Ricky Pearsall nears a receiving milestone that has eluded Florida for more than 2 decades

Tue, Nov 21, 2023

Ricky Pearsall nears a receiving milestone that has eluded Florida for more than 2 decades

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Florida receiver Ricky Pearsall woke up Monday and immediately texted his new quarterback, Max Brown.

"1 is always open," Pearsall wrote, referring to himself by his jersey number.

He's not wrong.

Pearsall, a fifth-year senior who transferred from Arizona State, has been the team's most dependable player in his second season with the slumping Gators (5-6). He has 64 catches for 948 yards and four touchdowns to go along with two rushing scores.

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He is 52 yards shy of becoming Florida's first 1,000-yard receiver since Taylor Jacobs in 2002, a head-scratching drought for a program that's won two national championships since then while developing wideouts like Chad Jackson, Andre Caldwell, Percy Harvin, Riley Cooper, Demarcus Robinson, Van Jefferson and Kadarius Toney.

Pearsall hopes - expects, really - to reach the milestone in the team's regular-season finale against in-state rival and fifth-ranked Florida State (11-0) on Saturday night.

"It's right there, 52 yards away," he said. "But I'm more than a personal goal kind of guy. Obviously, team goals override that for myself.

"I think the W is going to feel a lot better than any personal achievement to me, but I know within myself that I'm a thousand-yard guy. Whether I get it or not, I'm a thousand-yard guy."

Pearsall caught the majority of his passes this season from Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz, who broke his left collarbone in a 33-31 loss at then-No. 11 Missouri last week and is sidelined roughly two months. Brown replaced Mertz late in the third quarter and threw his first pass to - no surprise - Pearsall.

"I was super proud of him for stepping up in a game like that," Pearsall said. "He's a super confident player. He's a baller. I think he's one of those guys; I don't think the lights get too bright for him. He's ready at all times."

Brown completed 4 of 5 passes for 56 yards and ran seven times for 42 more. He led the Gators to 10 points in the fourth and helped them take a 31-30 lead in the final two minutes. Missouri converted a fourth-and-17 play - the latest gaffe for coach Billy Napier's rebuilding team - to set up a winning field goal.

The crushing loss left the Gators, who have dropped four in a row, needing a victory against FSU to become bowl eligible. The Seminoles are 6 1/2-point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, but will be without star quarterback Jordan Travis, who sustained a season-ending left leg injury last week against North Alabama.

"Inside that locker room, I think there's just a fire burning for us because we need to get a win," Pearsall said. "It's about that time. It's due time to get a win for us and for the university and the program."

Pearsall will be among the roughly 20 players taking part in Florida's "senior day" ceremony before the game. He's still scrambling to get enough tickets for friends and family to attend. Regardless, he's sure to draw one of the loudest ovations - and for good reason.

Pearsall has 97 receptions for 1,609 yards and nine touchdowns in two years in Gainesville. He also 175 yards rushing and three scores.

Napier surely could use more guys like Pearsall in the transfer portal. Napier hit on Pearsall, guard O'Cyrus Torrence and running back Montrell Johnson last year, but his 2023 class has been lackluster outside of Mertz.

"Ricky, in my opinion, is the product of a lot of work," Napier said. "He's highly skilled. He can win at the line of scrimmage. He can win at the top of the route. He has good awareness. He understands coverage and leverage.

"I'll tell you what I really appreciate about Ricky Pearsall is the consistency and the person who shows up every day. His attitude, his energy, his leadership. He's a tough dude, and he has values. He's equipped with some things that allow him to be really consistent as a performer. He'll be a great pro. He'll play for a long time."

And he's sure to be open Saturday night in the Swamp.

"Fifty-two (yards) sounds pretty good," Pearsall quipped. "But I think 150 sounds a little bit better."


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