The Florida Gators’ two-quarterback strategy didn’t disappear when Emory Jones became the starter.
No. 13 UF intends to keep using multiple quarterbacks this season, starting with Saturday night’s opener against Florida Atlantic. Though Jones will likely get most of the action, redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson is also expected to play — and not just because UF is favored by 20-plus points.
“Honestly, my role, I believe, is to just go out there and be cleanup,” Richardson said. “... Just a 1-2 punch.”
We don’t know exactly what that 1-2 punch will look like. Is it a few sporadic snaps as a change-of-pace option, like what Jones did over the last three seasons? A scripted series or two? Something else entirely?
Regardless of the details, we do know that this duo will look different than the ones UF fans have seen under Dan Mullen.
His last two starters, Feleipe Franks and Bucs rookie Kyle Trask, were pass-first quarterbacks. They could (and did) run when necessary, but they were better at getting the ball to UF’s playmakers than they were trying to make plays with their own legs.
Jones wasn’t like that.
Though teammates rave about his arm — his passes have more zip than Trask’s — he added an elusive running ability that Franks and Trask lacked. His statistics (92 career rushing attempts and only 86 passes) reflected his complementary role.
“If your quarterbacks have very different skill sets, there’s a value in using different ones on the field,” Mullen said.
That value isn’t as apparent this year. Richardson, like Jones, is a gifted runner. He rushed for 41 touchdowns and more than 1,600 yards at Gainesville’s Eastside High. Both have big arms, too. Their skillsets are similar enough that their reps shouldn’t look as different as last year’s Trask-Jones combination.
“I’m capable of doing the same things he’s doing,” Richardson said. “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.”
Even if Jones and Richardson are doing most of the same things in the same packages, Mullen still sees value in a two-quarterback approach.
Aside from Jones, Richardson is UF’s only quarterback with game experience (two passing attempts and seven carries). That’s not much to build on if Jones is injured in a pivotal moment, especially considering how much responsibility Mullen puts on the position.
“If they’ve played,” Mullen said, “then it is a little bit easier for that situation to put them into.”
Mullen is only willing to use game reps as part of Richardson’s development because Richardson appears ready for it.
Mullen rarely volunteers information but made an exception after the first scrimmage to say, unprovoked, that Richardson had a great night and had been doing an “unbelievable job.” After the second scrimmage, Mullen said Richardson has prepared to be the starter, even if he doesn’t have that designation.
“He’s going to be expected to execute the offense at the same level that Emory executes the offense,” quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee said. “I mean, that should be the expectation, because he has that skillset.”
That doesn’t mean there’s a quarterback controversy in Gainesville. McGee was clear that Jones “is the No. 1 quarterback” and took most of the first-team reps during preseason camp. But Richardson took some, too, to get comfortable with center Kingsley Eguakun and to prepare for his role this fall.
Whatever that is, exactly.
UF will have two game-day coronavirus vaccination sites. One will be in front of the O’Connell Center, and the other will be at Gate 12 of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Both clinics will run from 5:30-7 Saturday.
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