Billy Napier on Gators’ backups: Jalen Kitna growing, Jack Miller on the mend – The Denver Post
Florida’s quarterback situation behind Anthony Richardson is improving as the Gators’ starter works his way out of a recent funk.
Coach Billy Napier said Wednesday redshirt freshman Jalen Kitna is coming off his best week of practice. The son of former NFL quarterback Jon Kitna is the No. 2 quarterback entering Saturday’s visit to Tennessee despite having not thrown a college pass.
“In particular last Thursday he was extremely sharp,” Napier said. “He had a good day of practice [Tuesday]. Jalen has done a great job of making good decisions, he’s been very accurate and each week he gets a better understanding of our system.
“Been pleased with Jalen and the progress.”
The 6-foot-4, 208-pound Kitna’s emergence coincides with redshirt freshman Jack Miller’s recovery from mid-August surgery to his broken right thumb. Miller, who faced a 4-6 week recovery, has “made significant progress,” Napier said.
The Ohio State transfer was in line to back up Richardson until the injury. Miller’s status is day to day.
“Jack is still to be determined relative to his role Saturday and potentially going forward,” Napier said. “He’s got a football in his hands now. It’s just more about his comfort level physically and mentally with the thumb and where it’s at.”
Richardson’s confidence level, though, will be key to Florida’s chances as 10.5-point underdogs at Tennessee.
The redshirt sophomore did not build on a strong Week 1 performance against Utah, including 274 total yards and 3 rushing scores. Against Kentucky and USF, Richardson completed just 24 of 53 passes (45.3%) for 255 yards, no touchdowns and 4 picks. He also ran for just 28 yards on 13 carries.
If Richardson struggles at Tennessee, Napier will have to decide whether to sit him for Kitna, even if to only allow the Gators’ starter to recalibrate.
“When you think about it, Anthony is going into his fourth game in this system and this way of operating,” Napier said. “There’s a certain amount of wisdom that comes from experience.”
Napier was born in Cookeville, located in central Tennessee, and home to Tennessee Tech, the alma mater of his mother and father.
Napier grew in Chatsworth, Ga., less than an hour drive southeast of Chattanooga. Napier’s late father Billy grew up in Salina. Napier said his mother Pam’s parents owned a tobacco farm in Sparta.
“I’ve got all kind of family that’s diehard Tennessee fans,” he said. “Know all about the Vols for sure.”
Napier joked his family had better be Florida fans this week.
“If they’re not, they won’t be at the game, I can promise you that,” he quipped.
Yet, Napier is not sure where allegiances will truly lie on Saturday.
“I don’t know that they would tell me that to my face,” he said. “But hopefully they’ll find a little soft spot for the Gators Saturday — we’ll see.”
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Edgar Thompson at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @osgators.
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