Anthony Richardson impresses
It was hard to know what to do with Richardson going into this season. For someone with only 64 pass attempts to his name, he was getting a lot of attention in the media. Mel Kiper, for example, was projecting him as a first round pick.
It’s impossible to project a quarterback that high when they’d done so little in college. Especially when his stat-line — six touchdowns to five interceptions — was mediocre.
However, Kiper often relays what he’s hearing rather than seeing. Thus, it felt like the league had their eye firmly on Richardson.
Today, it was obvious why. This was a particularly impressive opener.
The game overall was terrific. It had a bit of everything. Explosive plays, creative quarterbacks, hard-nosed running, big defensive plays and ebbs and flows throughout.
It was hard not to be drawn to Utah tight end Brant Kuithe. He had nine catches for 105 yards and a touchdown — excelling against the top-level SEC athletes on Florida’s defense to consistently get open. He is a name to watch going forward.
Yet Richardson stole the show with four quarters of mature, composed, explosive football.
Billy Napier has introduced a modern pro-style offense to Florida. There’s a lot of misdirection, motion and play-action. It’d be easy, in the first game, for a young quarterback to be a little overwhelmed and make basic errors — especially against a tough opponent like Utah.
Richardson’s processing was virtually flawless with the exception of one blip. He showed total control in play action and was calm and collected in the pocket. He knew when to take off and the specific coverages that would afford him space to run as the play broke down.
He throws with real velocity and punch. He completed several comfortable throws over the middle, going to a second read, to move the chains. He managed the game how it needed to be managed.
When he needed to be creative he produced magic. This included a spectacular 45-yard touchdown run where he weaved his way through the Utah defensive line then turned on the jets to sprint to the end-zone. It was part opportunism, part understanding of the coverage Utah were playing and the space he was running into.
ANTHONY RICHARDSON SAID DON’T MIND IF I DO 🐊💨 pic.twitter.com/uTsgcU3jo0
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 4, 2022
On a vital two-point conversion late in the game he spun away from an attempted tackle with almost a majesty — creating the time and space to fire into the right corner of the end zone. Without that play, Utah probably kick a game winning field goal shortly after.
It’s Anthony Richardson’s world and we’re just living in it 🔥
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) September 4, 2022
He also had a terrific scramble play earlier in the drive on 4th and 3 to make a conversion.
Richardson clearly possesses great physical tools. Arm strength, speed. He’s 6-4 and 232lbs. He can improvise. He extends plays and is a real threat with his legs. You’d like to see consistent evidence of accurate touch throws to complement the tools but hopefully that will come as he plays more games.
What he showed here, however, was maturity. This was — it has to be said — a game for a ‘Pete Carroll’ type of quarterbacking performance. It wasn’t a three touchdown, 400-yard game. It was a stay on time, produce in the moment and be the difference maker.
The only time it almost went south for Richardson was an ill-advised scramble on 3rd and 11 with 5:18 left in the third quarter. He had a misread on an open receiver, scrambled away from heavy pressure and forced a bad throw into coverage that should’ve been intercepted. It was a let-off — but the only time in the game you could say he made a serious error.
He finished the game 17/24 for 168 yards, adding 104 rushing yards on 11 carries and three rushing touchdowns.
Based on this performance, he does have legit first round talent.
He will face some interesting challenges coming up. Next week he goes head-to-head with Will Levis and Kentucky. He also has a three-game stretch against LSU, Georgia and Texas A&M at the end of October.
One game isn’t enough to make any bold declarations and we need to see more. He’s in the conversation though and one to monitor. In recent years, Joe Burrow and Zach Wilson looked great early in the season and ended up being a #1 and #2 pick.
If Richardson keeps playing like this — in a pro-offense — he will appeal greatly to the NFL and specifically to Seattle.
Carroll will want an explosive, exciting player who can help the running game with his mobility and speed but also have the mental capacity to manage key situations. We all know he wants a point guard who doesn’t turn the ball over. It’s hard to play that way and still be explosive. Richardson at least has the physical potential to pull it off — and this game was evidence he has the mental processing to match.
This was a good start and the sky is the limit for Richardson if he keeps it up.
— C.J. Stroud had a very C.J. Stroud type of performance. He is a very up-and-down player. Once Jaxon Smith-Njigba left the game early with an injury, the offense stuttered. Suddenly he didn’t have his three key receivers from a year ago. He became jittery and inaccurate. At one point he was 11/13 for 82 yards on underneath throws (-10 yards) and 1/7 for 21 yards on +10 yard throws. He threw high, he threw behind, he threw late. Yet he also flashed at times. He threw a nice touchdown down the seam to take a lead Ohio State never lost. He threw especially well on the run — contorting his body to throw from challenging angles, twisting to generate velocity. He’ll no doubt be able to pull off that pro-day throw everyone loves throwing against the grain in shorts. So the physical tools are there — he’s just streaky.
— It was an easy start for Miami and Tyler Van Dyke as they despatched Bethune-Cookman 70-13. TVD finished 13/16 passing for 192 yards and two scores. Job done in week one for a very impressive player who should be on your first round radar.
— Will Levis had a couple of hairy moments including a red-zone interception but Kentucky ended up comfortably beating Miami-Ohio 37-13. Levis finished 21/32 for 303 yards with three touchdowns and one pick. He suffered a number of dropped passes. He needs to keep the interception numbers down after 13 last year. There’s so much to like about his physical tools though. This little flick looks easy but it isn’t. He has sky-high potential.
— It was a predictably easy day for Bryce Young and Alabama. They hammered poor Utah State 55-0 with Young scoring five passing touchdowns (18/28, 195 yards) and one rushing touchdown (5 runs, 100 yards).
— I like Dorian Thompson-Robinson at UCLA. Not for round one but certainly someone who deserves more attention. He had a spectacular 68-yard touchdown scramble in a 45-17 win against Bowling Green. He finished 32/43 passing for 298 yards (two touchdowns, one pick). The brilliant Zach Charbonnet ran for 111 yards on 21 carries, also scoring a touchdown.
— I think Arkansas’ KJ Jefferson is being overrated by a lot of people but he had a solid opener against Cincinnati — going 18/26 for 223 yards and three scores. He also ran for a touchdown. I don’t see him as a likely first round prospect.
— At no point have I ever been convinced Spencer Rattler is a first round prospect — even when the hype was out of control a year ago. Today he made his debut for South Carolina and threw two interceptions against Georgia State. He trusts his arm way too much and just cannot process. He completed 23/37 for 227 yards and had only one passing touchdown.
— Tanner McKee was also a bit underwhelming with a 22/27 for 308 passing yards stat-line against Colgate. He had two passing touchdowns and one interception. He had a really nice game against Oregon a year ago but there’s a lot of bad tape out there too.
— BYU’s Jaren Hall — another player I think is a bit overrated — completed 25/32 for 261 yards against South Florida. He had two touchdowns and one pick.