Will these five thrive? 5 players to watch in Florida's season opener against No. 8 Utah

Kevin Brockway
Gator Sports
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Ready for some Florida football?

Here are five players to watch for the Gators in their season opener against No. 8 Utah on Saturday night at The Swamp (7 p.m., ESPN).

Quarterback Anthony Richardson

Florida's season will ride on the arm and legs of Anthony Richardson, who will get a chance to lead the Gators this season after splitting time with Emory Jones last season.

Tight end Dante Zanders compared Richardson's athletic ability to former UF wide receiver Kadarius Toney, a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. "He's Kadarius Toney at the quarterback position," Zanders said. "He's got an arm on him. He do incredible throws off his back leg, run, everything. So he's an incredible player."

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Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) throws the ball before the Orange and Blue Spring Game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, on April 14, 2022.

After completing 58.9 percent of passes last season, Richardson has room to grow with his accuracy as a thrower, but worked hard with returning receivers and newcomers during the offseason.

"We’ve done a great job," Richardson said. "OTAs was the key component of building up timing and chemistry. I feel like camp went smooth for us. We all understand each other. They knew where I wanted to go with the ball. I knew where they wanted to run their routes, with landmarks and stuff like that.”

Punter Jeremy Crawshaw

Gators punter Jeremy Crawshaw (26), here last season against Missouri, is one of the most respected players in the locker room.

The punter from Down Under is not only a special teams standout, but also one of the most respected players in the Florida locker room. Jeremy Crawshaw, from New South Wales, Australia, earned All-SEC freshman honors last season, averaging 44.1 yards per punt with 20 punts of 50 yards or more and 20 punts downed inside the 20-yard line. In a tight game where field position could come into play, Crawshaw is capable of flipping the field on any kick. He expects even better results as a sophomore.

"Now that I have the experience under my belt of playing last year, I know what to work on. I know where I lacked and I was weak last year," Crawshaw said. "So I've been able to work on those points so that I'm better all around."

Florida coach Billy Napier said on his radio show Monday that players gravitate toward and respect Crawshaw for how he carries himself on and off the field. "He's got some leadership skills which is unique as a punter," Napier said.

Wide receiver Ricky Pearsall

Florida’s Ricky Pearsall (#1) goes up for the catch during the Gators' second preseason football practice, Aug. 4, 2022 at Sanders Football Practice Field, in Gainesville.

Ricky Pearsall showed he could make tough catches in fall camp when healthy, but missed the middle two weeks of camp with a bone bruise in his foot. An Arizona State transfer, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Pearsall will line up in the slot after making 48 catches for 580 yards and 4 TDs last season.

Pearsall has some familiarity with Utah's defense, making three catches for 39 yards against the Utes last season for Arizona State in a 35-21 loss. 

Right guard O'Cyrus Torrence 

Gators offensive lineman O'Cyrus Torrence (54) listens to a coach during the first day of spring practice March 15, 2022.

O'Cyrus Torrence is the focal point of Florida's revamped offensive line, which will look to establish the run behind the stellar, 6-foot-5, 347-pound interior offensive lineman. Pro Football Focus ranks Torrence as the third-best interior offensive lineman in college football, and he's already earned preseason All-SEC and preseason All-American honors. If Torrence can live up to the hype, Florida should be able to move the ball effectively on the ground and protect Richardson.

DL Gervon Dexter

Florida defensive lineman Gervon Dexter, Jr. (9) during a practice at the indoor practice facility on the University of Florida campus, in Gainesville, Aug. 13, 2022.

The 6-foot-6, 312-pound Gervon Dexter was a playmaker on UF's defensive line last season, posting 4 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries. Dexter will get some opportunities to rush from the edge after playing mostly inside last season.

"I feel like I can play the whole front almost, so there's no role really," Dexter said. "Just wherever they need me, that's where I'll be at."

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