Quarterback Anthony Richardson gives Florida Gators fans reasons for hope | David Whitley

David Whitley
Gator Sports

There were a lot of different T-shirts at the Orange and Blue game. The one worn by Garrett Ross summed them all up. 

It was a stenciled close-up drawing of Billy Napier. Beneath it in capital letters was the operative word.


I asked Ross what he hoped to see Thursday night.

“Anthony Richardson,” interjected his girlfriend, Cali Ross.

“I’d like to see him complete at least 65% of his passes,” said Ross, a UF junior majoring in accounting. “And I don’t want to see him do anything too crazy.”

To which Napier and the Alachua County Sheriff's Office would say, “From your lips to God’s ears, young man.”

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Gator fans wanted to see what Anthony Richardson would do

Florida’s new coach is the fount of lasting hope for Gator Nation. But his immediate fate will largely be determined by the player an estimated 45,000 fans came to see at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

The good news for Florida fans was Richardson completed 75% of his passes (18-for-24, to precise). And none of his throws were the kind of things that drove Dan Mullen crazy last season.

The hold-the-coronation news was it was the spring game. And as much as Richardson appeared to have matured as a quarterback, his overall sense of responsibility is still questionable.

Ten days before the game, a sheriff's deputy pulled Richardson over and gave him a ticket. According to court records, it was 4 a.m.

AR-15 speeding ticket:Florida football QB Anthony Richardson heading to traffic court for driving over 100 mph

The speed limit on that stretch of Newberry Road is 60 mph.

Richardson was doing 105.

Now that is crazy.

Few people knew of the incident Thursday night, so neither Napier or his starting QB were asked about it. As for the game itself, it’s never a good idea to draw deep conclusions from a contest where the new men’s basketball coach stands on the field chatting with the new football coach during plays.

That would have been Todd Golden, the honorary captain of the Blue team. Women’s basketball coach Kelly Rae Finley got that honor for the Orange. She should have made her team run wind sprints after the game.

The Blue romped to a 34-0 win. That squad had most of the first-string offense, so fans could feel good about the scoring opportunities this fall.

Or they could lose sleep all summer over the fact the Orange was loaded with first-string defenders. And if they gave up four touchdowns to a work-in-progress offense like the Blue, what will happen when Utah comes to town Sept. 3?

Snap judgments from UF spring game

It’s hard to deduce anything solid based on Thursday, though it was easy to make some snap judgments.

Ohio State transfer Jack Miller III did a good imitation of departed transfer Emory Jones. He was cool and precise for stretches but chunked an ill-advised interception in the end zone.

Tight end Dante Zanders looked pretty good for a guy who began spring as a defensive lineman. Louisiana transfer Montrell Johnson is going to get a lot of carries this fall. And the emotional well-being of Gator Nation will largely depend on the sophomore quarterback from Gainesville.

"To win," Napier said, "you need good quarterback play."

What Florida had last season was a tantalizing puzzle with a catchy "AR-15" nickname.

There were the Superman runs, the Dan Marino-like throws, the four straight TD drives at LSU. There were also interceptions, misreads and a nightmare afternoon against Georgia.

Florida Gators starting quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) high-fives a young fan during the Gator Walk before the annual Orange and Blue spring game April 14, 2022.

Richardson was crazy good or crazy bad. It was exciting, but a good offense doesn't run on drama.

"I had some good highs and some bad lows," Richardson said. "So I just try to find like a midpoint out there, and just stay consistent throughout that whole time."

After a month of spring practice with Napier constantly looking over his shoulder, that midpoint seems attainable. The tempo has been turned up and defensive reads have been simplified.

Richardson was decisive and confident Thursday night. Napier isn't one to blow smoke, but the last question he answered in his post-game press conference was about play calling.

He said it's "pretty easy when 15's back there throwing it around."

It made for an easy 34-0 wipeout Thursday, featuring two TD passes and a 12-yard scoring run.

"I just tried to keep it dialed in and just understand where the ball was supposed to go in certain coverages," Richardson said. "I feel like I did a decent job with that today.”

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It must be noted, the defenses weren’t allowed to blitz. But the Blue team's quarterback was throwing against SEC-caliber defensive backs, though they didn’t look like it at times Thursday night.

Was Richardson that good or the defense that bad?

It was the spring game. Guess accordingly.

But Napier's first spring has given fans ample reason to put on their T-shirts and be hopeful.

Especially if No. 15 is really learning not to go too crazy. Either on the field or behind the wheel.

— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com. And follow him on Twitter: @DavidEWhitley.