Florida football: Quietly, Anthony Richardson is turning the corner

Which Anthony Richardson will show up?

That’s the question that has defined much of Florida’s 1st season under Billy Napier.

In a year in which Florida has had some constants, both good (power run game) and bad (defense), the play of the 1st-year starter at quarterback has been the wild card.

When Richardson has been brilliant — as he was in the season-opening win over No. 7 Utah or in Florida’s nip-and-tuck 38-33 loss at then-No. 11 Tennessee — the Gators have been a formidable team.

When he has been bad — as in Florida’s 26-16 home loss to then-No. 20 Kentucky, or a narrow escape against USF — the Gators have flopped or floundered.

Very quietly, though, the redshirt sophomore has stabilized his play and is showing signs he’s turning the corner. In Florida’s past 3 games — a span that includes losses to a now top-10 LSU team and a No. 1 Georgia team — Richardson has gone 50-of-90 for 657 yards and 4 touchdowns and added 206 yards rushing on 27 carries with 3 touchdowns. While the completion percentage of 55.5 needs to improve, it has also come against 3 teams with top-10 talent in the 247 Talent Composite, and the yards-per-attempt number of 7.3 is respectable. Richardson’s rushing totals feature an average of 7.6 yards per attempt, including monstrous touchdown runs against LSU and Texas A&M. Those are great numbers, and when Richardson breaks a run like the one he did Saturday in Florida’s 41-24 win at Texas A&M, it energizes the entire team.

Most importantly? Richardson has not thrown an interception or lost a fumble in Florida’s past 3 games. That’s a sign of a maturing quarterback in any context. It’s an even better sign when it happens against 3 defenses loaded with 4- and 5-star talent in LSU, Georgia and Texas A&M. How stark a difference has Richardson’s ability to protect the football been over the past month? After Richardson played turnover-free football in the upset win over Utah, the quarterback threw 7 interceptions in the next 5 games and fumbled 3 times, losing 2. Florida went 3-2 in that 9-turnover stretch, but it felt comfortable in victory only in its rout of FCS foe Eastern Washington.

While the Gators have gone just 1-2 in the past 3 games, it helps to consider Richardson’s performances in context. The Gainesville native kept Florida and its hapless defense in the game against LSU. Richardson played better than any other quarterback this season — including Heisman candidate Hendon Hooker and Pac 12 Player of the Year candidate Bo Nix — against Georgia. Finally, Richardson treated a shorthanded Aggies defense like a practice squad, running over linebackers and around and past 4- and 5-star safeties.

Richardson didn’t just do it on the ground in College Station, either. He displayed much improved touch, dropping in this dime to emerging wide receiver talent Ja’Quavion Fraziars.

On another throw, Richardson displayed the type of pocket presence that only a quarterback who is beginning to feel comfortable with the speed of play in the SEC displays, biding his time before delivering this across-the-body touchdown throw to another young receiver, Caleb Douglas.

Those throws didn’t just start happening yesterday, as this NFL throw to Justin Shorter in the Georgia game demonstrates.

They are becoming commonplace, a big reason that Richardson is, after Saturday’s win, the SEC’s most accurate passer this season on passes of 20 yards or more, per Stats Solutions. The quarterback also has 11 career touchdowns of 40 yards or more, an impressive haul considering the contest at Kyle Field was just his 10th career start.

That’s the thing about Richardson. He’s still such a young quarterback. In 10 starts, he’s 5-5, hardly the standard Florida hopes to achieve. But he is showing signs of progress, both as a passer and decisionmaker. And as a result, Florida is playing better football, even if it isn’t beating great teams just yet.

The wins will come as Richardson continues to play quality football.

Saturday, Florida won an SEC road game for the 1st time since Kyle Trask was under center, and the program moved an inch closer to bowl eligibility in the process. Florida also beat a team in the top 5 of the 247 Talent Composite for the 1st time since the 2020 Cocktail Party. Texas A&M may have been battling a flu epidemic, but the Gators did what they needed to do to take advantage of a shorthanded opponent. Much of that is thanks to Richardson, who kept the Gators in the game with 4 1st-half scoring drives while Florida’s defense figured out what Jimbo Fisher was doing and eventually settled down, shutting the Aggies out in the 2nd half.

While Richardson remains a fringe 1st-rounder on most NFL mock draft boards, he is likely to return to Gainesville for his junior season, according to insiders who spoke with SDS after the LSU game and again this week. If the version of Richardson who has played over the past month is the one who consistently shows up, the ceiling for the 2023 Gators grows exponentially.

For now, Gators fans are focused on closing strong, with 2 winnable games in South Carolina and Vanderbilt remaining in SEC play and then a tricky and challenging game at an improved Florida State on Black Friday. There will also be a bowl game, assuming Florida nabs 1 more win this month. The way Richardson is playing, that seems likely.

In fact, just a month or so removed from Florida fans wondering if they truly had their answer at quarterback, plenty seems possible in November and beyond. Because the way Richardson is playing, Napier’s and Florida’s future seem very bright.

View Comments

  • Excited to see how Richardson closes out the season and what '23 will look like. Napier will have more of his players for his offense on the field and AR will have a full season under his belt

  • Richardson was aggressive and decisive both as a runner and a passer Saturday. He also had the kind of swagger befitting a player of his talent, and I think the team fed off that.

    If he can keep bringing what the announcers called "Sweet" AR to the stadium, he will most certainly prove me and a few other doubters wrong.

    • What game did you freaking watch?????
      Only thing he didn’t do differently was to not throw interceptions. He was not exceptional. When his first target is not open he panics and runs. He has no progression, he misses wide open receivers and some of them he never even sees. It’s one thing to be honest it’s another thing to be a homer

      • All mere mortals fall short of your personal glory, the one true god-with-a-small-'g'. May you have mercy on us.

