Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson a full participant as Gators open spring practice

Graham Hall
Gator Sports

Florida quarterback Anthony RIchardson is limited no longer. 

The redshirt sophomore quarterback, who a month earlier said he was planning on being a limited participant when UF opened spring practice March 15, practiced without any limits in Tuesday’s practice session at the Gators’ indoor practice facility.

Although head coach Billy Napier acknowledged Richardson won’t be placed into preparation situations requiring significant mobility — not yet, at least.

“He has been cleared. But we are kind of limiting the type of concepts he’s running in terms of putting him in position to where he has to move around too much. A little bit of a quick whistle,” Napier said Tuesday night. “Our quarterbacks are always non-contact. But for the most part, today he participated just like he would participate if he didn’t have the surgery and if he wasn’t returning from injury.”

Richardson was seen without a brace on his surgically repaired knee during the portion of practice that was open to the media, raising the question of his status.

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Billy Napier finally gets to see Richardson throw

Richardson soon would confirm what UF fans undoubtedly hoped to hear: he’s back at full strength, having been cleared to fully participate just a day prior. 

They say the best ability is availability, and Richardson seemed to concur with that sentiment. 

“It felt great, just being back. Running around practicing with the guys. Doing new stuff, it felt great. A lot of energy,” Richardson said. “Being back, that’s the most important part to me.”

With his first three months and change largely spent getting to know players, building the support staff and making strides in the weight room, Napier hadn’t had an opportunity to assess Richardson’s capabilities up close and in-person until Tuesday.

Only so much can be gleaned from word of mouth or in-game film, after all, and Richardson first turned heads with his prowess as a runner rather than with his placement of the football.

In their first spring practice as head coach and quarterback, Napier came away impressed with Richardson’s arm strength and passing ability. 

“Today, to be honest with you, is the first time I’ve seen him throw the ball live. We didn’t get a chance to see him throw it in bowl practice because he was injured,” Napier said. “It certainly comes out of his hand really well.”

Sure, arm strength and mechanics are impressive attributes, and they’re desirable and coveted traits for a quarterback to have, but they rarely outweigh the mental aspect of the game. Just how well Richardson processes information and makes decisions on the field, both during competitions and in the preparation process, will factor into his long-term ceiling as a quarterback. 

“I thought 15 had a good day. I was impressed with what I saw. His attitude has been good. I think he’s impressed me with how he retains information, his attention to detail,” said Napier, referring to Richardson by his jersey number. “There’s a reason why people think that he has an opportunity to be a good player. It’s our job to help him become the best player he can be. That’s what we’re going to do.”

'I feel a lot better now'

The process of helping Richardson reach his full potential took another step Tuesday, though the QB never stopped working in spite of his injury. In the hopes of healing completely and avoiding another injury-plagued season, Richardson said he initially prioritized regaining strength in his legs, opting to wait to return to passing drills until late February. 

“I was just making sure my lower half was right," he said. "Because I had surgery on my knee, that was pretty much my main concern. But this past spring break, I went up to Jacksonville to train a little bit, to get my mechanics back in shape.”

Since then, Richardson has been airing it out as much as possible, with the hopes of furthering his odds of being Florida’s signal-caller of the future, whether it’s this season or beyond. Though he isn’t worried much about that right now — Richardson’s simply grateful for a clean bill of health. 

“I really started throwing again toward the end of (February). I was pretty much, like, immobilized. But once I got out of it, I tried to throw as much as I could,” Richardson said. “The (trainers) actually asked me this morning how I felt, and if I had a chance to do the surgery again, would I? I said yes, because I feel a lot better now.”