Here are three observations, two questions, and one prediction as the Florida Gators begin the first of 15 spring football practices under Billy Napier.
1) There are position battles galore. As is the case with any new coach or coaching staff, most depth chart spots are up for grabs because players are off to a fresh start, with a new set of eyes on them. Just looking at the roster there will most certainly be a competition at quarterback like most years, not to mention running back and tight end (albeit every single one of those could be used). Plus, how will the WR3 contest go? Maybe some surprise names will surface as candidates for starting or significant roles.
2) The Gators return their left tackle, left guard, and center. Not to mention nabbing a highly-coveted right guard from the transfer portal. However, there is a quandary at right tackle where Florida could go one of two ways with this: either take the best available or someone who played the position last year. That lends itself to a decision between Josh Braun and Michael Tarquin. Braun, who filled in nicely at guard last season, has the ability to play inside and outside, but it was Tarquin who was the guy off the bench to spot Jean Delance when he went down. Those are two early people to look at for this position battle.
3) Florida lost some good wideouts over the years, including watching as Jacob Copeland moved on, but there are still playmakers at wide receiver. The presumed top three from the two-deep breakdown are Justin Shorter, Xzavier Henderson and Trent Whittemore. All flashed that they had some ability, at times, last year.
1) How will the quarterback battle shake out?
Obviously, the question on most fans’ minds: who will be the starting quarterback. They probably also made those minds up in terms of whom they want: Anthony Richardson. Snake bit by injuries in a “meh” second-year campaign, he put on a show at times as the Gator signal-caller. But Jack Miller III comes in there with every intention of competing for that job. Carlos Del Rio-Wilson and Jalen Kitna won’t shy away either. Plus there’s returning starter Emory Jones. Florida can, but shouldn’t, carry five scholarship quarterbacks, so one could go. But there are a lot of guys gunning for that spot.
2) Can the Gators build quality depth?
The No. 1s, for most positions, don’t leave much to worry about. The offensive line full of multi-year starters, there are upperclassmen at wide receiver and lots of talent at running back. Really, the only question marks are quarterback and tight end. But the bigger question is how good are the guys behind them? For example, Florida returns 13 catches for 171 yards from wide receivers without the last names Shorter, Henderson and Whittemore. The Gators could have a couple of inexperienced backups at left tackle and center too.
1) The quarterback situation will still be unsettled after spring
This spring is important to Anthony Richardson if he wants to be the starter in 2022. But the next two- summer semester sessions are as well. If Richardson blows everyone away during this semester, he’ll have to not lose the job in the summer. But we probably won’t see a choice at QB1 made until fall camp seeing as that’s how college football seems to be now with its quarterback competitions.