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How Anthony Richardson gives Florida’s offense many dangerous options

Billy Napier’s scheme will give Florida’s talented quarterback plenty of good choices.

Syndication: Gainesville Sun Doug Engle / USA TODAY NETWORK

It may have happened a couple of days sooner than originally anticipated, but we finally got an extended look at the next era of Florida football in the form of last Thursday’s spring game.

New Florida head coach Billy Napier has brought a ton of excitement — and about four dozen new staff members — with him to Gainesville. While there are always a lot of things for new coaches to accomplish off the field, one of the most important questions that can be answered on the field is simple: “Do we have a starting quarterback?” After Thursday night, the answer to that question seems to be an emphatic “YES!” for Florida.

The story of the spring game was, obviously, the performance of Anthony Richardson. He looked extremely comfortable in Billy Napier’s offense and showed no ill signs from his offseason surgery. There have been some questions about Napier taking on the roles of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach along with his head coaching responsibilities, but his offensive scheme seems to fit Richardson to a tee.

Speaking of Napier’s offense, let’s take a closer look at how the Gators lined up and what type of plays they called during the spring game.

Personnel and Play-Calling

2022 Florida Gators Spring Game Personnel + Performance

QB Personnel Total Plays Yards Yards Per Play Total Rushes Run % Rushing Yards Yards Per Rush Total Passes Pass % Passing Yards Yards Per Pass
QB Personnel Total Plays Yards Yards Per Play Total Rushes Run % Rushing Yards Yards Per Rush Total Passes Pass % Passing Yards Yards Per Pass
Richardson 11 33 231 7.00 14 42.42% 54 3.86 19 57.6% 177 9.32
Richardson 12 13 57 4.38 7 53.85% 27 3.86 6 46.2% 30 5.00
Richardson Total 46 288 6.26 21 46% 81 3.86 25 54.0% 207 8.28
Miller 11 29 104 3.59 11 37.93% 26 2.36 18 62.1% 78 4.33
Miller 12 12 79 6.58 7 58.33% 36 5.14 5 41.7% 43 8.60
Miller Total 41 183 4.46 18 44% 62 3.44 23 56.0% 121 5.26
Total Combined 87 471 5.41 39 44.83% 143 3.67 48 55.2% 328 6.83

Florida had something of an adventurous spring at the tight end position. New tight ends coach William Peagler had his work cut out for him, with injuries reducing his room to one scholarship player at one point. The lack of tight ends was especially concerning when you you think about Napier’s preferred personnel groupings. Napier uses at least one tight end on nearly every play, and often you will see two tight ends sharing the field. Peagler said that they are typically at about a 60/40 split between 11 and 12 personnel.

Luckily, Florida found some capable bodies to move over to tight end and we were able to get a good look at the new offense.

I charted every series with Richardson and Jack Miller at quarterback, as they seem to be the furthest along in the new offense. They were also the most likely to play with other “first team” level players. (Carlos Del Rio-Wilson choosing to transfer is probably a consequence of both of these factors.) In any case, I thought their reps would give us the best sense of the offense.

When looking back on the spring game, both teams operated similarly in terms of play-calling. Each team was primarily in 11 (1 back 1 tight end) personnel. Out of the 87 plays I tracked featuring Richardson or Miller at QB, Florida was in 11 personnel on a little more than 71 percent of those plays. The Gators lined up in 12 (1 back 2 tight ends) personnel on just under 29 percent of their plays. It’s not quite the 60/40 split that Peagler mentioned, but it’s a far cry from last season: In 2021, Florida lined up in 11 personnel on 88.17% of the time and only lined up in 12 personnel on 6.64% of play calls.

Also a change from last year was the run-pass split. Last season, Florida ran the ball 55 percent of the time and threw on 45 percent of playcalls. Based on Napier’s previous offenses, many expected the run/pass split to be similar. But in its spring game, Florida threw the ball more than I anticipated — and, actually, the Gators were the inverse of last season’s team in this regard.

Florida once again had a 55/45 split, but this time it was in favor of the pass. In 11 personnel, that split was even higher, with nearly 60 percent of the plays being passes. I’d envision this percentage normalizing more towards the running game in the fall, but it was still interesting to see Napier play against type for one evening.

QB Play

One reason for the increased passing numbers was the play of the quarterbacks. Of particular interest was their decision making. There were probably five to 10 plays where there was a called run with a throw option attached. Some were pre-snap reads where a single receiver had an option route attached to a called run play; others were RPOs where the quarterback made the run pass decision after the ball had been snapped.

From what we saw on Thursday, this offense gives the quarterback a lot of options. The aforementioned throw options attached to run plays were just one part. There were also multiple options on several screen plays with the quarterback picking which side of the field he should go to with the ball.

For some, too many options can be overwhelming. For others, it can consistently give them answers for what the defense is showing. I thought the best thing about the play of Anthony Richardson was his decisiveness. He knew where he wanted to go with the ball often before the snap and got the ball out of his hands quickly.

I heard Coach Napier say in an offseason clinic that he should be able to get his play call and the defensive play call and know exactly where the ball should go before the play even happens. For a lot of the night, Richardson was there.

He wasn’t perfect, though. There was one particular play that nearly gave me a Nakobe Dean flashback. For much more on that play, along with a lot of other good ones for Richardson and Jack Miller, watch the video below.