UF’s Swain working toward a breakout season

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Florida receiver Freddie Swain runs with the ball after making a catch during a practice last month. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

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.”

58 COMMENTS

  1. Talk is cheap and basically worthless. I am always surprised when football players don’t understand what is very simple even to those that don’t play. No matter your level there is a process for improvement, use it!!!

    • “Swain assumed he could get by on talent alone; it doesn’t work that way”.

      Absolutely the second best line I have read, hands down, in the off-season. Kudos to Robbie.

      “I am always surprised when football players don’t understand what is very simple even to those that don’t play”.

      Absolutely the best line I have read in any off-season. Kudos, Vulcan.

  2. Technique is what’s going to make the W.R.’s better.
    EX: they need to stand behind the goal post, wrap their ARMS around it, and get Felipe to throw some zingers to ’em from 10 yds out. It will make them USING their HANDS 2nd nature (not using their body to catch the ball).
    And when the ball is coming at you below your waist line, hands close together, thumbs up and out. Coming at you above your waist line, hands close together, thumbs down and in, (not like someone is about to hand you a baby, which is what I say a lot of last year).
    TECHNIQUE (which I saw so little of it last year from the receivers) is half the battle, the other 1/2 is ”pure talent”. GO GATORS! JUST DO IT!

  3. He’s got who is probably one of the top five active WR coaches in the country coaching him imo, as Billy Gonzales is one of the best. People are going to be so surprised at the offense’s improvement this year, and the overall discipline and physical development of the team too. I’m not expecting top 10 offense this year, but I am expecting a much, MUCH better improved unit in Mullen’s first year.

  4. I agree with Vulcan in that it seems to so obvious to us who don’t play, but….. I’d add this. I think a big part of this is “maturity”. Things seem pretty clear to me at my advanced age that didn’t seem so clear to me back when I was hanging out at CJ’s on .25 beer night. There’s something to be said for wisdom and maturity and those two traits aren’t always evident in 18-22 year olds.

    There are lots of pieces to the puzzle of becoming great and talent is just one of them…..you also need hard work (dare I say relentless effort), experience, great coaching, maturity, and maybe even a little luck.

  5. Good Lord they did it again! FSU got a commit over the weekend from Curtis Fann, a 4-star DE that was also considering us, UGA, and Bama. What’s going on? We’re losing out on so many good players and have dropped even further in the recruiting rankings.

    • Dang it bro, give it a rest, between you with the FSU updates and Tampa with his Kirby Smart fetish this is getting pretty boring. I don’t care who commits to FSU or UGA , I trust Coach Mullen.
      Dare I remind you and Tampa it’s only June 25, we still have a ways to go before NSD, we will get our fair share. Relax.

      • What’s getting boring, testiculos, is losing to FSU every year. I assure you that the misery will persist if they continue to out-recruit us year in and year out. Mullen needs to turn up the heat pronto!

        • I know your heart’s in the right place, Tim, but like CO says, it’s only 25 June. A good number of commits this early are going to switch, no matter what school it is, and I’m sure a fair number of FSU’s are enticed by all the glitter and press about Willie Taggart’s prowess as the second coming, etc. The fact that he is basically a .500 coach doesn’t enter the equation yet, so let’s all get a few games under our belt and see at the end of the season who looks better.

          I see it this way, buddy: Your job is to keep me grounded in objective reality, no matter how excited I get in the pre-season; and my job is to bring you back from the pits of despair every time FSU seems to outshine us. Deal?

          Besides, you’re gonna have a heart attack at this rate. Trust me, I used to be a doctor!

        • I can see how you can be mistaken for a troll Timmy but since 6 has vouched for you before I defer to him. Losing to FSWho 4 years in a row sucks but I am confident that will change soon now that we have a competent coach. By no means I feel miserable about any of this and it pains me to see a fellow Gator suffer so much with something as trivial as recruiting rankings at the beginning of the Summer. Just trying to help you out my man but if you choose to be miserable because you believe Willy is doing so much better than Mullen then knock yourself out. Maybe you should visit Tampa sice it’s been said misery loves company

        • Recruiting is important….but at the end of the day in December and February, the Gators will have a great class.

