Notebook: Mullen on Anthony Richardson’s role, recruiting Tim Tebow, Cam Newton’s shoutout

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports
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Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson runs with the ball during a game against Missouri at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium last year.

This is Emory Jones’ time and his team, but Florida’s offense will still deploy two quarterbacks in 2021.

While Jones is well on his way to taking over as the starter, he hasn’t won the job just yet. He’ll have to beat out redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson first. 

“Anthony, he's been on my butt every practice,” Jones said. “It’s always a competition here at the University of Florida. Anthony is always trying to compete with me. He definitely gets me better everyday and pushes me, and I push him.”

As Jones takes over the reins on offense and showcases more of his arm, Richardson is expected to take some carries off his plate and be used in the QB run game like Jones was the past couple years. 

Richardson appeared in four games last season, rushing the ball seven times for 61 yards and tossing a 27-yard touchdown in the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma. 

“Even though we played an all-SEC schedule, still throwing Anthony out there for plays. He's played in SEC games out on the field,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said. “We put an awful lot on the quarterback, so you gotta be ready. You’re one play away from that guy being the starter and being the starter at Florida is a great, great responsibility. 

“And within our system it’s a great responsibility for our success. So, you know, I always want to have multiple guys ready. We’ll play multiple guys early in the season, whoever the starter is, just so that guys are ready to play like we always do.”

The season opener against Florida Atlantic could also present an opportunity to play true freshmen quarterbacks Carlos Del Rio-Wilson and Jalen Kitna, both of whom enrolled early. They will benefit from practicing this spring, which Richardson missed last year due to the pandemic. 

“It’s great having the two freshmen quarterbacks here because those guys are getting valuable reps right now,” Mullen said. “You don’t want to get to the backup backup quarterbacks sometimes. You know, that can make for a tougher season. But those guys are getting the experience to learn the system.”

Mullen on recruiting misses 

One player Jones and Richardson won’t be throwing to is former LSU tight end Arik Gilbert, who decommitted from Florida on Sunday and re-entered the transfer portal. 

Though Mullen can’t comment on Gilbert publicly, he was asked Monday if it bothers him when the Gators miss out on top recruits or transfers. Mullen simply said he hopes that players end up at the right school for the right reasons, and referenced recruiting former UF quarterback Tim Tebow. 

“I’m competitive and you want guys to come, but you want to make sure you get guys for all the right reasons in the end. I always hope for kids that they make decisions for all the right reasons,” Mullen said. “I think when you see a kid that’s a great fit for somebody and they end up at that school, you’re really pleased. You’re really happy for the kid, you know what I mean? 

“Tim Tebow. That was a wild recruiting deal for everybody. But in the end, I think most people would say the best place that Tim Tebow could go was Florida. Looking back on it, this was the right place for Tim Tebow. … It’s awesome to see a young guy when it matches and it fits and they go have a lot of success. I think that’s fantastic.”

Cam Newton’s shoutout 

Speaking of transfers and Tebow, ex-Florida quarterback Cam Newton made headlines last week with a story about Percy Harvin on the I Am Athlete podcast. 

During their days as UF teammates in 2008, Newton recalled a time when Mullen drew up a play for Harvin in a game and he took it to the house for an 80-yard score. 

“Coach Mullen, bro, they literally coached him up on the sideline. They said, ‘You’re going to come in, take the snap, but it’s a misdirection. On the sideline,” Newton emphasized. “And 80 yards later, he scored.”

Newton is likely referring to Harvin’s 80-yard touchdown run against South Carolina, although he may have confused that play with Harvin’s 70-yard TD catch against LSU. Nonetheless, Mullen appreciated the shoutout from his former QB. 

“I loved the shoutout. I love Cam. What an amazing player he is,” Mullen said. “When you get into the story, you know the story, you know how it goes. In this game we said, ‘Hey we need to get him the ball right now. Let’s get to this call that should get him the ball.’ I think it was pretty cool.

“Maybe it was the South Carolina counter play, there was one against Vanderbilt that was similar. There was the LSU game and we hit him on a crossing route one-on-one on a crossing route for a touchdown. So, you know some of the plays in the back of your head, but the exact time they happened and how they all shook out to the exact detail, some of those get a little bit crossed.”

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