Expectations were high last season for Florida wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland, but he won’t hesitate to admit that his freshman year didn’t get off to the best of starts.
Cleveland and fellow freshman wide receiver Rick Wells were suspended for the season opener after being arrested in the offseason for firing a BB gun into a UF residence hall. Furthermore, a hamstring injury held him out for the ensuing two games. And, once he had an opportunity to take the field, the game was moving faster than Cleveland anticipated. So it’s understandable why Cleveland feels his best is yet to come.
“At first it was moving fast,” Cleveland said of his freshman season, one in which he recorded 14 receptions for 298 yards and a pair of touchdowns. “But after a few games and playing, it started slowing down and I started knowing where to be at on the field.”
Now, the Gators are poised to have a dynamic pass-catching duo in Cleveland and junior wide receiver Antonio Callaway.
Callaway, who like Cleveland, had an up-and-down freshman year in Gainesville, has been a guiding presence for Cleveland on the field over the past 12 months.
“The competitive part of him, he’s very competitive. And he loves football, so I’ve just looked up to him and how he goes about everything,” Cleveland said of Callaway.
Yet the success of both will ultimately be defined by the performance of whoever is under center for the Gators.
With less than a month until the season opener in Dallas, and with no clear-cut favorite to win the starting quarterback job, Cleveland said he’s seen all of UF’s quarterbacks stake a claim for the position.
“All the quarterbacks are competing at a high level, all our quarterbacks are great,” Cleveland said. “Luke (Del Rio), Malik (Zaire), Feleipe (Franks), they’re very smart and communicate with all the receivers and the whole team actually.”
For someone who spent his first collegiate contest on the sidelines, Sept. 2 should be a much different affair for Cleveland. Born and raised in Jacksonville, Cleveland relocated to Houston before high school, meaning he’ll have a strong support system awaiting in Texas.
“It’s going to be fun,” Cleveland said. “I’ve got a lot of family coming to the game, so I’m just looking forward to showing up and showing out.”
And show out is something Cleveland expects out of an offense that has been anything but over the past decade.
“Oh, we’re going to go deep a lot this year. We’re going to throw the ball deep, run the ball heavy. I feel like this offense is going to explode this year,” Cleveland said. “I see it every day, we’re slept on before every season starts. So I mean, it’s just for us to not even worry about the distractions, just focus on us and play our game.”