Spring fever was in the air Thursday as Gators football returned to campus for the 2022 Orange & Blue spring game. Although at its roots the game is just a practice scrimmage, there are always plenty of eyes on the annual event and plenty of things to be learned after 14 weeks of spring practice conclude.
Team Blue defeated Team Orange 31-0 in a lightly-contested game. There were plenty of positives and a few points of improvement in Billy Napier’s first spring game as head coach. The first-year man said in press conference there will be “a very specific plan to improve.” That being said, here a few takeaways from Thursday’s game:
Anthony Richardson steps into the QB1 role
Anthony Richardson looked healthy and ready to take the helm of Florida’s offense after his first season and flashes of talent was cut short by injuries. AR-15 finished with 15-for-20 passing for 191 yards and two touchdowns and took a majority of the first-team snaps. The sophomore also showed off his electric playmaking ability on his feet, scoring from 12 yards out on a rushing attempt.
From the eye test, Richardson looked comfortable in the pocket and appears ready to be Florida’s primary playmaker come Fall. If he can stay healthy, the young QB may be in for quite the season.
Inconsistencies remain throughout
It wasn’t all good looks on Thursday. The Gators struggled in a few phases of the game, but especially within the special teams group. Demarkcus Bowman fielded returns for Team Orange to the delight of many who have been subjected to a non-explosive return group in recent years. Unfortunately, Thursday did not instill much confidence in the specialists.
Bowman fumbled twice, the second of which lead to Richardson’s rushing touchdown and put Team Blue up 28-0. The mishaps continued on special teams as kicker Chris Howard whiffed from 32 yards away, which would’ve earned Team Orange the opening score had it gone through.
The second-team offense, led by Ohio State transfer Jack Miller, had a rough outing as well. Miller finished with a decent statline passing 13-23 for 121 yards.
This performance didn’t translate to points though, as Team Orange struggled to put together lengthy drives and never found the endzone. Jalen Kitna came in relief of Miller late in the third quarter before throwing an interception to safety Donovan McMillion.
No turnover chain
Speaking of McMillion, the sophomore donned what looked to be a turnover chain after his pick, to the anguish of many Florida fans who have mocked rivals Florida State and Miami for similar gimmicks. When asked about the chain after the game, Napier said, “Nobody ran that by me. That ain’t gonna happen.”
Needless to say, Gators Twitter can let out a sigh of relief.
Recruiting never sleeps
Probably the most important takeaway from the spring game is its impact on recruiting. Napier brought in a large group of prospects, including No. 4 ranked 2023 DB Cormani McClain. Multiple recruits made return visits for the weekend, indicating Napier and his group are making a good impression on their recruiting base.
The whole purpose of moving the Orange & Blue game to Thursday night was to pack the Swamp before students left for the Easter/Passover holiday and show recruits a night game environment. Time will tell how the experience affected the thought process of prospects in attendance.
Although Florida football will be on the backburner until the Sep. 3 opener against Utah, there may be plenty of more news on the recruiting end throughout the summer, and the Orange & Blue game may have a big impact in that regard.