Takeaways from the Florida Gators’ sixth spring football practice under Billy Napier

Noah Ram
Special to Gator Sports

With temperatures in the mid-60s, Florida Gators spring football practice moved back outdoors Saturday after a brief sojourn under cover Thursday.  

Coach Billy Napier again assisted with his quarterbacks and their development, but other groups, such as the defensive line, received their fair share of attention during the 15-minute portion of practice open to the media 

After practice, D-line coach Sean Spencer said the unit needs to first learn to play hard. 

“You want to be accountable for each other and disciplined,” he said. “I know those sound like cliché words, but when I’ve been a part of really good defenses, those were the factors we had.” 

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Spencer comes to Gainesville after two seasons in the NFL with the New York Giants, where he built critical relationships but connections that differ from relationships on the college level. 

“I’m really close with Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson, Dexter Lawrence, but it’s a business,” he said. “I miss being that mentor, that big brother, that father figure for these kids.” 

Spencer said he and the rest of the defensive coaches hope to construct a group that is fast and doesn’t beat itself up. 

Here are takeaways from Saturday’s practice. 

Anthony Richardson once again draws  spotlight 

Napier ensured Anthony Richardson had good variety in his few throws. The redshirt sophomore hit redshirt junior and fellow Gainesville native Noah Keeter on a curl. On his next throw, he scanned the field before dumping it off to running back Lorenzo Lingard. In the final segment, Richardson and other QBs tested out their deep balls. 

Other QBs, Jalen Kitna and Carlos Del Rio-Wilson, looked solid, with Wilson delivering a nice ball to Jack Anders. However, Jack Miller III missed on an open ball in the flat to tight end Keon Zipperer. 

Receivers prepare for increased roles 

UF wide receiver Justin Shorter (4) during the second week of Gators' spring practice Saturday at Sanders Football Practice Field in Gainesville.

Perhaps no group sees as much turnover from 2021 to 2022 as Florida’s wide receivers. Five of the Gators’ seven leading pass catchers from 2021 have departed. 

This puts immense pressure on the two who remain — Xzavier Henderson and Justin Shorter. The pair were seen during practice running two drills, one focused on route running, and the other prioritized on evading tacklers by running around a circle. 

They shared time in those drills with UF’s new wideouts, who should see an increased role this year, such as redshirt freshmen Daejon Reynolds and Kahleil Jackson. 

Perhaps the most intriguing is Jordan Pouncey. Former coach Dan Mullen restricted Pouncey to mainly special teams, but the Texas transfer should finally see an increased role, thanks to the dearth of depth. 

Florida head coach Billy Napier with wide receiver Jordan Pouncey (86) during spring practice Saturday at Sanders Football Practice Field in Gainesville.

Safety depth not an issue 

While Florida witnessed much change at receiver from 2021, the safety room stayed consistent. Both of UF’s starters, Trey Dean III and Rashad Torrence II, returned this season. 

However, the Gators still bring in a new coach, Patrick Toney. He joins Billy Napier’s staff after following him from Louisiana Lafayette. He has wasted no time leaving his mark and imparting his wisdom on the unit. 

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He instructed his group on how to handle man coverage, while on the other side of the field, outside linebackers coach Mike Peterson worked with his squad on blowing past offensive linemen and pressuring the quarterback. 

Pro Day is Monday 

This was the final practice for Florida before its pro day Monday. Several Gators will participate, including four who competed in this month’s NFL Combine — cornerback Kaiir Elam, defensive lineman Zachary Carter, running back Dameon Pierce and linebacker Jeremiah Moon.