The coach who used to pace the Swamp’s sidelines was referred to as a “quarterback whisperer” who was able to get the most out of his players at the position. While that reputation was probably not fully warranted, Dan Mullen did manage to reach his peak in Gainesville with Kyle Trask‘s surprising breakout, but this past season left a lot to be desired under center.
Now with Mullen gone, Emory Jones in the transfer portal, and four-star recruit Nick Evers decommitting and heading to Oklahoma, the cupboard is suddenly looking pretty bare at the most important position on the field. Redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson, who showed moments of brilliance in 2021 while also demonstrating the rawness of his talent, is currently head of the class — though injuries during the regular season which required minor surgery to repair raise a lot of questions about his durability.
That leaves 2021 prostyle quarterback recruits Carlos Del Rio (four-star) and Jalen Kitna (three-star) left on the bench behind Richardson, along with the son of a Gator great, Luke Matthews, who is a walk-on. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as Billy Napier and his staff would probably prefer to work with talent that they evaluated themselves, and it opens up an opportunity for a much more rapid improvement at a critical position.
Prep recruiting: A name that has popped up a lot in recent days is two-star Robbie Roper from Roswell, Georgia. The 6-foot-3-inch, 213-pound prep has not received a lot of attention nor an offer from UF, but new analyst Ryan O’Hara was reported to have visited his school in the few days before the dead period.
There was also similarly reported interest in former Oregon commit Tanner Bailey, but he signed with South Carolina on Dec. 18.
Transfer portal: A majority of the biggest names in the portal have already found a new home but there are still some decent options out there. Former Ohio State commit Jack Miller, a four-star in the 2020 recruiting class, is one name that has been tossed about. There have been some rumors that Miller has received an offer from Florida, but they remain uncorroborated; still, it would be a solid pickup for the Gators, albeit not likely an immediate impact player.
There is also one name from the top of the list that is still available: Incarnate Word’s Cameron Ward. Like Miller, he was also a four-star recruit in 2020, but has the advantage of having seen playing time over the past two seasons, appearing in 11 games. Chris Hummer of 247Sports recently published an article quoting a Power Five coach calling the 6-foot-three-inch, 225-pound Ward an “an absolute freak” after a fall campaign in which he led all FCS passers with 47 touchdowns against 10 interceptions, along with the nation’s third-best output of 4,648 yards, a 65% completion rate and a 154.2 passer rating.
So regardless of what the Gators decide to do, a decision will have to be made in the coming weeks on what to do about the dearth of legitimate quarterback options not just now, but in the future as well. There is no doubt that 2022 will have a strong element of a rebuild to it, but with the right choice at this key position, things could go well for the nascent Napier in his debut campaign.
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