      • False on literally everything you posted. You are really not good at this. You need to try a little harder.

      • If not for AR 15 we lose that game the way the defense was playing in the first half. He kept us in the game and answered every time TAMU scored

      • You are completely wrong that he did not go through his progressions on Saturday.

        And he had at least three plays that were elite: the rainbow TD pass to Fraziers; the pocket presence he showed stepping up to elude pressure on the other TD pass Neil referenced above; and the long run.

        I still don't believe he would be drafted in 2023, but I absolutely agree that he is improving and starting to play smarter. It would be rally great to see him finish out the year at 65%+ CMP in every remaining game; he was 60.7% against Texas A&M.

        • I only saw 3 passes that I wish he hadn't thrown. There was one where he could have been picked in the first half. There was the intentional grounding out of bounds (need to throw it over ANYBODY's head), and there was one throw away where he had an open receiver on the sideline.

      • AR played a very good game and he keeps improving. I’m not sure which game you were watching yesterday ga.

  • Gator fans...I did not expect this win for you, as I though this was a get-back game for A & M but I am pleasantly surprised. Before the game I told a buddy this...If they let AR run the Gators can win. And you did.
    Go Gators ! Better times are ahead.

    • He not only ran but threw some sweet and big time passes as well. Good AR showed up and he is getting better

      • So palley....do I pull back out my AR15 for Heisman sign? It’s in the corner with my Kyle Trask, Kyle Pitts, Ohio St transfer, SBiv and Justin Fields signs, let me fetch it...
        aTm had mostly true freshmen and sophomoreS on the field and they shadowed AR15 with a smaller slower player just like the other 3 teams he looked above average against did..,slow the Heisman hopeful train again.

      • Good AR is always there when the Gators are playing bottom feeders



    • Clearly, when you look at Florida's competitiveness against Tennessee, LSU and Georgia, they are not "a long way away."

      They are a couple interior defensive linemen and a linebacker from the portal and a year of maturity for the current roster away.

  • What the article says about Richardson's progress as a player may or may not be true. On the other hand, he has always been able to celebrate with the best of them.

    • Please tell us uninformed fans how the article may not be true in what it says about Anthony? I also don't understand the offhand comment about celebrating. He seems to celebrate in a normal way that other 20 yr. olds do in a football game.

      • Cease fire, tailwhip. It's leeland's sense of humor. For the record, he was a Gator when we were probably in kindergarten.

  • Good to see the up tempo, 11 personnel, RPO spread offense with lots of movement. Clearly gave AR more creativity than 12 personnel. Curious to see if they keep it up. Gators should be able to beat the bad teams coming up, but could get the bad version of AR and the defense too. Go Gators beat SCar!

    • You’ve got something there Les. RPO off an 11 formation seems to work better for AR. He shows no comfort throwing the ball between the hash marks, except when going deep and the 2nd TE in the 12 formation lives somewhere between the hash marks, 10-15 yards downfield.

      • Yep St Louis Gator. Also the up tempo quick snap rhythm with lots of motion was great to see though they had quite a number of false starts. Reminded of more innovative offenses of Florida past. Against inferior defenses that could work quite well.

        • Well, we can’t accuse any of the three teams that remain on the Gators’ schedule of sporting “superior” defenses. So, go ahead and run uptempo, RPO off 11 formations, with pre-snap motion to help AR with his reads. Gator WR’s look much better than their TE’s right now anyway.

        • And throw an occasional shovel pass to the RB in there for good measure. That worked pretty well too!

      • I really tried, Nash, so sorry!

        200 yards passing and 80 yards running against that defense...still just a decent RB posing as QB

      • I would say AR15 looked ok against a decimated and young, inexperienced aTm defense, GFA. Has he improved? As a runner, yes...he sure didn't run like that against us...

        • He didn’t, but he did throw for the most yards against Georgia so far, with no interceptions. I’d say that was pretty impressive against a top defense. :)

        • His QBR was 52, GFA...not very good. He ran once for 14 yards and 10 other times for 5 yards...got a long way to go. I will say this, I am very impressed with Etienne. He is going to be a handful by year 3! Now there's a decent RB that plays a great RB, AR15 should try it... (:

        • Leghumper, it wasn’t a crisp game for AR but he did throw for a lot of yards against a great Georgia defense, and no turnovers by him is an accomplishment, especially when comparing this year’s game to last year’s game. He definitely improved. About Etienne, I really enjoy watching him play!

          About the us part, I do have a question, does Georgia still win without the fans in the stadium?

        • No. Probably not. The fans clearly affected UTs offensive rhythm. Miss showed how home crowd cooking can affect results...

  • The Gators haven't played an out-of-conference, out-of-state "road" game since losing to Syracuse in the Carrier Dome on September 21, 1991. And for all you uneducated Gator fans, playing a game on a neutral field (i.e., Florida-Michigan in Arlington, Texas) is not a "road" game.

    That was over 30 years ago....

    • Who cares? They play in the toughest conference in cfb, who cares if they don't play random teams from lesser conferences often in their schedule, theyll play Utah next season on the road if it really matters that much

    • No SEC team needs to apologize for their schedule with the way our conference has absolutely dominated college football over the past 20 years. Our out-of-conference games are held in the playoffs.

    • No, but they have won 3 National titles since then. They have played road non-conference Top 5 teams. They have also scheduled home and home non-con games for the next 10 years that include Utah, Cal, Colorado, NC State as well as Miami and UCF (P5 next year)

      • Don’t argue with anyone named anonymous.. when your to scared to say what team you support that say enough

Published by
Neil Blackmon