UF receivers breakdown: Pass-catching group has talent, depth to be special

26
1807
Florida wide receiver Freddie Swain catches the ball during morning practice Saturday at Maguire Field on campus. [Lauren Bacho/Gainesville Sun]

This is the sixth in a series breaking down the 2018 Florida football team. For a look back on the series, click to http://www.gatorsports.com/home-page/florida-position-breakdown/

A preview of the Florida receivers/tight ends entering head coach Dan Mullen’s first season:

The upside

What looked like a solid group now has a chance to be special with the addition of the two transfers — Trevon Grimes (Ohio State) and Van Jefferson (Ole Miss).

When the two were ruled eligible by the NCAA the day before the start of camp, the receivers went from respectable to possibly among the elite groups in the SEC.

Grimes and Jefferson were the two best receivers on the field in the spring, and their addition definitely changes the dynamic (and potential) of the passing game.

Jefferson is a proven playmaker in the SEC, having caught 91 passes for 999 yards and four touchdowns combined in the past two seasons at Ole Miss.

Grimes, a five-star prospect coming out of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas a year ago, saw only limited playing time for the Buckeyes as a true freshman last fall coming off ACL surgery in October of his senior year of high school. He has made great strides in the seven months he’s been on campus and has emerged as UF’s best deep threat.

Add Grimes and Jefferson to an already solid group that includes Tyrie Cleveland, Kadarius Toney, Freddie Swain, Dre Massey and Josh Hammond, and the Gators are looking stronger than they have in years at wide receiver.

The downside

The tight end is featured in Dan Mullen’s offense, but heading into the season, the Gators don’t have anyone who has put up any kind of numbers in the passing game.

C’yontai Lewis, the No. 1 tight end, is a senior who has only 29 career receptions, and just seven last season. He’s got some pass-catching skills, but he’s yet to be in the position of being a go-to guy and he’s had an issue with drops in the past.

The four players behind him — Moral Stephens, R.J. Raymond, Kemore Gamble and true freshmen Kyle Pitts and Dante Lang — have combined for only seven receptions, all by Stephens, a former wide receiver.

Mullen expects a lot of production out of the tight end position, but there are no proven producers there heading into the season, although there is some promising young talent to work with.

Young guy to watch

Being a true sophomore, it’s a little bit of a reach to call slot receiver Kadarius Toney a young guy. But it’s not much of a reach to say Toney has a chance to emerge as one of the SEC’s most explosive playmakers at receiver.

He showed flashes last season before injuring his shoulder. He’s improved his route running and continues to work on his hands.

He’s the quickest player on the team (and it’s not even close) and his ability to change direction at full speed makes him a nightmare for safeties coming out of the slot.

The Gators are very strong in the secondary, but even they’ve had a hard time coping with Toney in preseason camp because of his electric quickness and cutting ability.

Don’t be surprised if. …

Tyrie Cleveland becomes a more complete receiver and has a season where he catches passes all over the field instead of being basically a deep target.

In terms of running routes and getting open, Cleveland has learned a lot from wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales and Ole Miss transfer wide receiver Van Jefferson, the most polished receiver on the team and the son of longtime NFL receiver Shawn Jefferson.

Cleveland, along with Jefferson and Trevon Grimes, will continue to be a deep threat, but he’s also going to be a receiver capable of working the flats and the middle of the field. Having better receivers around him create an opportunity for him to emerge as a complete receiver.

Quotable

“I think the one thing about our offense, it’s multiple. We tell our players the minute they get here, you learn your formations. Once you learn your formations, then you enter pass concepts. We’ve got the ability built in with our formations. If you’re an outside receiver on one set, you can be an inside receiver on the next set. The ability to move guys around is something we can do within our offense based on what a defense is giving us. But it’s nice when you’ve got guys that understand the entire game. That’s what we’re trying to do. Small steps with everybody out there. Teach them small steps. If they can understand what everybody is doing, what everybody has and their responsibilities, then guys are more valuable to us. We can move guys around.” — Billy Gonzales

Probable UF depth chart

WR

89-Tyrie Cleveland

8-Trevon Grimes

10-Josh Hammond

18-Daquon Green

WR

12-Van Jefferson

16-Freddie Swain

83-Rick Wells

Slot

4-Kadarius Toney

9-Dre Massey

15-Jacob Copeland

TE

80-C’yontai Lewis

82-Moral Stephens

45-R.J. Raymond

88-Kemore Gamble

84-Kyle Pitts

81-Dante Lang

7-Lucas Krull

Ranking the SEC receivers

Ole Miss

South Carolina

Florida

Alabama

Georgia

Missouri

Auburn

Arkansas

Tennessee

Texas A&M

LSU

Kentucky

Mississippi State

Vanderbilt

Next week: Final in the series, a breakdown of the special teams.

26 COMMENTS

      • I see Kyle Pitts quickly moving up the depth chart at TE. That kid is very gifted in all aspects of playing the position. Krull is a developmental project at the position, but a very good one. I envision Krull redshirting this season if Pitts does move up the chart quickly.

      • Krull hasn’t played a down of football since 2015. I would imagine it’s going to take him some time to get back into football shape. It’s not easy to just jump right in and not miss a beat after being out that long, especially in the SEC. I don’t expect to see much of him this season.

