Florida football: QB Jack Miller healthy, eager to compete, update on TE Keon Zipperer

Kevin Brockway
The Gainesville Sun
Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier talks with Florida Gators quarterback Jack Miller III (10) during spring football practice at Sanders Outdoor Practice Fields in Gainesville, FL on Tuesday, March 21, 2023. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

For Florida Gators' redshirt sophomore quarterback Jack Miller, the 2022 season began with a tough injury blow and ended with him making his first career start in a bowl game,

In between, Miller put in hours of work and rehab to return from a broken thumb suffered last August in fall camp.

Fully healthy this spring, Miller is competing with sophomore Max Brown and Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz for the starting quarterback job.

“It’s been a really good competition," Miller said. "We both embrace it, and Max (Brown) as well. We all love to compete, so it’s been a really fun spring so far.”

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A transfer from Ohio State, Miller broke his thumb in his throwing hand in the second week of fall drills. It was originally projected as a four-to-six-week injury, but the timeline was extended through late October.

“Initially, it was a torn UCL, but there was a fragment of my bone that chipped off with it, which made it a little more complicated to connect it all back in surgery," Miller said. "Really, the hardest part was just being able to bend it and all that stuff. It was really hard to get back to full-capacity strength.”

To regain strength in his throwing hand, he threw a youth football for four weeks in practice.

"A little tiny ball," Miller said. "It was a little weird.”

When Miller returned to the Gators, he was third on the depth chart behind starter Anthony Richardson and redshirt freshman Jalen Kitna. But when Richardson declared for the NFL draft and Kitna was dismissed from the team following an arrest on child pornography charges, Miller was thrust into his first career start in the Las Vegas Bowl against Oregon State.

Behind a makeshift offensive line that was missing All-American guard O'Cyrus Torrence, Miller was sacked four times. He completed 13 of 22 passes for 180 yards in UF's 30-3 loss to Oregon State.

"Not taking reps all season and then kind of tossed into the fire. It was definitely good for me to get my first start under my belt," Miller said. "It was just a good experience for me, I think.”

Miller connected on two passes of 20 yards or more, a 28-yard strike to receiver Ricky Pearsall and a 38-yard pass to receiver Thai Chiaokhiao-Bowman.

"It was definitely not the performance that I wanted or how I envisioned it going at all," Miller said. "But you know, I learned from it a lot and like I said, it really fueled me this offseason. I’ve been (upset) about it since it happened, so making sure it won’t happen again.”

TE Keon Zipperer suffers knee injury

Florida tight end Keon Zipperer suffered a serious knee injury during practice on Thursday and is out indefinitely.

The 6-foot-1, 250-pound Zipperer, from Lakeland, appeared in eight games for the Gators last season, starting six. He was Florida's best pass-catching tight end with 13 for 177 yards and one touchdown.