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Florida vs. LSU: Personnel and performance, and the numbers’ case for more Anthony Richardson

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Anthony Richardson got his first lengthy stint as Florida’s quarterback against LSU. The numbers he led the Gators to over that span are wildly promising.

Florida v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Coaching is often about gathering information. You may run something seemingly benign early in a game to see if you get the proper look for a big play later. You might run motion on the first drive to see how the defense will play two different formations. The best coaches can absorb information quickly and unleash the findings at the proper moment.

Gathering information isn’t just something useful in-game for coaches. Information is gathered in every meeting, practice, game and season. Dan Mullen has shown himself to be pretty good at gathering that in-game information. He’ll often find a weak point in a defense and continually exploit it. However, Mullen has not always been as quick to take information and make changes outside of in-game situations. Many observers and fans have discussed Mullen’s reticence to make big moves, be it on the field or in the staff room. This is something that is not new to his Florida tenure. Mississippi State fans were making the same observations and asking some of the same questions.

One of the biggest criticisms of Mullen is his reliance on seniority. Many believe that all being equal, Mullen will prefer the older player almost every time (This whole issue is really about culture building, but more on that later in the week). The position drawing the most questions regarding this practice has undoubtedly been the quarterback position.

The phrase I have found myself repeating while discussing the quarterbacks is sample size. Early in the season, Anthony Richardson showed otherworldly skills while Emory Jones had some struggles. However, Richardson played far fewer snaps than Jones, so some regression seemed to be in play.

Then Richardson hurt his hamstring, because the human body can only handle so much explosiveness, and Jones played well in his absence. And when Richardson officially came back against Kentucky, that feared regression appeared despite very limited playing time.

Jones didn’t drape himself in glory against the Wildcats, either, but he excelled against Alabama and Tennessee in Richardson’s absence, then bounced back to play pretty well against Vanderbilt. Richardson, again in very limited reps, continued to show some regression from the early season fireworks.

So, entering last week, the position seemed somewhat settled — but there was still that pesky issue of sample size. Sure, Richardson wasn’t playing like he did in the first two games — but could he, if he played more? Were the guardrails of game state and play-calling early on masking deficiencies, or were the scarce reps after Richardson’s injury limiting his big-play ability by reducing the number of chances for something magical?

It was hard to pinpoint exactly, but it seemed worthwhile to investigate what would happen with some more reps for Richardson.

Well, Richardson got some more reps against LSU — and we got some answers, too.

Florida vs. LSU Game Personnel

Before we get to the quarterbacks, I am pleased to announce that Florida showed a new personnel grouping for the first time since Week 1. The Gators broke out some 21 (two backs, one tight end) and had a good bit of success with it. I’d like to continue to see some more two back looks as the season continues.

Florida vs. LSU: Personnel + Performance

Personnel Plays Yards YPP Rushes Rush % Yards YPR Passes Pass % Yards YPA
Personnel Plays Yards YPP Rushes Rush % Yards YPR Passes Pass % Yards YPA
11 - Jones 30 201 6.70 11 36.67% 39 3.55 19 63.33% 162 8.53
12 - Jones 3 0 0.00 3 100.00% 0 0.00 0 0.00% 0 0.00
21 - Jones 4 30 7.50 2 50.00% 9 4.50 2 50.00% 21 10.50
Jones Total 37 231 6.24 16 43.24% 48 3.00 21 56.76% 183 8.71
11 - Richardson 28 193 6.89 16 57.14% 82 5.13 12 42.86% 111 9.25
12 - Richardson 4 16 4.00 1 25.00% 5 5.00 3 75.00% 11 3.67
21 - Richardson 6 48 8.00 2 33.33% 3 1.50 4 66.67% 45 11.25
Richardson Total 38 257 6.76 19 50.00% 90 4.74 19 50.00% 167 8.79
Florida Total 75 488 6.51 35 46.67% 138 3.94 40 53.33% 350 8.75

For the first time this season, we saw a true split of the snaps at QB — and it produced a very interesting result.

Many have wondered what it would look like if Anthony Richardson got an extended look. Well, not only did Richardson play his most snaps in a single game by far, but he also played in a better situation: For the first time all of Richardson’s reps came with other first team players and with the game still undecided. So, in my opinion, this game was the first one of the season from which you can make a true comparison between the two quarterbacks in terms of game situations and reps.

Richardson responded well to the extended playing time. If you take out the Hail Mary and the time-saving spike before it, Emory Jones averaged 6.61 yards per pass attempt; Richardson averaged 8.79 yards per attempt. And Richardson ended up as Florida’s leading rusher, with seven carries for 37 yards and a touchdown (and a key two-point conversion), while Jones had 10 carries for 16 yards, those numbers depressed a bit by sacks.

Richardson seems to fit this receiver group better in some ways. As mentioned in previous film reviews, this receiver group hasn’t been able to get the same amount of separation as the group last season often did. This season, passing windows are a little smaller, and they close quicker. Richardson’s arm strength has allowed him to get the ball from his hand to those wideouts’ mitts a little sooner than Jones has, in turn maximizing the scant separation the receivers get.

But there will be plenty more on the quarterbacks below and in the film review. For now, let’s dig in to the personnel groupings.

11 Personnel

Against LSU, the Gators were in 11 personnel for a season low 77.33% of snaps. Florida gained 394 yards, or 6.79 yards per play, in this grouping. The group ran the ball on 46.55% of snaps, gaining 4.48 yards per rush.

