”

Offseason buzz is one thing, but leading the program out of the doldrums and reestablishing it as a power is still a work in progress.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, right? I told him [Richardson] I can still remember in the spring game, I could see he had some urgency about him,” Napier said. “I told him, it’s important, this energy that you feel right now, you gotta bring that and channel that energy between now and the next opportunity in the stadium.”

Richardson’s ability as a dual-threat star will help Napier bridge that gap, as long as he follows through with some of the buzz that has trailed him this offseason.

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