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Is this Anthony Richardson’s final Florida Gators home game?

“When you just watch the tape, he’s not a first-round guy, But then you watch the skillset ... and he absolutely is a top-10 pick.”
Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson will have to decide whether he wants to stay in Gainesville for another year, enter the NFL draft or, potentially, transfer elsewhere.
Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson will have to decide whether he wants to stay in Gainesville for another year, enter the NFL draft or, potentially, transfer elsewhere. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP ]
Published Nov. 11

GAINESVILLE — With all due respect to the 18 players the Florida Gators plan to acknowledge on Saturday’s senior day, the most intriguing person who might be lining up at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the final time isn’t on the list.

It’s quarterback Anthony Richardson.

Perhaps that’s why running back Montrell Johnson went out of his way Monday to lobby for the third-year sophomore to stay at UF for 2023.

“We need him back another year,” Johnson said.

Related: What Florida Gators, Miami Hurricanes can learn from FSU football’s climb

But does Richardson need it? Or is he ready to enter the NFL draft this spring?

“That’s an interesting question,” SEC Network analyst Jordan Rodgers said.

Will Anthony Richardson be walking into The Swamp for the final time as a player this weekend?
Will Anthony Richardson be walking into The Swamp for the final time as a player this weekend? [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

It’s interesting because the answer is both unclear and fluid. After he torched No. 7 Utah for three rushing touchdowns while completing 71% of his passes, the NFL looked like the obvious choice. His size (6-foot-4, 232-pounds), speed and arm strength drew comparisons to Vince Young.

Then he threw four interceptions and no touchdowns over the next two games while compiling a passing efficiency (128.2) that now ranks 12th in the 14-team SEC.

“When you just watch the tape, he’s not a first-round guy,” said Rodgers, a former Vanderbilt quarterback who spent time on the Bucs’ practice squad in 2013. “But then you watch the skillset and the tools, and he absolutely is a top-10 pick.”

Richardson, to his credit, has progressed over the season. After throwing seven interceptions in a five-game span, he has zero over his last three games. His completion percentage has improved every month, and Rodgers sees development in how he’s throwing over the middle of the field.

Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson has made strides this season but remains unpolished as a pro prospect.
Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson has made strides this season but remains unpolished as a pro prospect. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

Some of the discussion about Richardson’s future will hinge on other factors. His name, image and likeness compensation exceeds $1 million, On3 reported Thursday. Regardless of the exact figure, he could afford to stay for another year of college — at UF or, theoretically, somewhere else if he wanted to transfer.

Related: 5 coaches USF football fans should monitor this week as Bulls’ search unfolds

Rodgers considers Richardson and Kentucky’s Will Levis to be the two most physically gifted, draft-eligible quarterbacks. Both are also unpolished. If Levis wants another year with the Wildcats, Richardson will be arguably the most talented quarterback in the draft.

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“That toolset, the physical characteristics that he possesses, they don’t come along but every five years, maybe,” Rodgers said. “So he’s going to have a tough decision.”

He isn’t the only one.

Florida Gators offensive tackle Richard Gouraige is going through senior day festivities this weekend.
Florida Gators offensive tackle Richard Gouraige is going through senior day festivities this weekend. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

Starting left tackle Richard Gouraige (a Cambridge Christian product) is going through senior day festivities before the South Carolina game but said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll declare for the draft or play another college season elsewhere. Lorenzo Lingard, Nay’Quan Wright and Trent Whittemore are also participating in senior day despite having remaining eligibility.

Three former blue-chip recruits — Brenton Cox, Joshua Braun and Kamar Wilcoxson — have all left or are leaving (willingly or unwillingly). They won’t be the only departures in what’s expected to be a busy offseason for first-year coach Billy Napier and his staff.

Related: Brenton Cox off Florida Gators football team

“I think each individual player has had his own set of circumstances,” Napier said, speaking generally about roster attrition. “We have a big math problem that we try to do the best we can each year to put the team in position to have success.

“I do believe when you’re taking over a team at the University of Florida, or anywhere, there’s expected to be more attrition at the beginning of your tenure. You’d like to stabilize as you go there and build your team from the ground up. I think all of that is very much to be determined.”

Including the future of his starting quarterback.

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