This personnel grouping ran the ball more effectively with Richardson at quarterback, gaining 5.13 yards per rush on 16 attempts. The Gators threw for 273 yards, or 8.81 yards an attempt. This unit was more effective with Richardson in the passing game as well, averaging 9.25 yards per attempt.

12 Personnel

12 has been Florida’s No. 2 personnel group throughout the season, but it was third in Saturday’s game. The Gators used 12 personnel on 9.33% of snaps.

This group wasn’t particularly productive regardless of the quarterback, only averaging 2.29 yards per play.

21 Personnel

21 personnel made a productive season debut against LSU. Florida used this grouping on 13.33% of snaps and they produced 7.8 yards per play.

But this unit — with two running backs, remember — was not very productive on the ground: 21 only gained 12 yards on four rushes. Its saving grace was being very productive through the air, regardless of the quarterback. The Gators averaged 11 yards per pass attempt out of 21 personnel.

Florida Personnel + Performance: Year to Date Through LSU

Personnel Total Plays Yards Yards Per Play Total Rushes Run % Rushing Yards Yards Per Rush Total Passes Pass % Passing Yards Yards Per Pass
Personnel Total Plays Yards Yards Per Play Total Rushes Run % Rushing Yards Yards Per Rush Total Passes Pass % Passing Yards Yards Per Pass
11 - Jones 359 2434 6.78 194 54% 1190 6.13 165 46% 1244 7.54
12 - Jones 25 112 4.48 18 72% 69 3.83 7 28% 43 6.14
13 - Jones 1 0 0.00 0 0% 0 0.00 1 100% 0 0.00
20 - Jones 6 16 2.67 3 50% -2 -0.67 3 50% 18 6.00
21 - Jones 4 30 7.50 2 50% 9 4.50 2 50% 21 10.50
Jones Total 395 2592 6.56 217 55% 1266 5.83 178 45% 1326 7.45
11 - Richardson 86 750 8.72 57 66% 489 8.58 29 34% 261 9.00
12 - Richardson 5 91 18.20 1 20% 5 5.00 4 80% 86 21.50
13 - Richardson 2 2 1.00 2 100% 2 1.00 0 0% 0 0.00
20 - Richardson 1 1 1.00 1 100% 1 1.00 0 0% 0 0.00
21 - Richardson 6 48 8.00 2 33% 3 1.50 4 67% 45 11.25
AR Total 100 892 8.92 63 63% 500 7.94 37 37% 392 10.59
Total 495 3484 7.04 280 56.57% 1766 6.31 215 43.43% 1718 7.99

11 Personnel

11 is still far and away the number one personnel grouping for the Gators. Florida has been in 11 on 89.9% of snaps this season, and is averaging 7.16 yards per play from it.

The Gators have run out of this grouping on 56.4% of plays and have averaged 6.69 yards per play. Florida has thrown the ball on 43.6% of 11 personnel snaps, gaining 7.76 yards per pass attempt.

12 Personnel

12 is still the second most frequent personnel grouping for Florida, with usage on 6.06% of snaps. The unit has seen its productivity slowly decline, with its yards per play now sitting at 6.77.

Florida has run the ball with this group 63.33% of the time, gaining only 3.89 yards per rush. The passing game, however, has been quite productive at 11.73 yards per attempt, while only being called upon for 36.67% of snaps.

21 Personnel

The newest personnel unit already has the third most usage for Florida this season. The group saw 10 snaps against LSU, good for 2.02% of snaps on the year.

Consider that for a second: 10 snaps against LSU is two percent of seven games’ worth of offensive snaps. And consider this, too: This group actually ran as many plays against LSU as the two groupings below it have combined for on the season.

As stated above, this group only averaged three yards per rush, but was dynamite in the passing game at 11 yards per pass attempt. In its very limited sample size, this group is the most productive personnel on a per-play basis averaging 7.8 yards per play. Based on that, I would expect to see some more two-back looks for the Gators.

13 Personnel

This group has only been used in the low red zone. They have only been on the field three times, and have gained only two yards.

20 Personnel

This group saw its only action in Florida’s season opener against FAU. 20 has only seen the field for seven snaps and has only gained 17 yards.

The Quarterbacks

After Richardson received over half the snaps against LSU, I think we can have a real discussion about the quarterbacks. There is still a pretty wide gap in terms of plays between the two, but Richardson has now played 100 snaps. While not as statistically significant as Emory’s 395 snaps, it’s still enough for some comparisons and conjecture.

When Emory Jones is on the field, the Florida offense is good. The Gators are averaging 6.56 yards per play with Jones at the helm. That number would be good for 25th in the country, tied with Oregon State and just above Michigan.

When Anthony Richardson is at quarterback — and, again: sample size alert — the Florida Gators offense is better than the best offense in the country on a per-play basis.

Florida is averaging 8.92 yards per play with Richardson at the helm, a figure that would just edge the current top team, Coastal Carolina, which is gaining 8.82 yards per play on 377 plays. Next closest would be Ohio State, at 8.55 yards per play.

Is Florida automatically going to turn into the best offense in college football if Richardson starts? Probably not. Will there be growing pains with a young quarterback? Yes, probably. But the numbers so far are very promising, and I think we are seeing this year that growing pains may be more of a function of experience than a function of age.

The decision to not start or play Richardson more has always seemed like a ceiling-floor decision. It certainly seems like Richardson raises the ceiling of the offense. It has yet to be seen if he significantly would lower its floor with more playing time. We still need some more information to form firm conclusions.

But at this point of this season, it certainly seems to me like it is information well worth gathering to the coaching staff — and there’s only one way to get it.