Emory Jones has been waiting to become the starting quarterback at Florida since he was signed by coach Dan Mullen as the centerpiece of Mullen's first recruiting class in 2018. Two games into his first season as QB1, he's already being overshadowed by "the next big thing" -- redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson.
Richardson, a four-star prospect in the Class of 2020, had 152 passing yards, 115 rushing yards and three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) in No. 13 Florida's 42-20 win over South Florida in Tampa on Saturday afternoon. This comes on the heels of a 160-yard, one-touchdown performance on the ground last week against FAU. That makes him the first Florida quarterback in history to have back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances. That's right -- 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow didn't even do that.
Richardson also became the first player since Tebow to have 100 yard rushing and passing performances in the same game since Tebow did it as a senior in 2009.
Jones, on the other hand, had two interceptions and wasn't able to stretch the field deep against the Bulls.
Mullen was asked if Jones is still his starting quarterback in his postgame press conference, to which he answered "yeah." Not exactly the most enthusiastic response in the world.
That'd be the wrong play. Richardson should be under center shortly after toe meets leather next week vs. No. 1 Alabama in the SEC on CBS Game of the Week as long as he's healthy after pulling up limping after his 80-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Yes, it's a massive stage and Jones has been around enough to know what it's like to be in an SEC pressure-cooker, even though he hasn't played a huge role in those matchups. But Richardson has shown that he is a difference-maker on the ground. That's the foundation of most of Mullen's offenses, last season with Kyle Trask notwithstanding. We know through two games that both quarterbacks are capable of handling things in that department.
Mullen hasn't given Richardson much of a chance to show just how good he can be through the air. He's 6 of 11 for 192 yards and two touchdowns through two games, while Jones is 31 of 49 with two touchdowns and four rather head-scratching interceptions.
Mullen's decisions boils down to this -- does a quarterback who is reckless and turns the ball over deserve the nod over a quarterback who hasn't had much of a chance to prove his worth through the air one way or the other? In some situations, maybe. But turnovers will turn games vs. Alabama into blowouts in a hurry.
The game plan vs. the Crimson Tide will be ultra-conservative no matter who starts. Through two games, it's clear that Richardson not only has the explosiveness to give Florida a puncher's chance, but is more responsible with the football.
The likelihood of Florida springing an upset on the mighty Crimson Tide isn't very high. But Alabama has struggled with mobile quarterbacks at times in the past as long as those quarterbacks can at least provide a threat through the air. Give Richardson the rock and roll the dice. There's no shame in throwing haymakers at Alabama -- even if only a few of them end up landing.