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Florida prepares for debut for new QB Jack Miller III

There may not be enough adjectives to describe Florida’s quarterback situation entering the 2022 Las Vegas Bowl.

For most of the season, the Gators relied on sophomore signal-caller Anthony Richardson. The Gainesville, Florida, native played all 12 of Florida’s regular-season games. While his play was inconsistent, he still led his team to bowl eligibility in coach Billy Napier’s first season.

But Richardson declared for the 2023 NFL draft after the end of the regular season. He’s one of four Florida starters — along with guard O’Cyrus Torrence, linebacker Ventrell Miller and wide receiver Justin Shorter — not playing in the Las Vegas Bowl Saturday.

Enter redshirt freshman Jack Miller III.

A former Ohio State transfer, Miller will be Florida’s starter at the Las Vegas Bowl. He’s a 6-foot-3, right-handed quarterback from Scottsdale, Arizona, who’s thrown 14 passes in three seasons of college football.

Now, he has a chance to lead his new team to the first bowl win in Napier’s tenure and stake an early claim to becoming the full-time starter next season.

Florida will play Oregon State (9-3), ranked No. 17 in the AP poll, at 11:30 a.m. Saturday when the teams contest the 2022 Las Vegas Bowl at Allegiant Stadium.

“He’s gotten a lot of reps in our system, just not in a game,” Napier said. “He’s excited. I think if you’re a competitor and you play quarterback, these are the ones you look forward to.”

Richardson started the season brilliantly. He completed 17 of his 24 passes for 168 yards and rushed for 106 yards and three touchdowns as Florida beat eventual Pac-12 Champions Utah 29-26 in the opening game of the season.

Richardson slowed down during the next two weeks, throwing four interceptions and accounting for zero touchdowns as Florida beat Southern Florida, but lost to Kentucky.

He rebounded with a strong performance against No. 6 Tennessee. He had four total touchdowns — two rushing and two passing — as Florida lost by just five points. However, he then completed just 16 passes across the Gators’ next two games.

Richardson played better during the second half of the season, throwing 12 touchdowns against two interceptions, but the Gators (6-6) went 2-4 during the stretch.

While Richardson’s performances remained in flux, Miller wasn’t even available. The redshirt freshman suffered a fracture in his right thumb during training camp, which required surgery. He returned to the team in mid-October.

“He’s been back for about six weeks,” Napier said.

By then, Miller wasn’t even Florida’s second choice. Redshirt freshman Jalen Kitna was firmly entrenched as Richardson’s backup, but he was dismissed from the team after being arrested in late November on felony child pornography charges.

Napier said Miller has lots of experience in Florida’s system, even though he hasn’t appeared in a game. The former Ohio State quarterback took the second-string reps through spring, summer and a majority of fall training camp before his injury. His teammates are confident he’ll produce Saturday.

Junior tight end Dante Zanders said Miller had assimilated into the program well since arriving from Ohio State ahead of the season. Zanders said the only difference he sees between the two quarterbacks is Miller’s relative lack of mobility

“It is a difference, but Jack’s been practicing with us for a while,” Zanders said. “He’s a good kid. He’s a good person.”

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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Las Vegas handicapper Bruce Marshall is editor of The Gold Sheet (Goldsheet.com). He provides the Review-Journal with college football tech notes and trends.