Welcome to the D-List. It’s the Deadspin Dean’s list for the absolute worst of the weekend in college football. The beauty of college football is that we witness raw football talent being molded every week before our very eyes. This is a place for the sloppy sculptures of talent, the gridiron underachievers, or the college football figures teams and Heisman contenders who should take a gap year after low-grade performances.
Anthony Richardson is flunking out as starting quarterback for the Florida Gators. A year ago, Richardson was college football’s Superman (before Caleb Williams ran away with the moniker and then had it trademarked). Richardson’s superhuman glimpses had Florida in a fervor not seen since Tim Tebow was taking option runs up the middle in relief of Chris Leak.
A year ago against South Florida, Richardson burnished his Kryptonian alter ego by completing all three of his attempts for 152 yards and broke off an 80-yard touchdown run by lowering his head, cracking down on a tackler in the first 10 yards of his run en route to a monster 115-yard game.
A viral clip of Richardson uncorking an 80-yard pass to a receiver on a go route at the Manning Passing Academy fueled the hype train into the 2022 season. What’s gone unnoticed about that clip is Richardson overthrowing his receiver by five yards.
After his hype machine forced out 2021 starter Emory Jones, Richardson entered 2022 as the undisputed starter. Since then, Richardson might be the single most disappointing player in the country, given the disparity between his production and what was imagined. Louisville’s Malik Cunningham is also off to an uncharacteristically slow start. Brennan Armstong has been a bummer so far, but they pale in comparison to Richardson.
Before the season, Richardson was being projected as a possible first-round prospect and Heisman dark horse. This season, he’s resembled a Bizarro Superman, wrecking the offense he’s supposed to be the leader of, and a future transfer portal QB. September is typically the month for pretenders to emerge. Richardson couldn’t even make it to October before fizzling out. He’s thrown four interceptions, while still only completing 41 passes for 423 yards.
He has the worst QBR in the SEC and the difference between his 89.0 QBR and the second-worst, Spencer Rattler (116.0), isn’t even close. The only quarterbacks nationally with a lower QBR than Richardson are J.T. Shrout of Colorado, Diego Pavia of New Mexico State, Joey Yellen from Hawaii, and Iowa’s Spencer Petras.
There’s no simpler way to put it: Richardson simply should not be starting for a top 25 program at this point. His promise was tantalizing, but it might be time for Florida to acknowledge whether he’s their starter. Bill Napier didn’t provide exceptional talent at the skill positions, but too often, the rest of Florida’s offense is being hindered by their quarterback’s kaboom-or-bust play.
For every miraculous feat (such as his dazzling 2-point conversion against Utah), there’s the awful lob in his return to South Florida that was picked off and nearly cost Florida the win, if it weren’t for USF’s amateurish execution late.
As a novelty, Richardson’s game-changing ability canceled out his inability to operate the mundane aspects of quarterback play, He throws 100mph fastballs when touch is required. Receivers consistently have to break stride and leap to reach his sailing throws.
To mitigate his overenthusiastic passing, the Gators’ offense has resorted to wide receiver screens that inflate his troublesome numbers. Against Kentucky in Week 2, Richardson was 14-for-35 and consistently high-balling throws that should have been easy completions. Yet, a third of his completions were shallow crosses and screens. They became so predictable that Kentucky linebacker Jordan Wright even picked one off. Richardson’s second interception was a miscommunication that resulted in Wildcats’ cornerback Keidron Smith waiting for the pass where Richardson expected the receiver to be and returned it to the endzone for six.
With no defenders around, Richardson is one of the greatest prospects we’ve ever seen. But Richardson’s penchant for leading touchdown drives for the other team has been all too common this season. Yet, all is not lost. Somehow the Gators are still 2-1. The schedule will only get tougher from here for Florida, and if Richardson is going to survive, he’ll need to settle down, take some mustard off some of his throws, make prosper reads and look for the five-yard gain instead of swinging for home runs at every opportunity.