Florida football: Quarterback Anthony Richardson searching for answers in the passing game
As Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson prepares for his first career road start against the Tennessee Volunteers, questions linger as how to get UF's dormant passing game on track.
The Gators (2-1, 0-1 SEC) entered this week ranked last in the SEC in passing offense at 141 yards per game. Richardson has yet to throw a touchdown pass in three games this season.
A chance for UF's elusive first TD pass came Saturday night in the fourth quarter against USF, but Richardson's attempted fade pass to receiver Justin Shorter in the end zone came up short and was intercepted by USF cornerback Aamaris Brown.
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Anthony Richardson: 'I can't try to force it'
"At first it was definitely getting to me because, you're like, bro, you're a quarterback. How come you don't have any passing touchdowns? You have four interceptions," Richardson said. "I mean, I'm throwing the ball but just not getting in the end zone.
"So it was affecting me a little bit, but now I'm just like, OK, it's football. It's going to come. I've got to let it come to me. I can't try to force it. I've got to let the game be the game."
Richardson said the Gators are trying a new tack this week to get the passing game going, joint quarterback-wide receiver film sessions to go over how to attack different coverages that defenses are using against them.
"Talking to Ricky (Pearsall) and Xzavier (Henderson) and Shorter, feel like we have a good understanding," Richardson said. "We'll see how it goes."
Accuracy has been an issue for Richardson, who has completed 53.2 percent of his passes (41-77). Last Saturday against USF, Richardson started 7 of 9 passing in the first half before going 3 of 9 in the second half with two interceptions.
"The guy played a really good first half of football," Florida coach Billy Napier said. "We ran 25 offensive plays, and he was spot on in the first half. The second half obviously is an area where we need to clean some things up. We ask our quarterback to do a lot, and he's managing it well, and he's going to continue to get better."
Napier said better precision in the passing game will be a point of emphasis this week as the No. 22 Gators prepare for their first road test at the No. 12 Tennessee Volunteers (3:30 p.m., CBS).
"When I say that, I'm talking about protection," Napier said. "I'm talking about detail and the steps and depths of the route, the aiming points, and the quarterback progression and decision-making. So all 11 players contribute, and I think we need to be more precise and more detailed in that part of our football team."
Ultimately, though, Richardson gets the most attention in the passing game as the player who delivers the ball. Richardson said for the most part he's satisfied with this throwing mechanics.
"But sometimes in the game I get too happy with my feet," Richardson said. "I'm hopping around and moving too quick or moving too slow, and that might affect power or accuracy."
Richardson has been leaning on mentors inside and outside the building to shake his two-game slump, in which he's completed just 24 of 53 passes with four interceptions. He's talked to UF staff member and fellow Gainesville native Vernell Brown and his former high school coach at Eastside, Cedderick Daniels.
"He felt I wasn't being myself, I wasn't being Anthony, and he said he could see that when I walked out there for warmups," Richardson said. "I didn't feel like that until halftime, second quarter, and he already seen it before I did. I thought, dang, that's pretty crazy."
Even Richardson's mom, LaShawnda Lane, attempted to lift his son's spirits on Sunday night at the dinner table.
"She actually got onto me last night because I was talking about the four interceptions, and she started bringing up all these great quarterbacks and how many interceptions they've thrown," Richardson said o. "So my family, my mentors, they help me keep my head on straight."