Photo: Anthony Richardson; Credit: Alex Shepherd
Seventeen-for-24, 168 yards paired with 11 rushes for 106 yards and three scores led the Gators to an improbable upset over No. 7 Utah to open up the regular season in 2022.
Since that point, the Gators' offense underwent a serious change from its uber-productive status against the Utes to a system lacking stability. The inefficiency of quarterback Anthony Richardson is a catalyst for that steep decline — although the reasoning behind his slump could be due to evident limitations in his usage.
However, Florida is trying something new heading into Week 4 as they attempt to overcome the current offensive stagnancy, especially in the passing game.
The timing is noticeably off between Richardson and the intended pass catchers he is working with. To make all parties involved more comfortable, and grow the chemistry needed for the passing offense to tick at a high level, Richardson and the wideouts are implementing a new approach to their weekly preparation ahead of Tennessee.
"They're wondering, like, what they can do to help me get them the ball, get them some touchdowns," Richardson said. "So just communicating with those guys and trying to understand what they're seeing and trying to let them know what I see is going to help us."
"We're going to start doing something new this week, watching film together and just trying to understand what can help us in different coverages and stuff like that. So we're going to try a new philosophy this week and see how it goes."
While timing isn't entirely to blame for the passing woes Richardson and the Gators' offense has experienced in the past two contests — as accuracy concerns loom — it's still an evident shortcoming that is in need of fixing.
A noticeable example came in week three against USF when Richardson stood in the pocket looking toward the right sideline. As he made his progression toward the middle of the field, Arizona State transfer Ricky Pearsall went streaking across the intermediate part of the field uncovered. Richardson initially hesitated, hitching in the pocket before electing to fire anyway just a second later.
Pearsall's window was now closed, and the throw went right into the hands of USF defender Dwayne Boyles Jr.
Richardson hopes the added time together off-the-field reconciles those issues. So far, the extra time in the film room is smooth sailing, according to the starting signal caller.
"Pretty good. Talking to Ricky and Xzavier [Henderson] and [Justin] Shorter, feel like we have a good understanding ... I've definitely talked to the receivers and tell them anytime they have a one-on-one matchup I’m going to look at them. I trust them to get open and they should trust me to throw them the ball."
The trio of top receivers has combined for 28 out of Florida's 41 total receptions and 298 of the 423 total yards for a considerable share of the production to begin the first quarter of the regular season. However, more plays are being left out on the field.
He recognizes his struggles getting them the ball at points, but has faith that increased time working with the group will be beneficial in the long haul.
"I didn’t get some of them the ball today but we’ll get back to practice and keep working on that so when the time does come in the future we can connect on that," Richardson said after Florida's near-escape of USF.
According to Richardson, what they're looking at isn't limited to a certain aspect of the passing game. For right now, as they kickstart the new weekly approach, the group is taking an overview of both the unit's mistakes through three weeks, as well as what their upcoming opponent presents.
"Just a little bit of everything," he said when asked what the focal point is for the study. "Just looking at things we need to correct for the last game and looking at things to implement into this game and this game plan."
While it may not culminate in an immediate difference on the field, the initiative shown by Richardson to incorporate those he works directly with in the passing game presents promise for their growth as the season moves along. It can guide the unit toward realizing the level of explosiveness Richardson believes they're capable of.
"Our offense, we can definitely be explosive," Richardson claimed. "Just watching the film, you can just see it. We're one person away from having a good play, whether that's me or a missed block or a crisp route. I feel like, if we have all 11 executing, we can be very explosive."
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