If there is a 2020 college football season, some of the big questions heading in for the Florida Gators will be concerning the four senior receivers from last year’s team who are no longer here.
How do you replace their production?
Will they be missed?
Well, we already have an answer to the second question. Van Jefferson, Freddie Swain, Tyrie Cleveland and Josh Hammond are already being missed, maybe not by Gator Nation yet, but by the receivers they’ve left behind in Gainesville.
“I think they miss us a lot just because they spent so much time with us,” Hammond said. “The four seniors, we spent a lot of time together. Since we were spending time together, a lot of the young guys tagged along as well. They spent a lot of time with us.
“I know once we left, their first two weeks of workouts, they were texting us like, ‘It’s not the same without you. You were so involved in our lives.’ I know they missed us a lot.
“I was excited to go back and see them (at Pro Day, which was canceled). I’m sure they were excited to see us as well. We’ll link up another time in the future.”
So, those four senior wide receivers are already missed, which brings us back to that first question about production. There may not be a definitive answer on that one until the Gators start playing in 2020.
The only certainty at this point is there is going to be a heck of a lot of production that needs to be replaced.
Last season, the four senior wide receivers combined for 139 receptions for 1,871 yards and 16 touchdowns. They also were some of the biggest leaders on the team.
The leading returning wide receiver is Trevon Grimes, who caught 33 passes for 491 yards and three touchdowns in 2019. The next three — Jacob Copeland, Kadarius Toney and Rick Wells — combined for 33 receptions for 394 yards and three TDs.
Those four will be joined by redshirt freshmen Ja’Markis Weston, Trent Whittemore and Dionte Marks, along with incoming freshmen Xzavier Henderson and Jaquavion Fraziars and the two transfers — Justin Shorter and Jordan Pouncey.
It’s a wide receiver group with a lot of numbers and seemingly a lot of potential.
So, with those four seniors gone, will there be a dropoff at wide receiver in 2020?
“Not at all,” Hammond said.
The three redshirt freshmen, along with Wells, a senior, are ready to step in and step up, Hammond said.
“They’re prepared,” he said. “They’ve all been put in situations for them to understand what’s next for them. I think Coach G (Billy Gonzales) did a really good job of preparing them for what’s about to come nest.
“They all did a good job learning from us. None of those guys ever didn’t listen to us or questioned us. All those guys came in with open ears and we welcomed them with open arms. We tried to help them as much as we could.
“They all listened. They were really good listeners. It leaves no doubt in my mind that the ball will keep rolling the way it’s been rolling. All those guys are going to be fine.”
Hammond doesn’t know much about the two transfers and two incoming true freshmen. But he has a lot of knowledge about, and a good feel for, the returning wide receivers and the redshirt freshmen.
Here’s Hammond’s take on those six:
“I think he’ll play extremely well,” he said. “He’ll probably be the leader of the group, probably the more vocal leader, a guy that’s the alpha dog for the receiver group that kind of gets them going.”
“I think he’ll be the No. 2 leader, following suit to Grimes,” Hammond said. “He’s electric. He makes all the plays. Everyone in the country knows that.”
“He will be fine as well,” he said. “He has a lot of game experience. You saw him last year, what he’s capable of doing. He’s going to play extremely well.”
“He’ll definitely make a lot of plays. I think he’s probably the sleeper out of the group that not too many people know about,” he said. “He’ll make a lot of noise this season.”
“Trent is probably more quiet than the rest of the group,” Hammond said. “He’s more of the silent killer who will make a lot of plays.”
“Ja’Markis is more physical,” he said. “He’s definitely the biggest and strongest receiver out of the group. He’s that physical receiver, big body and can go up and get the ball. He’s one of the fastest.”
“He’s kind of similar to Kadarius Toney in the way he plays with his quickness and agility. I think he’ll probably get most of his time at slot receiver, where he can wiggle through holes and make a lot of people miss in space.”
There seems to be a lot of potential in the 2020 group of receivers. Now it’s a question of whether those guys can turn potential into production.