FOOTBALL

Receiver Ricky Pearsall a top target in Florida offense, thanks to relentless routine

Kevin Brockway
Gator Sports

The morning routine for Florida Gators wide receiver Ricky Pearsall begins with 100 catches on the JUGS Sports machine, which simulates passes thrown from a quarterback at various speeds and distances.

 Then, after practice, it’s back on the JUGS machine for 100 more catches at night.

“You gotta get in 100 catches each time. I mean, in a row,” Pearsall said. “That's how I look at it. I gotta get 100 in a row on the JUGS machine before I can leave. So if I drop one, I got to restart.” 

Pearsall is no stranger to hard work.

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Transfer Ricky Pearsall moves past injury setback

Gator wide receiver Ricky Pearsall (1) makes a leaping catch Sept. 3 during the opening game of the 2022 season against the Utah Utes at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville.

Even after an injury setback in fall camp, Pearsall emerged as quarterback Anthony Richardson’s top target in UF’s 29-26 win over Utah last Saturday, finishing with four catches for a team-high 67 yards receiving.

“I've always been a hard worker,” Pearsall said. “So I think that’s something that’s really honed is my work ethic. I think that just over time has developed.”

An Arizona State transfer, Pearsall had 48 catches for 580 yards and four TDs for the Sun Devils last season. Pearsall grew up in Tempe, Arizona, near Arizona State’s campus, and admitted the decision to leave home was difficult.

When Pearsall put his name in the transfer portal, his cellphone rang all week, but the conversation with Florida coach Billy Napier stood out most.

“I put all my trust into Billy Napier,” Pearsall said. "He’s a tremendous coach and the things that he had to say. We trust him and want to be here.” 

At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Pearsall flashed the first week of UF’s fall camp with his quickness, hands and route running ability out of the slot. But then came a foot bruise, which sidelined him for close to two weeks in August. Pearsall returned in time to finish up the final week of fall camp and earn a starting job.

“It was really unfortunate because I wanted to be out there with my guys,” Pearsall said. “I just got here and I want to show everybody what I got …

“I'm good now and I'm gonna keep building on these days and keep proving to the world and keep proving to my teammates that I can get up.” 

Napier, a former receivers coach at Alabama from 2013-16 who worked with Jerry Jeudy, Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley, said what stands out about Pearsall is his experience.

“He’s a very skilled player,” Napier said. “I think he’s skilled at the line of scrimmage, at the top of the route. He’s got really good ball skills. He’s got a really unique quickness and acceleration.

“I think he’s got a little creativity. The guy’s been running routes a long time and we needed a player like that, who’s got some run after the catch and some quickness.”

So how hard does Anthony Richardson throw? 

In addition to putting trust in Napier, Pearsall said he’s developed a chemistry with Richardson, who possesses the arm strength to deliver balls into tight windows.

“He's a tremendous athlete,” Pearsall said. “He can throw the ball. Everything you want in a quarterback, he has.”

How hard does Richardson throw?

“You gotta be prepared for sure,” Pearsall said. “You gotta have strong hands, but that's why I'm on the JUGS machine every day in the morning and at night.” 

Pearsall will look to build off his impressive Florida debut when the No. 19 Gators (1-0) host No. 20 Kentucky (1-0) on Saturday. Through the ups and downs of adjusting to a new team and new surroundings, Pearsall said he’s feeling more comfortable.

 “It took a lot for me to pick all my stuff up and leave,” Pearsall said. “But I know this is a really good opportunity for me and I know I can do it. I knew it was the right time to do it and it’s a blessing to be here and this is home now.”