Florida wide receiver Freddie Swain has talked before about having a breakout season. Yet that season has yet to come.
The junior from Ocala has learned the hard way that it takes more than just talk.
It takes work. It takes effort. It takes dedication. It takes coaching.
That’s where Swain is at this summer. No more talk. He’s putting his plan to have a breakout season into action with his effort in the weight room, on the field and in the film room.
“Yeah, I think this year is the year (I break out),” Swain said. “I’m excelling in the weight room, getting faster, getting bigger. I’m about 207 (pounds) now. Putting a little weight on. I’m watching more film. I’m figuring out different routines and routes. I’m getting better as an overall player.”
Swain’s approach is much different than it was when he first arrived on campus as an early enrollee in the spring of 2016. A highly regarded four-star prospect coming out of North Marion, Swain assumed he could get by on talent alone.
It doesn’t work that way.
So, his first two seasons as a Gator turned out to be less than fulfilling. He caught only eight passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman, then followed up with another eight-reception season last fall that saw him catch only one pass over the final four games.
During those first two seasons, Swain started learning what it takes to become a productive receiver by watching veteran Brandon Powell, a former running back who worked his tail off to become a go-to receiver in the offense.
“It was tough when I first came in,” Swain said. “I was with Brandon Powell. I was watching that guy work. He’s a guy that’s going to get it.
“Me coming from high school, and looking up to an older guy like that, molded me into, ‘OK, now I see what I have to do to get where I need to be.’ You watch certain people and you’ll follow in their footsteps. That’s all I did when I came here. I followed Brandon Powell. Now, I’m working like he does.”
Swain has been hitting it hard in the offseason strength and conditioning program, working out with the quarterbacks and receivers on the practice field and spending more time in the film room.
Call it relentless effort in pursuit of a breakout season.
“I’m really working at it,” Swain said. “We watch film. All the receivers, we get together and watch film. We break it down. We do that like two or three times a week. We break down practices and routes and drills and see where we need to get better and the things we need to work on.”
Swain is hoping a new work ethic — and a new wide receivers coach — will help elevate his game in 2018.
Wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales has already had a positive impact on him, Swain said.
“He’s probably the best coach I’ve been around or been in any camp with,” Swain said. “He just shows you the techniques and he’ll show you on film how it works and how it’s supposed to look. He’ll just let you go out there and do it yourself and get a feel for it. After that, it’s just like walking.”
Playing for Gonzales is more than just about getting open and catching passes, something he’s stressed from the very first meeting with the receivers.
“Blocking is big,” Swain said. “He’ll tell you, ‘If you can’t block, you won’t play.’ Obviously, you can see from Mississippi State, blocking is kind of big in their offense. It’s just blocking. That’s something I like to do anyway.”
Swain seems willing to do whatever it takes to finally have that breakout season he’s been chasing. And it might not just be a breakout season for Swain, it also could turn out to be one for a receiving corps that has been maligned in the past.
“I believe we’re the best receiving corps in the country,” Swain said. “And we’ve got Coach G. on our side, so I know it’s going to be fun this year.”