    • Green was also left out of the report and I have read several reports that he has emerged after being suspended last year and is making plays and impressing in camp so far. If that is true, then we are as deep with talent at receiver as we have been since the Liar left town. If CDM can just get us adequate QB play and Hevesy the same with OL , we are going to surprise some folks this year ! Thanks Robbie and Go Gators !

  1. 89-Tyrie Cleveland, 8-Trevon Grimes, 10-Josh Hammond, 12-Van Jefferson, 16-Freddie Swain
    4-Kadarius Toney, 9-Dre Massey, 80-C’yontai Lewis, 82-Moral Stephens…
    ‘IF’ the Q.B. can’t get some passing yards this year, then damn!
    The O-Line better represent, and give ’em a little time… because then, BAM!
    Offense in G’ville… AGAIN, where it belongs! Go Gators! Just do it!

    • Man, you you hit it again, GI, with “the OL better represent”. Stars everywhere, but we’re still not sure about the OL. Well, I’ll tell you what — we’ve got some time yet — I’m still confident they’ll be able to “give ’em a little time”……..at least better than they did last year. If they do, and this team gets the taste of victory, Katie bar the door.

      • I’ve always liked catching TE. But if the OL struggles they’ll be blocking more and won’t be able to release as much. Our TE crew gets a bad rap from the yellow teeth regime as they didn’t use them much as receivers. These wasted opportunities won’t happen. Mullen has said again and again take what the defense gives us. If they’ve become functional at blocking we have depth and skill WR, TE and RB. All goes to OL and can they GATOR UP and just do it! Yup I’ve drank the cool aid. GO GATORS! 🐊

      • I like the approach this year better than last year. Last year we were being told how good they were, which probably removed any ‘chips’ on their shoulders. This year, they are being labeled as a potential weakness. Hopefully this will bring out the best in them, and they can help the program regain its status among the elite

      • If we can get a starting QB that can scramble then that will allow an extra second or two for the RPO. Toss in the RB’s that could help take pressure off of the QB and the O-line should look better by default. As long as we get any sort of respectful QB play from whomever the starter will be, and we aren’t as predictable as the past several tears, we stand to have a much better team from last year. I still think that Toney should be used in the wild Gator since he was a QB in high school. Who would the defenses cover??? Who cares if Toney is the starting QB and runs for 2000 yards…LOL. GO GATORS!!!

  2. I try to avoid negative comments, so please take this comment with a grain of salt. Based on what i have read so far, the O-Line still is not getting it done on a consistent basis. Giving some credit to an improved defense, the O-line should still be performing better as a unit – needs to be more cohesive. Speedy DE’s coming off the edge can be a problem if the OT who is supposed to block the DE is too slow to respond. We probably need more athleticism at the OT position. That being said, there is time to improve, especially since the first two games should not be as challenging as our SEC opponents will be (virtually across the board). Hoping we can use KT’s speed and elusiveness to score a few TDs this year. Also hoping we see TC use his full potential and ability to become a breakout star. GO GATORS!!!

    • Glen. You will not find two more athletic offensive tackles in the SEC than Ivey and Taylor. Athleticism is not the issue with those two. Using proper technique, being consistent with fundamentals, a lack of proper conditioning, and giving full effort have been issues under McElwain. Mullen and Havesty are working on all of that based on what I have read and seen on practice videos. But it often takes time to correct learned bad habits and behaviors. Let’s hope that happens before September 1st. The Gators are in trouble if not, and it will not matter how many great receivers, tight ends or how improved the QB play is if not.

  3. Robbie, you could line up Kadarius Toney next to Jaylin Jackson and measure quickness and cutting ability with a dime and there would not be a pennies worth of difference. So, yes, it is close with those two. And with Copeland evidently hurt, Jackson will likely make his way into that third position at the slot receiver slot.

  4. Lots of competition, and I will say again I love that Jefferson is sharing all of his knowledge with the other receivers, helping them get better. As for the online, part of the challenge for them right now may be that they are thinking a lot as they try and process all the coaching they have been getting, and all that thinking is slowing them down. Once they get more confident in what they are doing, that will unleash their athleticism and we will probably see them play faster and stronger.

    The tight ends were underutilized in Suckmeir’s offense, but so was everyone. I remember one game Danielson said in the pre-game show that The Idiot twins had told him before the game they wanted to get the TEs more involved. The morons then threw several screen passes to the tight ends instead of the wide receivers, and seemed stupified that the defense wasn’t stunned and amazed by this amazing “innovation” but just ran up and tackled the TEs instead of the Wrs. So, don’t blame these players for the stupidity that was Suckmeir.

    Lastly, I refuse to believe that Krull is not higher on the depth chart! He is a super-powered mutant, and to quote from the movie that bears his name: THE BEAST HAS MANY WEAPONS!!!!!!!!!!!!! Krull is coming, and the world will tremble at his wrath!!!!

  5. Toney had did absolutely nothing to make me think he will be good this year. For one thing he goes down way to easy, and second, he tries to Juke and spin so much when he’s running that he doesn’t pick up many yards before he’s taken down.. Doubt we will see him on the field this year unless he improved a whole lot more than last year..