Quarterback competition not over for UF's Jack Miller as he works to build on solid spring
Florida quarterback Jack Miller III arrived in Gainesville in early January by way of Ohio State with nearly as much collegiate experience as returning quarterback Anthony Richardson, who was expected to step into a starting role during spring camp.
The job wasn’t simply going to be handed to Richardson — the Gators needed capable signal-callers to push the redshirt sophomore to perform at the highest level when he returned from offseason knee surgery.
The uncertainty surrounding the future of Emory Jones — who announced Thursday he will transfer to Arizona State — coupled with the lack of playing time for quarterbacks Jalen Kitna and Carlos Del Rio-Wilson led Florida’s coaching staff to seek out a fifth signal-caller, one capable of enrolling at the top of the year.
Billy Napier had recruited Jack Miller before
The Gators settled on Miller, who would be entering his redshirt sophomore season after playing in six games across two seasons with the Buckeyes. He’d been recruited previously by head coach Billy Napier when Napier was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arizona State.
The prior relationship allowed the Gators to get an early foot in the door.
“He was one of the first people that I talked to when I entered the portal,” Miller recalled. “And once I found out he was coming here, I kind of knew that I was going to end up here.”
He may have been the newcomer in the room, but with Napier familiar with his skill set, combined with UF’s apparent opening at the position, Miller wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to compete for the role of Florida’s starting quarterback.
Throughout spring practice, Miller worked his way up the depth chart and moved ahead of Kitna and Del Rio-Wilson within the first three weeks of camp.
The latter opted to enter his name into the NCAA’s transfer portal five days after Florida’s spring game, while Kitna served as Miller’s backup on the Orange team. The son of former NFL quarterback Jon Kitna ultimately attempted three passes against the Blue team defense, all of which fell incomplete. Miller, meanwhile, completed 13-of-23 pass attempts for 121 yards during the spring game on April 14.
The opinion of many fans and teammates is that Richardson exited the spring as UF’s starting quarterback headed into the 2022 season. Miller maintains he and Richardson will continue to compete for the job heading into the opener Sept. 3 against Utah.
“We both had pretty good springs I want to say. We’ll both be ready to play,” Miller said. “I think competition is always a good thing. It really pushes you both to really reach your best potential.”
Former Buckeye still competing to be Florida's starting QB
Miller believes he’ll improve away from the program and during the offseason.
Having invested a majority of his time into acclimating to a new environment, and to meeting his new coaches and teammates, Miller felt as if he wasn’t able to properly dive into Florida's playbook. Before returning to the field in August, Miller expects to be more acquainted with the scheme and UF’s personnel.
“Everything goes so fast, and during spring ball everything's happening so fast, you don’t really have a chance to take time and really learn all the coverages you’re going to see, all the plays and all that type of stuff,” he said. “So, that’s really what I want to dive into and get really good at, knowing our system inside and out.”
Having spent his first two seasons with the Buckeyes, Miller has had to flush much of what he learned in favor of the offensive system being implemented at Florida under Napier. Any hope Miller had of expediting the learning process once he arrived in Gainesville went out the window when he got his hands on the playbook.
“I would say the offenses are pretty different. It might be a little too early to say anything like that, but yeah, there’s not a whole lot of similarities I don’t think,” Miller said. “I think it just takes time, honestly. Just getting comfortable here and getting comfortable with everybody and developing time with all the receivers, I think it takes a lot of time.”
Time may not be on his side, at least not for the upcoming season. Still, Miller isn’t ready to hand the starting quarterback job to Richardson — not after uprooting his life in Columbus to play for a coach who initially recruited him as a 14-year-old.
As the Gators now focus on offseason training, Miller has turned his attention to improving rather than fixating on where he stands in the depth chart — although that doesn’t mean he’s content with holding a clipboard and wearing a headset as the team’s second-string signal-caller during Napier’s first season with the Florida program.
“I feel like it’s been a good competition. I come in and we compete everyday,” Miller said. “I feel like I’ve gotten better, for sure, especially in (April), and I’m going to continue to get better and work hard everyday.”