Quick takeaways from Florida football's third practice in spring camp

Graham Hall
Gator Sports
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Florida football's third practice session, held Saturday across UF’s two outdoor practice fields, was its first without redshirt senior quarterback Emory Jones, who earlier Saturday confirmed he would enter his name into the NCAA’s transfer portal.

Considering Jones intends to finish out the spring semester at UF prior to choosing his next collegiate destination, there was a possibility Jones would continue practicing to remain in shape. But Jones was nowhere to be seen at Saturday’s practice, and there are no intentions for him to return despite Jones remaining in Gainesville this spring.

When it comes to the quarterback's protection in 2022, offensive line coach Rob Sale said the unit made consistent strides since opening camp Tuesday. 

"I thought today was better. Tuesday we started fast and kind of faded there at the end, and Thursday we started slow and finished fast, and I thought today was better, a more complete practice," Sale said Saturday. "But I thought it was better. First day in pads and they're trying to get used to the knee braces and all the equipment on there, but it was better, for sure."

Here are 3 takeaways from the open portion of practice Saturday. 

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Anthony Richardson looking sharp

With Jones out, the Gators split reps at quarterback across four scholarship signal-callers. As the portion of practice open to the media began, Anthony Richardson completed a slant pass over the middle to walk-on running back Cornelius Barnes. Aside from a few errant downfield pass attempts and a slightly low pass to end the period, Richardson was once again sharp throughout the session. 

Keeping Nay’Quan Wright involved

About 20 minutes into practice, Gainesville native Trent Whittemore departed the indoor practice facility for the third consecutive spring practice. Whittemore is dealing with an unknown ailment, which has kept him out of spring practice through the first week of camp. Early-enrollee freshman Kamari Wilson exited early again, as did running back Nay’Quan Wright, who continues to work his way back from a knee injury suffered in the regular-season finale against Florida State. 

Since arriving on campus in early December, Florida running backs coach Jabbar Juluke has emphasized the importance of keeping Wright involved in off-the-field aspects of the team's preparation and improvement.

Gators running backs coach Jabbar Juluke during spring practice at the indoor practice facility on March 15, 2022.

"He's leading in the meetings. I put a lot of pressure on him. He has the most experience of the group," Juluke said. "He can't play, but you still have got to be able to make an impact on the team, and we want to make sure he continues to do that.”

Considering his usage and familiarity with the program, Wright is proving to be a valuable resource despite being unable to take the practice field. 

"I want him to be a leader. I want him to be encouraging to those guys, and make those guys understand that we're in this together, and he’s been embracing that role," Juluke said. "He's been doing a really good job with that. I'm proud of him. But you can have some ups and downs if you're not out there, man. I'm trying to keep him encouraged. Keep him part of what’s going on, that’s why I'm calling on him and leaning on him a lot to make sure he continues to be a leader for this team.” 

Top recruits in town

The sideline between the indoor practice facility and the outdoor fields was filled with recruits for the third consecutive practice, although there seemed to be a few more than the first two practice sessions.

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The Gators had several five-star prospects in Gainesville for the weekend, including 2023 quarterback Dante Moore, the No. 6 overall prospect in the class in 247Sports’ composite rankings. Florida also had Lehigh Acres running back Richard Young, the top running back in the 2023 class per 247Sports, on campus Friday night, though it wasn’t clear if either prospect was among the group taking in Florida’s practice sessions.

Cormani McClain, the top cornerback in the 2023 class and the No. 3 overall prospect, is expected to descend on Gainesville later Saturday night, as is four-star running back Cedric Baxter Jr. Between practice and recruiting, Billy Napier’s coaching staff has quite a workload. 

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