The hype surrounding Florida Gators redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Richardson is real, and it makes a lot of sense.
Having spent half of his childhood living in the Gainesville area, there's a hometown appeal in supporting the future Gators starting passer. Add the fact that Richardson, a 6-foot-4, 236-pound signal-caller has a cannon for an arm and electric speed and power as a rusher, and you'll understand the excitement of UF fans everywhere regarding their next quarterback.
But with that being said, Florida has a starter in place for the 2021 season. And despite Richardson's appeal to the fanbase and unprompted recognition by head coach Dan Mullen this fall, it won't be the redshirt freshman who takes the first snaps throughout the year.
Instead, the starter will be redshirt junior quarterback Emory Jones, with Richardson serving behind him in a "clean-up" role - although he believes he's capable of batting leadoff if need be.
“Honestly, my role I believe is to just to go out there and be clean-up, kind of," Richardson explained on Wednesday. "I feel like whenever Emory needs a break and they need me to come out there, I have to bring the same intensity Emory’s bringing and bring the same energy, just all of that, just be the clean-up. So whenever he does his thing, I come in there - just a 1-2 punch. Never let off the gas.”
In a sense, Richardson will field a role quite similar to Jones' across his first three years at Florida, not being the primary quarterback but instead a pair of fresh legs that can change up the pace of UF's offense. Jones rushed for 473 yards and six touchdowns while tossing for 488 yards and five scores in that role over the past two seasons.
In the past, Jones was a unique change of pace provided his athleticism and Kyle Trask's lack thereof. Although both Jones and Richardson can make things happen with their arms and their legs, Richardson's rushing style is more powerful compared to Jones' being elusive, making the two similar but unique at the same time.
"I think we’ll just continue business as usual when Anthony is out there," quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee told media. "He’s going to be expected to execute the offense at the same level that Emory executes the offense. I mean, that should be the expectation because he has that skill set.”
Richardson credits McGee, who was promoted to UF's quarterback coaching position earlier this year, with helping him grow as a passer and preparing him to be game-ready in 2021.
“I feel like I've grown a lot throughout this fall camp, becoming a better passer. I feel like I’ve grown a lot when it comes to reading defenses," said Richardson. "I feel like that's something I always struggled with, even in high school. I knew the basics and everything, but knowing [the] advanced things, I didn’t really know that as much.
"But coach McGee, he’s been helping us a lot with that. I feel like I've prepared enough to know certain things on defense that will help me excel on the field. I feel like that's the biggest thing that I have accomplished so far, and I think that’s getting me ready for the field this year."
Richardson understands that, although playing time will come, his role is that of the backup quarterback. He will take the field more than the typical No. 2 QB as Jones did over the past three years, but his primary job is to support Jones as the starter and be prepared for whenever his number may be called.
No football player enjoys being a backup, but Richardson is encouraged by the way Jones handled the role over the past two seasons behind Trask - by trusting the process - and believes that the way Jones handled his business is the way he should handle his.
"Emory is an electric, electrifying guy. He's very talented. He has a strong arm. I feel like I have the same things," Richardson said. "I'm capable of doing the same things he's doing. I feel bad for a lot of teams this year because once he does his thing I'm going to come in there and try to do the same thing. That's why I call it a one-two punch."
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