Florida’s exasperating 2022 college football season continues. This season has been exasperating not because of the mounting losses.
Though that’s certainly part of the journey for first-year head coach Billy Napier. The exasperating reality at the heart of this season is the fact that quarterback Anthony Richardson continues to show, in brief bursts, how good he can be. When he plays the way he did in the third quarter against Georgia, showing the full measure of his luminous talents, it makes every Florida fan wonder why we can’t see that version of Richardson all the time, as was the case against Utah in Week 1. Richardson’s best football is a reminder of how excruciating and frustrating it is when he doesn’t play well. His volatility is the biggest mystery and puzzle for Napier to solve heading into 2023. The potential is right there, but the consistency has been lacking.
Obviously, Florida needs the good version of Anthony Richardson to show up against Texas A&M. Jimbo Fisher loves to beat Florida. He did that a lot when he was the coach at Florida State. He dealt Dan Mullen and Florida a painful loss a few years ago. How can the Gators strike back? It starts with Richardson and then flows through these three other game keys:
1 – Contain Evan Stewart
The Texas A&M offense depends on Devon Achane in the running game, and it depends on Evan Stewart in the passing game. The Aggies are playing a true freshman, Conner Weigman, at quarterback. Stewart is going up in the air and winning 50-50 balls to take pressure off Weigman. The young quarterback is throwing the ball knowing his stud receiver has a good chance of catching it. Florida defensive backs have to be able to win these 50-50 battles against Stewart. If they lose them, the Aggies can hit big plays and score without having to be schematically developed, and without Weigman having to make complicated reads and decisions. This is such an important part of a Gator path to victory.
2 – Offensive line
The Florida offensive line went up against Georgia’s loaded defensive front last week. Texas A&M has a solid defensive line, but it’s not as good as Georgia’s. Florida needs to take advantage of the fact that it will have an easier set of manageable offensive line assignments and tasks, compared to the Georgia game. The Gators need to do everything they can up front to make Anthony Richardson comfortable and put him in the best position to succeed.
3 – Pass rush
If the Gators can prevent Evan Stewart from winning 50-50 balls on fades and go routes, Weigman will then have to stand in the pocket. He won’t be able to release the ball as quickly as he would like to. That’s when the Gators have to get to the freshman, rattle him, push him off his spot and his preferred platform, and force mistakes. Florida will need to force at least one turnover if not more to win this game. It starts with a good pass rush on a freshman QB who is still learning how to play.