Georgia defense preparing to contain Florida’s Anthony Richardson

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson has been a force to be reckoned with in the run game.

The Georgia defense recognizes it and has been working to nullify his dominance on the ground when the Bulldogs face the Gators on Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla.

Florida leads the nation in yards per rushing attempt (6.38), largely because of the impact Richardson has on the game.

“It’s not actually the designed running plays that he kills people on; he’s good at (scrambles), and he’s physical,” UGA coach Kirby Smart said of Richardson. “They get an extra hat on (him) whenever he runs the ball. They don’t design-run him a lot; I think they do it when they have to, when they need to win a game they’ll certainly do it. But I think they value him, and they know that you can’t take that kind of pounding over and over again in our league.

“It’s really hard to defend because most coaches try to defend the pass by covering people, and the worst thing you can do sometimes is cover everybody, and this guy takes off because it puts your defense all spread out around the field.”

Richardson has been known for his ability to make plays out of broken schemes, one of the feats that earned him the starting spot for the Gators last season. Yet, the Bulldogs were able to negate his effect on the game in their 34-7 win last season. Richardson produced 108 yards from scrimmage in that game, with only 26 of those being rushing yards. He also was intercepted twice.

Still, Smart doesn’t plan to take any carryovers from that game, as the schemes are completely different because of the coaching turnover in Gainesville.

“It’s not the same offense, it’s different,” Smart said. “Different offensive coordinator. Billy Napier’s (offense) is different than Dan Mullen. There’s as much drop-back to it. It’s a lot of play-action shots, misdirections. They do a really good job at what (Richardson’s) good at. They cater the game plan and his skill set to give him the option of running or passing. Last year, that wasn’t what they were doing as much with him.”

Another reason why Richardson and the Gators’ run game have been successful stems from the offensive line’s performances from week to week.

“They are extremely physical,” Smart said of Florida’s strengths in the run game. “To me, they are extremely disciplined. They don’t beat themselves. They do a really good job at both line of scrimmages. You can see what Billy is building in terms of recruiting. No. 2, the way the players play. They play to a standard. They play really physical and hard. I am not saying that old Florida teams didn’t, but I don’t know if people acknowledge that when you see 6.3 yards per carry and they lead the country in terms of rushing yards.”

Georgia’s defense is focused on suppressing Florida’s run. Stifling tough run-heavy teams is not a game plan with which the Bulldogs are unfamiliar. They did the same against Auburn a few weeks ago.

“We take each week and hone in on what we have to do to stop (tough runners including Richardson),” defensive lineman Zion Logue said. “We know we have to keep him in a rut and keep him in a cage. We try to drive him on the left side. We know he wants to get to his right, so doing little things like that to keep him in the pocket and let our guys cover.”

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