UF notebook: Late-arriving receiver working to catch up

Jim McElwain
UF coach Jim McElwain is excited about the opportunity freshman James Robinson has in Gainesville. [Brad McClenny/Staff Photographer]

James Robinson, a four-star wide receiver from Lakeland, was cleared academically by the NCAA on Friday, introduced himself to his new teammates after Friday night’s practice and now is trying to catch up with the other receivers after not being here all summer.

Florida coach Jim McElwain said he’s happy for Robinson and excited about his potential.

“Here’s one thing about our team: these older guys understand how to take care of these younger guys a little bit,” McElwain said. “And they’ll take him under their wings and get him acclimated as soon as possible.

“I’m excited for this opportunity. This opportunity to not only play football, but his opportunity to get an education at a great university. When you go through life, it’s called taking advantage of the opportunity. And for him, it’s a real good opportunity.”

McElwain said it’s too early to predict what kind of impact Robinson could have this season.

“Time will tell,” he said. “He’s got a long ways to go, obviously, not being here in Summer B and getting here late (for) practice. So, the catch-up piece for him is not trying to get it all at once, but let’s perfect it little by little and see if he can get out there and help us.”

Mac a familiar face now

Since national signing day in February, the Gators have been on a roll in recruiting, the latest good news coming Sunday with the commitment of four-star running back Dameon Pierce.

McElwain has an explanation for the recent run of success: in year three, he and his assistants are well-known and trusted now on the recruiting trail by high school coaches and prospects.

“This whole deal is about relationships, McElwain said. “There weren’t a lot of people that knew much about us, and I think what’s come to fruition is the honesty in which we talk to them and we tell them. Our current players relay that to them, that what they’re saying is true. It’s not made up, and when you get here it’s different. And I think that’s made a huge difference. I think the high school coaches, they know this is who I am and this is what I’m all about, and the way we treat our players is something that’s a real positive.

“It takes some time to develop that. The support of our administration has been great and the things that are about to happen in the future, that’s very positive.

“There’s just that general vibe, and them understanding that when they become a Gator, Coach is going to take care of you. That’s something that’s really important.”

One big nickel

Linebacker Kylan Johnson, a quarterback and safety in high school, is seeing some practice reps at the nickel defensive back position in practice. At 235 pounds, he would probably be the nation’s biggest nickel

“I’ve always had the ability to cover, so that’s just a little spice that coach (Randy) Shannon adds to the defense, having three big dudes that are like linebackers. But I can cover good, too. It just makes it easier instead of just bringing in a regular nickel and having to sub in and out. It really makes sense to just keep me in.”

Johnson said the 20 pounds he’s gained since arriving in Gainesville have not slowed him down. He said he can run with slot receivers, including teammate Dre Massey.

“Oh yeah, I can run,” he said. “I’ve been able to run. I came in playing as a safety, so I’ve always had the coverage ability.”

Positive vibes from Goolsby

McElwain said he’s seen a positive change in personality and confidence from starting tight end DeAndre Goolsby.

“We had to kind of upsize his jersey (because he’s gotten bigger),” McElwain said. “I think he realizes this is kind of his opportunity to jump and go, and I think he and C’yontai (Lewis) are really, really a good duo. And I’ll be excited to see if (Goolsby) stays consistent. But just in the interactions and the things you see around the facility, I’ve been really proud in his personal growth.”

Goolsby came on in the second half last season and had touchdown receptions in the final games against Alabama and Iowa. That finish helped boost his confidence, McElwain said.

“I don’t think any doubt,” McElwain said. “He should have had one in another one of the games, but Freddie (Swain) stole (it) from him.

“He’s a guy that’s got to be a weapon, especially down in the red area. Great teams that operate really well down there, those tight ends are usually very effective. That’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to make guys really effective down there.”