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How Can Ricky Pearsall Boost the Florida Gators Offense?

Ricky Pearsall's addition to Florida's roster could prove pivotal for the Gators' offense in 2022.

Florida exited its first spring football camp under Billy Napier understanding the roster was in need of a talent influx, particularly at the wide receiver position. 

It's taken some time for the Gators to land impact players from the transfer portal, at least with the expectation of potentially double-digit acquisitions in mind as Napier suggested in March. 

So far, only three portal prospects have selected UF since Napier's plea for talent: A junior college offensive tackle in Jordan Herman, a preferred walk-on defensive tackle in Keenan Landry and a wide receiver in Ricky Pearsall. A late high school signee, Nicolas Flynn, will also join the program as a preferred walk-on.

Herman and Landry aren't likely to take on roles for the Gators in 2022, but Pearsall's addition stands out as a major need having been addressed ahead of Napier's first season in charge.

Pearsall, who broke out with Arizona State as a junior in 2021, should offer UF what was arguably its biggest need exiting the spring: Play-making ability at wide receiver. 

Florida has some talent at the position, certainly, but most of the receivers recruited by UF's former coaching staff share similar skill-sets and physical makeups. The group is filled with numerous possession receivers, most with lengthy frames who can make contested catches but don't offer much electricity after the reception.

Pearsall displayed over three years with the Sun Devils that he can do just that. Across his freshman and sophomore seasons in a limited role, Pearsall averaged 16.5 yards per catch on 13 grabs. The number was reduced to 12.1 in his first campaign as a starter, still respectable, as Pearsall became more involved in underneath play in addition to stretching the field.

As a junior, Pearsall hauled in 48 catches for 580 yards and four touchdowns. He flashed as a technical route runner in the middle of the field, memorably scoring from 54 yards out by beating a UCLA safety on a sluggo route and having nothing but green grass in front of him at the catch point.

In the same game, Pearsall took a screen pass 65 yards for a touchdown, maneuvering from the left-side numbers where he caught the ball to the left seam of the field to outrun four defenders in the area and in pursuit.

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Against Arizona, Pearsall showed off similar breakaway speed on a catch behind the line of scrimmage, motioning pre-snap while aligned in the backfield and catching a pass on a shoot route before speeding 14 yards to the sidelines and into the endzone near the right pylon.

His other touchdown, a 30-yard catch and run against Colorado where he made three defenders down the field, was a back-side screen on a double-pass concept where Pearsall once again displayed great speed and shiftiness with the ball in his hands. 

Additionally, Pearsall has shown enough to make defenses respect him as a rushing threat. On nine attempts, typically jet sweeps and reverses, Pearsall has averaged 7.8 yards per rush and scored two touchdowns. 

The Sun Devils utilized Pearsall's presence as a rusher to pull defenders his way via motion, opening up lanes for a standard handoff on the opposite side of the field. This threat can also allow quarterbacks to diagnose the defense's coverage scheme on passing plays.

He's even made an impact throwing the ball, completing three-of-three passes for 11 yards and a touchdown over the last two seasons.

It's worth noting that, once a year exactly, Napier had a running back or wide receiver throw a pass in Louisiana's offense during his four seasons with the Ragin' Cajuns. Pearsall will join fourth-year Gators receiver Trent Whittemore (3-of-4, 41 yards, two touchdowns) as non-quarterbacks with experience throwing the ball should Napier look to continue that trend.

Pearsall has made a name for himself as an uber-versatile receiver who can make game-changing plays with his hands, his legs and even his arm. 

His route-running and breakaway prowess should greatly benefit starting quarterback Anthony Richardson, while receivers such as Whittemore, Justin Shorter, Xzavier Henderson or perhaps a younger prospect who has yet to emerge.

Expect Pearsall to step in and compete for a starting role in the Gators' offense this fall. He should be on the field regularly in 11-personnel (three receiver, one tight end sets), and it wouldn't be surprising to see Pearsall contribute in 12-personnel (two receivers, two tight ends) considering the threat he poses in the run game.

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