When CBS analyst Gary Danielson surveys the SEC, he sees a handful of programs (including the Florida Gators) fighting to be third behind Georgia and Alabama. The difference so far for No. 20 UF is quarterback Anthony Richardson, who has thrown four costly interceptions and no touchdown passes.
“Frankly, if Florida doesn’t up their quarterback play,” Danielson said, “it’s not going to be good enough against the competition they’re going to face in this game (against Tennessee) or maybe the rest of their schedule.”
So why is Richardson struggling? Danielson, a former quarterback at Purdue who spent more than a decade in the NFL, has some ideas.
“No. 1, I just think he’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders,” Danielson said.
Richardson grew up in Gainesville and became the face of the program this spring when Emory Jones transferred. That’s a lot of pressure.
So, too, is the NFL buzz. He showed up on way-too-early mock drafts as a potential first-round pick before he earned his second career start.
“I think all of the hype is way, way out of whack,” Danielson said. “He’s a really good prospect, but the claim that he’s a first-round pick was ludicrous. He needs a couple of years of throwing 300 balls, and you get used to being a pocket passer and emerge.”
Danielson also thinks Richardson isn’t 100% healthy. Richardson said he got hit in the knee against Kentucky but shook it off. Either way, first-year coach Billy Napier has tried to limit Richardson’s hits as backup Jack Miller recovers from a thumb injury.
Keeping Richardson from running takes away arguably his best trait, but Danielson said that UF needs more than his legs to beat teams like Georgia and Texas A&M.
“He’s going to have to improve in the pocket,” Danielson said. “I don’t believe that Florida is endowed with a group of NFL receivers, but they’re plenty good enough to be effective with better quarterback play.”
Danielson’s final theory is that Richardson has lost his confidence. Richardson admitted as much after the Kentucky loss. Danielson saw it happen to Jalen Hurts, who lost it at Alabama but regained it after transferring to Oklahoma. That doesn’t mean Richardson needs a change of scenery. But Florida needs to find a way to help him shake off his costly mistakes, dating back to last year’s turnovers against Georgia.
“That gets in your head …” Danielson said. “He’s high on numerous throws. The timing looks off. I don’t think it’s as simple as right now an accomplished quarterback fighting with a new system. I think it’s a guy who’s struggling to stand in the pocket and hit his target.”
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