Gators wide receiver Freddie Swain wasn’t looking to admit the offense struggled against LSU without its top two deep threats.
But after Florida couldn’t create any explosive plays downfield, resulting in just 108 passing yards on 10 completions for quarterback Feleipe Franks, it was logical for UF’s wide receivers to admit the unit struggled without Cleveland.
But with a full week of practice sans Cleveland under the team’s belt, Florida isn’t looking to make the same excuses for Saturday’s battle with Texas A&M.
“I mean, it affected us because Tyrie is one of the faster receivers and he can definitely be a (defensive back’s) nightmare,” Swain said. “So it affected us a little bit, but not too much. Like last week, he’s down and next man up. Somebody needs to step up.”
That’s the motto in Gainesville throughout the Jim McElwain era: “Next man up”. But if someone stepped up in Cleveland’s absence against the Tigers, it wasn’t apparent to the home crowd, who were once again disgruntled with the lack of explosive plays on offense. One of the few spark plugs, freshman receiver Kadarius Toney, was deemed “highly doubtful” by UF coach Jim McElwain, meaning an unproven talent may be called upon to fill a greater role.
Regardless of the name on the back of the jersey, Swain knows the Gators have enough playmakers to feature a formidable offense. But there are greater overall concerns than just the lack of a consistent deep threat. A Franks-led unit still hasn’t displayed a consistent intermediate pass offense, which Swain believes will come with the continued growth of his redshirt freshman signal caller.
“He’s progressed. He’s getting good. He’s young,” Swain said. “I mean, we’re trying to give him patience and time, but he understands what he’s doing.”
With that said, the Gators are running out of time to put together an adept offense. With a record of 3-2 with games against Georgia, South Carolina and FSU still in the mix, Florida’s toughest tests appear to be in front of it, which means the offense must find a fast fix or brace for another disappointing finish. However, Swain and the Gators believe a faster tempo will bring out the best in Franks and allow the offense to finally flourish.
“We got to run more plays. We got to keep Johnny (Townsend) off the field. I mean, we just got to get the ball in the end zone,” Swain implored. “Got to get it faster. Once we get that faster, we get more plays called, we’ll get the ball into the end zone.”
Swain knows it won’t happen unless Florida finds a way to eliminate the errors that have erased any noticeable offensive progression this season. But rather than cast blame on those that led to the one-point loss, the Gators are united rather than divided.
“(As a team), you’re going to have some downs. It’s what happens. But you’ve got to rally around each other and come back stronger,” Swain said. “It felt like we were the better team (against LSU) on Saturday, it didn’t show. But we’ll bounce back.”