Anthony Richardson’s leadership is his biggest improvement

Anthony Richardson and the Florida Gators are coming off the most complete game they’ve played all season after taking down the Gamecocks in the Swamp last weekend. Richardson looked as comfortable as ever running and throwing the football while the defense dominated for four straight quarters.

This weekend, the Gators look to keep their foot on the gas as they travel to Nashville to face the Vanderbilt Commodores in their final SEC match-up of the season.

“Whenever you’re doing something good, you want to keep it going,” Anthony Richardson said on carrying the momentum. “We also messed up a little bit in that game, penalties and stuff. We don’t want that, especially in the red zone. So we’re going to try to improve on that but keep the same intensity and the same effort that we had last week.”

Richardson has made huge strides in terms of being a prominent vocal leader on this football team. 

Richardson has started to speak up and take on the role of being the leader on offense a lot more since falling to Georgia. 

“Just being a leader. Keeping the team going, keeping the team rolling,” Richardson said on what he’s improved on the most. “I’ve improved with that a lot. That’s pretty much been our mission lately, just me speaking up and being vocal and leading by example. I feel like that’s the main thing I’ve improved on.”

Not only has Richardson started to realize he has a voice that can bring this team together, but so have many other players. 

This team has clearly gotten a lot closer and have started playing for each other more and more over the last few weeks.

“Surprisingly, other people started speaking up,” Richardson said. “They realize they have a voice as well, and we started playing for each other because of the leadership we have on the team. I’m thankful for it. I’m glad I got the opportunity to do it, and I’m glad other guys are stepping up and doing it.”

Coach Napier has brought a new energy into this football program and it’s starting to rub off on his players. The chemistry and bond of a football team can come a long way in terms of being successful and winning football games. This has been evident over the past two weeks. 

It’s been hard for a shy person like Richardson to be a vocal leader, but if there’s a coach who can change that, it’s Coach Napier.  

“It’s definitely been a gradual process for me because I haven’t always been a vocal guy who likes to talk a lot, but Coach Napier pushes me all the time to step out of my comfort zone.”

“A few weeks ago, I finally did it, and it felt good to express myself and have the team listen to me and have other guys relate to how I was feeling. It feels good to do it, and I’m going to try to continue to do it,” Richardson said.

It was clear that veteran players were sick and tired of seeing this football team just go through the motions in practice. Richardson, being one of these players, decided it was time to demand change and take a stand. 

“I feel like something went off in my head,” Richardson said. “Just like watching and seeing guys, sometimes we would just go through the motions if there’s a walk through. We know the plays and stuff so we’re just going to do this, instead of being intentional. I felt like we were just getting complacent because we’re here at the University of Florida. So I just decided to step up and talk to the guys, and a lot of people related to it. We flipped the switch, I guess.”

Anthony Richardson is his own biggest critic when it comes to his performance on the football field.

One of the biggest struggles for Richardson this year has been consistently with accuracy, which he’s been heavily focused on fixing as of recent.

“Definitely being consistent with accuracy, missing the guys by a yard or two, I’ve always been hard on myself about that,” Richardson said. “If I want to throw the ball here to their face and I throw it elsewhere, I’m going to criticize that.”

“Coach Nape tells me all the time, you don’t have to be so hard because it was completed. But as a quarterback, you want the ball to go where you want it to go. Being a perfectionist kind of affected that. Just accuracy is pretty much the main thing,” Richardson said. 

Richardson’s struggles don’t seem to be from a physical standpoint, but from a mental standpoint. Richardson understands how fast Ricky Pearsall and some of his receivers are. Knowing where to place the ball and how far Richardson needs to lead his receivers has been the issue at times. 

“It’s just me forgetting how fast these guys are,” Richardson said. “Just seeing Ricky come across the field and seeing how fast he can accelerate; I’ve just got to put the ball in a better spot for him. Just understanding that these guys do have real game speed, and I’ve got to put it in the right spot for them.

Not only has Coach Napier felt more comfortable running the football with Richardson ever since the growth of Jalen Kitna, but so has Richardson himself.

The way the defense rotates, with Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne being huge factors for this offense, has given Richardson more confidence to switch it up and keep the defense off-balance in the run game. 

“I’ve just been feeling more comfortable with zone read because we’ve been having the way the defense rotates and the way the running backs have been running the ball, they’ve got to pick and choose who they want to tackle. If they don’t want to tackle them, they’ve got to tackle me. If they don’t want to tackle me, they’ve got to tackle them,” Richardson said. “That’s just overall what it’s been.”

The way Florida’s defense has been playing has also played a key factor in terms of Richardson and this football team playing with confidence.

When the defense is rolling, it seems pretty easy for this offense to match it. 

“It makes it easier for us,” Richardson said. “They’re not letting people score, and we’re putting up some points. It makes it easier for us to win the game. I’m glad those guys are getting it rolling.”

Over the next two weeks, Florida fans will get a great look at just how much Anthony Richardson has grown throughout the course of the season as a starting quarterback. 

Richardson has improved significantly since losing to LSU and Georgia, but the real question is if Anthony Richardson can finish strong. Can Richardson continue to be a vocal leader on this team and be a mental factor for this team? Can Richardson adjust to in-game situations and know where to place the football? Will Richardson continue to play with confidence and utilize his legs in the run game to help out the offense?

There are still many questions to be answered. It won’t take that long to get answers with two huge games for the Gators standing right in their way of closing out the season strong and on a positive note. 

Gentry Hawk
Gentry Hawk is a student at the University of Florida studying sports journalism. He is a writer and reporter for GatorCountry. You can find most of his work on Twitter @gentryhawkgc, or right here on Gator country.