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5 post-spring thoughts on college football across Florida

There aren’t many quarterback competitions, but the state’s Big 3 need more receivers.
Florida coach Billy Napier finished his first spring with the Gators.
Florida coach Billy Napier finished his first spring with the Gators. [ BRAD MCCLENNY/THE GAINESVILLE SUN | Associated Press ]
Published Apr. 19

Spring football across Florida ended Saturday with the Miami Hurricanes’ exhibition game. Here are five thoughts about where the state stands heading into the offseason:

1. The quarterbacks seem settled.

Anthony Richardson shined in the Gators' spring game and looks like Florida's starter for 2022.
Anthony Richardson shined in the Gators' spring game and looks like Florida's starter for 2022. [ BRAD MCCLENNY/THE GAINESVILLE SUN ]

Florida State shut down any speculation about a competition, declaring incumbent Jordan Travis the starter. Barring injury, it would be a shock if Anthony Richardson (Florida), Tyler Van Dyke (Miami) and Timmy McClain (USF) aren’t taking the first snaps in Week 1. This isn’t a surprise — all showed at least flashes of potential last season — but stability at the game’s most important position is noteworthy. A year ago at this time, Richardson, Van Dyke and McClain were pegged as backups, and Travis was in a tight duel with McKenzie Milton.

UCF is an exception. Incumbent Mikey Keene and Mississippi transfer John Rhys Plumlee will compete into preseason camp.

2. The wide receivers are not.

USF's Xavier Weaver is one of the most productive returning receivers in the state. That's great for the Bulls but not encouraging for the Gators, Seminoles or Hurricanes.
USF's Xavier Weaver is one of the most productive returning receivers in the state. That's great for the Bulls but not encouraging for the Gators, Seminoles or Hurricanes. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times (2021) ]

Depending on the stat, the state’s four most productive returning receivers are at Florida International (Tyrese Chambers), UCF (Ryan O’Keefe), USF (Xavier Weaver) and Florida Atlantic (LaJohntay Wester). That’s not good for the Big 3, who should all have at least some concern at the position.

Two of UF’s top three receivers in the spring game were tight ends who had converted from defense (Dante Zanders and Noah Keeter). Though Trent Whittemore, Justin Shorter and Xzavier Henderson have shown promise at times, UF needs to upgrade the outside.

FSU added four transfers to address the position immediately, but Tampa native Mycah Pittman was the only one who looks ready for a big role this fall. Miami coach Mario Cristobal called his wideouts “inconsistent” in the spring game.

In a state loaded with talented prep athletes, the collective mediocrity at receiver is startling.

3. The training wheels are off at USF.

USF coach Jeff Scott is entering a pivotal third season.
USF coach Jeff Scott is entering a pivotal third season. [ DIRK SHADD | Times (2021) ]

The Bulls have been patient with coach Jeff Scott because of the pandemic and the rough roster situation he inherited. But it’s fair to expect, if not demand, significant progress in Year 3.

Related: What will USF Bulls gain from an on-campus football stadium?

Scott said his roster finally has the depth it should. He has a promising, returning quarterback whom he recruited (McClain), and he has added one of the best transfer classes in the Group of Five. Add in the time he has had to fix things, and there should be no excuses if the Bulls don’t take a major step forward this fall, with bowl eligibility looking like a realistic goal. If USF falls short, questions about Scott’s future will intensify.

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4. Billy Napier has an eye for talent.

Montrell Johnson followed Billy Napier from Louisiana Lafayette to Florida. He looks like a valuable contributor for 2022.
Montrell Johnson followed Billy Napier from Louisiana Lafayette to Florida. He looks like a valuable contributor for 2022. [ STEPHEN M. DOWELL | Orlando Sentinel via AP ]

The Gators’ leading rusher in the exhibition was Montrell Johnson. O’Cyrus Torrence was one of their top offensive linemen this spring. Both were three-star prospects ranked outside the top 900 nationally whom Napier recruited to Louisiana Lafayette. Both followed him to UF.

Related: Takeaways from Florida Gators’ spring football game

“Montrell is what the doctor ordered,” Napier said, citing Johnson’s talent and injuries that depleted the backfield. “He’s certainly going to provide depth and production for our team.”

So, too, will Torrence, who has a chance to start at guard. The fact that two of Napier’s Louisiana signees are talented enough to contribute immediately in the SEC is encouraging evidence of his evaluation skill.

5. FSU remains a wild card.

Florida State is at an interesting, hard-to-decipher situation as Mike Norvell enters his third season with the Seminoles.
Florida State is at an interesting, hard-to-decipher situation as Mike Norvell enters his third season with the Seminoles. [ ALICIA DEVINE | Associated Press ]

I entered the spring expecting anywhere from four to nine wins for FSU this fall. Nothing has happened to adjust my uncertainty.

Related: FSU football: Newcomers impress, but old concerns remain at spring game

If Mike Norvell develops playmakers the way he did at Memphis, it’s easy to envision an 8-4 season that would show the Seminoles are headed in the right direction. It’s also easy to see FSU missing a bowl game again if an unspectacular roster stumbles or Travis can’t stay healthy.

The Seminoles failed to take a step forward when former top-10 recruit Amarius Mims withdrew from the transfer portal for another year at Georgia instead of transferring to FSU. The Seminoles still need portal pickups to boost their shot at breaking through in Norvell’s pivotal third season.

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