Florida turns to ex-Ohio State QB Miller to start Vegas Bowl
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By MARK LONG
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida quarterback Jack Miller, who transferred from Ohio State last December, will make his first collegiate start when the Gators play 17th-ranked Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl next week.
Coach Billy Napier made the announcement Thursday, three days after standout Anthony Richardson left school early to start preparing for the NFL combine and a week after backup Jalen Kitna was kicked off the team following his arrest on child pornography charges.
Miller was slotted to be Richardson's backup during training camp before injuring his right thumb in August and needing surgery. Four months later, he'll get a chance to show he deserves to at least be in the mix for the No. 1 job next season.
"He has been participating in practice for a number of weeks," Napier said. "He's perfectly healthy. ... While he was rehabbing, we were very intentional about keeping those guys engaged. He's traveled with us. He's went through the process of prepping each week, watching the cut-ups, all those things at the end of the week from a test and tips standpoint.
"So he's been through the prep for a game. Obviously, the volume of work will be a little bit different for him. That'll be the biggest challenge."
Miller will be without at least two offensive starters since the Gators (6-6) had four players opt out of the bowl: Richardson, All-Southeastern Conference guard O'Cyrus Torrence, linebacker Ventrell Miller and receiver Justin Shorter.
Defensive tackle Gervon Dexter turned pro Monday but will stick around for the Vegas trip. Several teammates who either already entered the transfer portal or considered skipping Florida's bowl also agreed to play the season finale, some of them surely because of the destination.
"We've just got a lot of guys that are looking for an opportunity," Napier said. "They want to play, and we've got a lot of respect for that."
The Las Vegas Bowl is Dec. 17.
Miller played sparingly behind Heisman Trophy finalist C.J. Stroud last year for Ohio State, completing 7 of 14 passes for 101 yards. He also ran for 22 yards and a score in mop-up duty. Not wanting to sit behind Stroud another season, the 6-foot-3, 211-pound Arizona native landed in Gainesville to compete with Emory Jones and Richardson.
He quickly moved up the depth chart after Jones left in March (transferred to Arizona State) and Carlos Del Rio-Wilson left for Syracuse a month later.
With Kitna and Richardson now gone, the Gators are down four scholarship quarterbacks over the past nine months. Kitna would have started the bowl, but he was arrested last week after a police investigation found he allegedly shared child pornography pictures on a social media platform.
"Obviously it's a sad, tragic event for all the people involved here," Napier said in his first public comments since Kitna's arrest. "I think really trying to help all the people involved.
"Obviously, Jalen is going to have to move forward. But it's a challenge, and it's one that I appreciate our leadership ... certainly we've done everything we can do to help our players and staff. But as you said here, there's some things that come with that. We're turning the page and moving forward."
Napier will turn to the transfer portal for help. He has four-star commitment Jaden Rashada ready to sign later this month but is expected to sign a polished starter and maybe another quarterback from the portal to provide more depth. Behind Miller, Florida has walk-on Kyle Engel and freshman Max Brown.
"I think we all would agree that this game, the quarterback position's effect on your team with not only the production part but the leadership part, it's critical," Napier said. "We'll be working hard to address some of the issues at that position."
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Updated December 8, 2022