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Sunday, January 16, 2022

Mullen talks Jones and Richardson, in-state games

The coach answered questions about a two-QB system and why games against local teams are important

Florida's Emory Jones on the field during the Gators' season-opening 35-14 victory over Florida Atlantic on Sept. 4.
Florida's Emory Jones on the field during the Gators' season-opening 35-14 victory over Florida Atlantic on Sept. 4.

On a night headlined by redshirt junior Emory Jones’ first start at quarterback for the Florida Gators, redshirt freshman backup Anthony Richardson stole the show with highlight reel runs and a 73-yard touchdown scamper during a season-opening 35-14 win over Florida Atlantic.

While the local product became the talk of the town Saturday, head coach Dan Mullen spoke with the media Monday and poured water on the social media fire. Mullen, who said after the game Jones was still his starting quarterback when asked about a potential positional battle in an interview on SEC Network, reaffirmed his stance and said Richardson still offered room to grow.

“Anthony knows the offense,” Mullen said. “It’s just getting the reps and the experience of the decision-making and making all of the reads and the checks within the offense. Go watch the film and he made spectacular plays but missed some very, very simple checks within the game plan.”

The fourth-year Florida coach said Richardson probably graded out higher than Jones for Saturday’s game due to explosive-play bonuses, but if those were removed, he theorized the two would have been graded similarly for their play against the Owls.

The Gators are no strangers to having more than one talented quarterback on their roster, famously starting Chris Leak and mixing in Tim Tebow during their title run in 2006. Mullen, Florida’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2005-08, said there are multiple ways to employ two quarterbacks into an offense, either truly alternating or creating packages for both players but refused to commit to such an idea for 2021.

“We’ll see,” Mullen said. “We’ll see how this week’s game plays out.”

Florida travels south down I-75 this week to play South Florida in its first away game of the season, and Mullen lauded the idea of teams having the chance to battle in-state rivals even if games didn’t have national implications.

“It’s a pretty neat game for people in the state of Florida,” Mullen said. “You’re going down to the Tampa area and for their fans to be able to come see that. For players, both teams having their highest percentage of players are going to be from the state of Florida, their families get to come see this game and guys know each other from growing up.”

Seven players on Florida’s roster have Tampa, Florida, listed as their hometown, including three starters: left tackle Richard Guoraige, running back Malik Davis and defensive end Zachary Carter. Starting linebacker Amari Burney and starting left guard Ethan White also hail from the Tampa Bay area, meaning at least nine players can call this week’s contest a homecoming. Davis and Carter both said they haven’t played in Tampa since high school.

“Obviously going to be going into a tough, hostile environment down in Tampa,” Mullen said. “With the USF fans already seeing their players come out saying, ‘Hey, this game’s been circled for years’ for them so obviously a big game for us and a big game environment.”

Mullen and his team get the chance to battle an in-state rival at Raymond James Stadium Saturday at 1 p.m.

Contact Ryan Haley at Follow him on Twitter @ryan_dhaley.

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Ryan Haley

Ryan Haley is a second-year journalism major with a sports & media specialization from Jacksonville, Florida. He grew up playing a bunch of different sports before settling on golf, following Rory McIlroy and all Philadelphia sports teams. He also loves all things fiction, reading, watching shows and movies and talking about whatever current story or character is in his head.

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