Former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy has an interesting theory as to why Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson hasn’t been running the ball much lately.

In Florida’s first game of the season — a win against Utah — Richardson rushed for 106 yards on 11 carries. His ability to pick up large chunks of yardage on the ground is a big reason why the Gators beat Utah.

Richardson has only rushed for 28 total yards in Florida’s two subsequent games — a loss to Kentucky and a narrow win against South Florida.

One theory as to why Richardson hasn’t carried the ball as often is that he’s banged up and the Gators’ top backup quarterback, Jack Miller, is still out while recovering from thumb surgery.

Richardson suggested this week that coaches have told him to avoid taking big hits.

McElroy, however, believes there’s another reason why Richardson isn’t running much lately.

The former Bama signal-caller, who co-hosts “McElroy and Cubelic in the Morning” with ESPN’s Cole Cubelic, said this week that he thinks Richardson has an eye toward the NFL and that’s why he’s playing it safe.

“There’s a little NFL stuff going on,” said McElroy. “Like basically after week one, he was told he was going to be a first-round pick, he’s going to be all this stuff, and now he’s in protect mode. That’s what they’re dealing with down there. And (Florida head coach Billy Napier) Billy’s like ‘I gotta play you how I know how to play you’ and there’s resistance there. That’s my guess.”

“That’s what I’m hearing without anyone saying it,” added McElroy.

I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to say that Richardson is focusing on protecting himself because he has his eye on the NFL. I’m not ready to jump that far.

But I definitely think everything combined — Florida’s backup QB situation, Richardson’s surgically repaired knee combined with a potential ankle injury that he may or may not be dealing with, and the idea of the NFL — could be causing Richardson to play tight instead of loose and free.

There’s no doubt that Richardson we saw against Utah isn’t the same player we’ve seen the last two weeks.

If the Utah game version of Richardson shows up in Knoxville on Saturday, then it could be a tough day for the Tennessee Vols defense.

But if it’s the same Richardson we’ve seen the last two weeks, then this could be a blowout win for the Vols.

Featured image via Matt Pendleton / USA TODAY NETWORK