Sometimes something is so noteworthy an exception must be made to the rule.
And I’ve never highlighted a college player who isn’t draft eligible, but the skill set of Florida’s redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Richardson is too tantalizing not to be put in the spotlight. Right now.
He’s demonstrated No. 1 overall-pick talent and feels like a mixture of Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson. I’m serious.
Richardson and the Gators have a colossal showdown with No. 1-ranked Alabama in the swamp at 3:30pm ET on CBS. This is the first in what will be a litany of major barometer games in Richardson’s collegiate career that will gauge his production capabilities.
In two games this season, as the clear backup to Emory Jones, Richardson has completed six of 11 passes for 192 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. And he’s been unfathomable on the ground — 11 carries for 275 with two more scores, a ridiculous ground-game stat line that includes touchdown runs of 73 and 80 yards.
Have I mentioned Richardson is listed at 6-foot-4 and 236 pounds with a rocket-launcher arm?
Let me show you what Richardson brings to the field every game. Look away if you’re a defensive enthusiast.
Craving even more NFL coverage focusing on previews, recaps, news and analysis? Listen below and follow the Pick Six podcast for a daily dose of everything you need to follow pro football.
OK, by now, in the year 2021, we’ve seen a fair share of large athletic quarterbacks who are a pain to tackle because of the problems their mass presents for would-be tacklers — think Newton, Josh Allen, Trevor Lawrence, Trey Lance and Justin Herbert.
Richardson fits into that category — on the high end. He runs with more twitch than any of the NFL quarterbacks listed above but still can drop the hammer on every carry. I mean, how do you stop this?
If you’re asking yourself “what did I just watch?” don’t worry, I had the exact same thought, too.
Notice not only how outrageous jump-cutting the defender behind the line was but Richardson’s burst after it to explode up the field. Then two defenders had him corralled. Or they thought they did. He side-stepped the first would-be tackler, swiped away the next while singing Jay-Z’s “On To The Next One” in his head. Then to cap everything, a successful hurdle — with essentially no time to gather his momentum — to get the first down.
As if that wasn’t awe-inspiring enough, here’s Richardson eluding a free outside rusher, accelerating through space before finishing with a full head of steam through a Florida Atlantic defender past the sticks.
The initial movement on that play was, again, genuinely freaky, and the level of bend and speed at which he turned the corner into the second was reminiscent of an F1 car staying on a winding road.
If you’re a skeptic at heart, you may realize Richardson’s quick for his size but assume he’s likely not that fast because of all the mass he’s carrying. That assumption would be wrong.
Late in the throttling of FAU, Richardson kept it on another innocuous-looking zone-read. All he needed was one kick-out block — which he got — and, yeah, he was gone.
But maybe that was too easy, right? The lead block did pave the way through a giant running lane. I’ve provided a 73-yard Richardson touchdown against FAU and will raise you an 80-yard rushing score last week against South Florida. Much more difficult.
Richardson shrugged off a tackler in his grill just past the line of scrimmage, effortlessly stiff-armed a defensive back at the 35 then it was time for a house call.
Richardson has seen some schemed-open receivers on his 11 pass attempts through two games — and he’s undoubtedly a raw passer as a redshirt freshman — but he’s made the most of his opportunities throwing the ball.
Here against FAU, a flick of the wrist and it’s 35 yards downfield up and over the underneath cornerback for a splash play.
Then just last week against South Florida he put a pair of dimes on film. Both had added flair thanks to his athletic gifts. On the first, Richardson faked a designed run then launched the ball 40 yards while almost fading away from the pass with a defender launching into his front hip.
Great play, right? Not phenomenal, though. This next bucket throw was. After gliding to his right and feeling an oncoming edge rusher, Richardson floated left and was met by a pair of front-seven defenders. As they collided with him, Richardson released the ball deep down the field. It landed gorgeously over the cornerback and into his receiver’s arms just before he ran out of bounds.
Now that was the definition of arm talent.
Richardson did tweak his hamstring against South Florida on his 80-yard touchdown, but head coach Dan Mullen provided a “favorable update” on his star backup Tuesday, insinuating the injury was minor and that the hulking quarterback would practice in the week leading up to the clash against Alabama.
Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide have taken down a multitude of highly talented quarterbacks over the past 15 years. But Richardson has a legitimate case for being the most physically gifted. He’s not eligible until the 2023 NFL Draft. However, I have a feeling those GIFs are now burned into your brain and will be easily accessible for recall next year.