Fresh off high school, 3 players get early taste of practicing with Gators

Eastside High quarterback Anthony Richardson evades a Buchholz defender during their game earlier this season at Citizens Field. [Alan Youngblood/Correspondent]

 He looks a little bit lost. He doesn’t know the plays or the correct cadence yet. And he’s wearing an ill-fitting jersey that’s clearly too big for him.

 But don’t be misled by any of that. True freshman and former Eastside High School quarterback Anthony Richardson is making quite a favorable first impression on the Florida practice field.

  “Yeah, he is a stud,” UF starting quarterback Kyle Trask said. “He is going to be great for this university. He has only been here a couple of days, but my first impression is that he is really athletic and he has a very strong arm. He is a very talented kid.”

 Richardson, a four-star recruit who will sign with the Gators today, is one of three incoming freshmen getting an early start on his UF career by practicing with the team in preparation for the Dec. 30 Orange Bowl. The others are Suwannee offensive tackle Josh Braun and Cocoa offensive guard Richard Leonard.

 “They get to go out here and have a good time,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “Two, they get a little bit of a jump start so at least when we get out for our first practice in spring they’ve been at a practice before. They know where to stand in stretch lines, they kind of know where to run to on the field with the drills.

  “They’ve been thrown in the fire a little bit. I don’t know if we threw any of them in with the ones, but they were with the twos getting reps. So, it’s a different, unique learning experience for them to kind of see what the program’s about and get a little taste of the football side of things in a fun way before they show up on campus and get into the offseason program in January.”

 The three freshmen are picking things up fairly quickly, senior defensive end Jon Greenard said.

 “They’ve done really well,” Greenard said. “The quarterback is doing really good. Braun, the tackle, he’s doing really well. And the other guard came in, as well. They practiced (Sunday). They fit right in. They’re accepting the coaching really well. Time will tell, obviously, with their development. So far, so good. I have nothing bad to say about them. They came in and are learning really quick. The learning curve is not very hard for them. They’ll be all right.”

 Of the three freshmen, Richardson is the one who seems to have caught everyone’s attention. The dual-threat quarterback has a big arm and has been impressive throwing the ball. He’ll start out the spring as UF’s No. 3 QB behind Trask and Emory Jones.

 “He’s got some zip,” Greenard said. “The way he throws the ball. I’ve seen him just throwing it around, tossing it around — he’s got an arm. He’s got good size. He’s very mature coming in so far, kid of gelling with the older guys and young guys really well.

 “Still trying to find himself a little bit on the team. But he’s going to be really good. I talk to him every day, laugh with him, joke with him. Obviously, I’ve seen the picture with the jersey, the oversized jersey. I told him he’ll grow into it.

 “From what I’ve seen the past couple of days, he can throw it, now. So, be on the lookout for him, with the right coach, and obviously with Coach Mullen, he’s the guru with molding quarterbacks. I expect nothing but great things from him. He’s going to be really good.”

 Richardson is being guided through practices by quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson, while offensive line coach John Hevesy is doing the same with Braun and Leonard.

 There have been some freshmen moments already, but that’s to be expected.

 “You kind of laugh it up, like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to teach (Richardson) how to just say the cadence to snap the ball,’ ” Mullen said. “Brian and John, they’re kind of coaching them what to do as they’re breaking the huddle. 

 “It’s kind of fun. They get some individual work, they get to hear some terminology and do it. It seems like they’re having a good time.”

 The 6-foot-6, 335-pound Braun has already experienced  a welcome-to-college-football moment, getting blown up on a play by a veteran a defensive lineman in his first practice.

 He came out of it OK, Greenard said.

 “He got roughed up pretty well,” Greenard said. “But hey, a guy that big going that fast, he understands, he knows what it feels like. The kid’s got some size. I don’t know where they’re breeding these kids. That’s a big kid. He’s going to be all right. He’s got good size. He’s got Coach Hevesy to help him out and other guys with some experience, so he’ll be all right.”


  1. There is only one Tim Tebow. We all know that. So why do I have a gut feeling that someday we’re going to find ourselves saying that there’s only one Anthony Richardson too.

    In the meantime let’s get behind Kyle Trask having an All American 2020 season! I’ve already bought advance tickets for the movie that hasn’t been made yet.