FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
Though college football is in a state of flux due to the pandemic, preparations for the 2020 season must go on.
Since they are currently unable to work out with the Florida coaching staff, for the Gators’ three scholarship quarterbacks and two 2021 commitments, that means returning and training with their personal coaches that have worked with them over the years.
In this five-part series, Inside The Gators caught up with each of the five quarterbacks’ personal coaches to discuss their off-season work, what they expect from their pupils this season, their outlooks for the future, and more.
We continue today with Anthony Richardson.
Florida freshman quarterback Anthony Richardson threw with former Tennessee signal-caller and current Jacksonville Jaguar Joshua Dobbs in Jacksonville last week. About 10 minutes into it, Dobbs was blown away by the guy on the other end of the ball.
“He was like, ‘Who in the heck is this kid?’” said Denny Thompson, Richardson’s personal coach, who heads 6 Points Jacksonville.
Richardson has that effect on people. At 6-foot-4 and 233 pounds, he has a body that more closely resembles that of a five-year NFL veteran than a typical teenager. Some fans have even likened him to former Gator and current New England Patriot Cam Newton before he’s ever played a down of college football.
“I can tell you maybe a couple guys that I’ve worked with in all the time I’ve been doing this that’s had the combination that he’s got of strength, speed, talent, all that kind of stuff,” Thompson said. “It’s extremely rare.”
Richardson first met Thompson during his junior year of high school. Richardson knew about Thompson through eventual Georgia-signee Carson Beck and eventual Georgia Tech-signee Jeff Sims, who were acquaintances of his and two of Thompson’s pupils. One of his coaches at Eastside High School in Gainesville contacted Thompson about training Richardson, who at the time was an incredible athlete but an extremely raw passer. Shortly thereafter, Thompson began training Richardson, and they’ve worked together since.
Even though Richardson enrolled at UF in January, Thompson still made the trip to Gainesville every other week to work with him. They were forced to take a hiatus when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the campus and Richardson couldn’t get to Jacksonville. Richardson has visited Thompson several times in recent weeks, and they’re starting to put together a training schedule again, Thompson said.
Thompson thinks having a private coach in addition to the Gators’ coaching staff will benefit Richardson. College coaches are limited to 20 hours per week with the players, and they have big-picture things to worry about. They don’t always have time to help their third-string quarterback improve his passing mechanics in the middle of the SEC season. Thompson said his job is to work with Richardson fundamentally and mechanically so that he’s prepared for anything the Gators might throw at him.
STATE OF THE QUARTERBACKS
- I: (free) Del Rio coming out party
- II: (free) Kitna an 'ascending' prospect
- III: Richardson a promising talent for the future
- IV: Jones a 'special quarterback'
- V: (free) Trask primed for stardom
Thompson has seen Richardson grow tremendously during their time together. As a junior at Eastside, Richardson completed less than 50 percent of his passes and looked out of place at quarterback. As a senior, he completed 64.5 percent of his throws for almost as many yards as he had as a junior in just six games before a shoulder injury ended his season.
Richardson’s intelligence and ability to pick up on things fast allowed him to make that large jump, Thompson said.
“He’s a completely different guy than what he was at the end of his junior year,” he said. “I think anybody who watches him throw, anybody who watches him play the position now says, ‘Oh, this kid is an elite-level thrower as well as one of the best athletes that we’ve laid eyes on.’
“A lot of things that it takes me months to work on with quarterbacks, Anthony can pick up in a matter of hours. He’s so athletic and so coordinated that he feels his way through every movement. He can feel when he’s doing something right, when he’s doing something wrong.”
Thompson has been coaching quarterbacks for almost 20 years and is considered one of the foremost “quarterback gurus” in the country. He said Richardson has as much natural ability as anybody he’s ever worked with.
“His strengths are the size, speed, power, arm talent combination,” he said. “I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen anybody with the kind of baseline talent that Anthony has. It’s crazy. Obviously, everybody’s seen him; he’s a big guy. His arm talent is through the roof.”
Richardson has just begun to scratch the surface of what he’s capable of as a passer. While he made great strides in this throwing mechanics between his junior and senior years of high school, Thompson wants him to make a similar leap this year.
“I don’t think it’s as much of a weakness as it is just a work in progress of tying eyes and feet together, tying movements together and really just try and take that next step mechanically,” he said. “He took a really big jump last year mechanically. Can we take that next big step mechanically to where it’s all just natural to him? He’s such a smooth thrower already. Can we kind of combine that with different points of emphasis mechanically that’ll kind of take him to that next level?”
If he does, the nation better lookout. Richardson was one of the fastest and most athletic quarterbacks in the 2020 class, and he should thrive as a runner in Dan Mullen’s spread-option system.
As you might expect, Thompson has modest expectations for Richardson’s freshman campaign. He wants him to learn the system, get some playing time in four games and redshirt. If he were to get rushed into action due to injuries, Thompson thinks Richardson could get himself ready to play because of his mental acuity.
Eventually, though, he expects him to become one of the nation’s top quarterbacks.
“After this year, I think Anthony’s got a chance to be extremely special,” Thompson said. “Not even just saying successful, I mean extremely special to the point to where I think if you were going to make a quarterback for what Dan Mullen wants to do – well, heck, for what anybody wants to do in college football – you would mold it after what his skill set is.”
— Denny Thompson (@denny_thompson) July 4, 2020