Quick takeaways from Florida Gators' fourth spring football practice

Graham Hall
Gator Sports

Florida’s fourth spring practice session, held Tuesday afternoon, was the warmest thus far, but the Gators didn’t seek the comfort of the nearby indoor practice facility.

UF once again practiced across the two outdoor fields situated behind the open-air field and the in-construction standalone facility. 

Florida athletics director Scott Stricklin, fresh off hiring Todd Golden to lead the men’s basketball program, stood watch on the sideline, marking the first time he’s been witnessed attending practice this spring during the portion open to the media. 

Football coach Billy Napier spoke after practice Tuesday.

“I think the big thing I want our players to comprehend is you have to take these limits off of what we can accomplish here,” he said. “I really believe in our players right now. It’s all about changing our thinking. ... I’m very pleased with the effort of the players. Obviously, the execution, we have a long way to go in that area.” 

The availability for media to view practice was once again limited to a quarter of an hour. Here are takeaways from UF’s fourth spring practice. 

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Trent Whittemore returns

Gainesville native Trent Whittemore was seen practicing Tuesday for the first time in spring camp. The fourth-year wide receiver continues to progress in his recovery from an unknown ailment that kept him out of UF’s first three practices, though Whittemore showed no sign of being limited in his return to the field.

Whittemore ran routes with his position group during the portion of practice open to the media, albeit in an orange non-contact jersey. During the session, Whittemore's footwork looked noticeably improved as he was quicker out of his cuts. 

Fenley Graham learning WR position

With Whittemore missing the first week of camp, the Gators were even thinner at wide receiver. It wasn’t necessarily an ideal start for a program already tasked with replacing six of its top nine pass-catchers from last season prior to Whittemore being unable to go at the beginning of camp. 

That might have something to do with Fenley Graham’s apparent position change from safety to wide receiver. 

Graham, who played primarily on special teams as a redshirt freshman in 2021, has been working with Florida’s wide receiver unit since UF opened spring practice March 15. He has ability has a punt returner, having spent his high school career in Lakeland fielding punts and making defenders miss in the open field. Graham has impressive hands from what has been gleaned from practice, but early impressions show he has work to do with his route-running despite his impressive agility and acceleration. 

Anthony Richardson’s competition under center

After Emory Jones opted to enter his name into the NCAA’s transfer portal, the assumption was the quarterback job would be Anthony Richardson’s to lose. The possibility remains, however, that one of UF’s to redshirt freshmen quarterbacks — Jalen Kitna and Carlos Del Rio-Wilson — could make significant strides and compete for the job.

Throughout the start of practice, repetitions have been fairly evenly distributed between Florida’s four scholarship signal-callers, with each quarterback rotating and working with the entire receiver group. It’s still early into camp — and Richardson does have a leg up on the competition based on his experience and time in the program — but Kitna hasn’t wowed spectators so far during the open portions of practice.

In Tuesday’s session, Kitna ended a drill by underthrowing his receiver on an out route. After switching sides of the field, Kitna proceeded to deliver his next pass just above the outstretched hands of his intended target. Meanwhile, it’s been hard to get a sense of where Del Rio-Wilson stands.

Florida Gators quarterback Jack Miller III (10) throws the ball during spring practice at the University of Florida in Gainesville, on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

Jack Miller III pushing fellow QBs?

Until Saturday’s practice session, Jack Miller III wasn’t considered to be in the mix to compete for Florida’s starting job. But, according to a source at Saturday’s session, Miller was more impressive than he'd been in the weekday sessions, particularly with his awareness during live drills.

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He’s a consistent passer from what the media has been able to see, and his arm strength doesn’t appear to be an issue. It’s only been a week, but Miller, who transferred from Ohio State at the beginning of the spring semester, appears to be more than just an emergency quarterback for the Gators — he’s someone who appears to be pushing Florida’s signees at signal-caller. 

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium adjusts hours

In the lead-up to Florida’s spring game April 14 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, the university athletic association announced adjusted hours. 

The stadium will close on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. until April 13 — the dates remaining are March 23, March 25, March 28, March 30, April 1, April 4, April 6, April 8, April 11 and April 13. Aside from those days, the stadium’s normal operating hours, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., will continue.