The Florida Gators entered the 2021 season knowing Emory Jones would be their starting quarterback. Jones served as the backup to Kyle Trask in 2020, coming in to switch up the pace with his legs. Trask, a Heisman Trophy finalist, went on to the NFL, and the keys to the offense were handed to Jones. He waited three years for the opportunity.
The redshirt junior had experience, but gadget player experience and starting experience are two different animals. Defenses can gameplan for Jones' speed when he's under center full time. They wanted to force him to throw and throw he did...right to them.
Florida head coach Dan Mullen, as he showed in 2020, loves to keep defenses off balance. How about we bring in another quarterback to mix things up? How about we give some relief to our starter who can't quite find a rhythm?
Enter redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson.
Emory Jones & Anthony Richardson: A Tale of Two QBs
Richardson, like Jones, is a more established runner than passer. He measures in at 6-foot-4 and 236 pounds, and his running ability has been compared to Cam Newton and UF legend Tim Tebow. He ran over defenses enough to have Florida fans calling for Mullen to start him. He showed off his arm, too.
The Florida head coach stood by Jones, creating an awkward dance between the two quarterbacks. Fans would scream for Richardson when Jones made a mistake. They would passively want Jones back when Richardson made underclassmen errors.
Finally, Mullen decided to start Richardson against Georgia. What a time to give your freshman quarterback his first start. Not only against the undisputed best defense in all of college football, but maybe one of the best defenses of all time. He might as well have thrown him into the swamps surrounding Gainesville. Richardson unsurprisingly struggled, going 6 for 20 with 82 yards and two interceptions in the 34-7 blowout loss.
We're eight games in, and I can confidently say Mullen needs to ride Anthony Richardson for the rest of the season.
Anthony Richardson Should Be Florida's Starting QB
— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 30, 2021
That being said, the future should be on the coaching staff's mind. Get Anthony Richardson as many reps as possible. Allow him to play through his mistakes, build confidence and develop rapport with the offense.
Richardson has thrown for 474 yards and five touchdowns against five interceptions on 57 attempts. Jones, whose passing output was nearly nine times more than Richardson's in the first six games of the season, has thrown for 1,416 yards and 10 touchdowns against nine interceptions on 189 attempts. Plus, as a big believer in the eye test, Richardson's physical attributes give him a higher ceiling than Jones. Double plus, he's an acrobat.
— Florida Gators Football (@GatorsFB) September 11, 2021
Mullen's current plan doesn't allow the offense to build a rhythm. The cadence of the game shifts depending on who is under center. In a sport all about timing and familiarity, that's huge.
Jones had his shot and almost led an upset over Alabama, but it's time to be realistic. Anthony Richardson is the quarterback of now and the future.
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