          What will truly separate FSU from UF going forward is….. coaching. And the Gators will have it. And the Noles…. will be Gator bait!

          • Recruiting is very important and next Dec and Feb we will indeed end up witha very good class.
            To get all bent out of shape about it in the early Summer is asinine
            You are also correct in noting we have the better coach

      • CO Jones. You may not like what I post (and you certainly are free to skip my posts), but please do not associate me with FSU trolls. I am a proud UF grad, as well as a huge and loyal supporter of the UF athletics program. And of all the UF coaches and players.

        • Tampa
          1 Didn’t mean to offend you
          2 Don’t know if Tim’s a troll
          3 When I read his post it reminded me of you and your multiple posts the other day
          4 Both of you seem to be having a tizzy over recruiting at this early stage. There lie
          the similarities and why I lumped you together

          • CO Jones. Tim is all FSU troll. The multiple posts I made the other day contained no content that resembled anything close to an emotionally driven “tizzy”. Maybe excessive might be a better description. Thank you,

          • And by the way, CO Jones. Gator65 has 9 posts on this page. Gator6 has 8. You, 4. Having “tizzy” spells yourselves?

          • Tampa gator, I add to 6’s HUH, now blogging a conversation is a tizzy? That is reeeeaaaally stretching!

          • “Blogging”, Daz? That’s what this is? I have heard the term before, but I always thought that it meant some middle aged guy, sitting in his mother’s basement, in his underwear. while typing away on the internet.

            Now that I know better, thanks to you, I can rightfully say (paraphrasing Bill Murry in the movie “What About Bob”)….I BLOG! I BLOG!

    • Cheeky – I was glad to see someone bring this subject up. It is by far the QB position that we M U S T see improvement with. I posted on the Reese story and I brought it up there. I believe I misspelled my newest name using “Sicario Ed,” in place of just plain “Ed.” I am getting old and I thought it looked way cooler…lol. And if any of you have noticed – all of these good ominous characters like The Equalized, John Wick, Sicario, etc., are all older dudes. That is why I switched my name. I am a true hit man, but I hit with my fists and not the 45. I carry. GO GATORS!!!

  6. Vulcan, GI, I agree with your statements. It appeared Mac’s coaching was repetition until the players figured it out on their own without every correcting them. Then when it came to routes the players appeared lost. The looks in their eyes when I was at the games told me they were not prepared. ALL of this should have been hammered into the players at all positions through repetition until the muscle memory kicks in. But I do feel that Swain was like a two year freshman in the development didn’t seem to progress. It wasn’t just Swain the team as a whole didn’t progress well. While I agree with everyone our OL struggled and our QB’s more than struggled, coaching (or lack of) and play calling could have helped to work with the deficiencies with better results. Watching the same stuff ad nauseum last year was painful, but I always felt the team had very talented players who were not first prepared well, and second not put in places where their talent could be maximized. Maturity does have a huge impact on thought processes. But I watched players regress in the Mac era and though I haven’t watched a lot of M St games I would be willing to bet, the players under Mullen where progressing each year they were in his program. Hence an average player would become a better than average player (maximizing the potential of that individual). (at least in the parts one could coach). Didn’t say superstar.
    In Mac’s first SEC championship game the players where gassed by half time. Missed opportunities on offense. (poor execution, poor decision making coaching and players) But sitting in the stands I felt for
    (gut only) we were more out coached than beat on pure talent. Rog, relentless effort, that never give up attitude is the base building a team with fight in them. (fight in the sense of being able to claw back if a team gets ahead of them, fight back after a loss) not getting stupid 15 yarders or ejections (discipline)
    The maximum effective range of an excuse is zero meters. They are learning the basics accountability, reps, discipline, execution hopefully as individuals and as a team.

    • Gator65, good comments and insights about last season’s player development, or lack there of. I just am curious as to how you could see the players eyes when you were at the games telling you that they were not prepared? You say you sat in the stands, so it must be quite a feat to be able to do this! Just asking, though I have no doubt that you’re right on.

          • But, prepared soldiers or athletes preform and execute to a higher degree. Even they have that stare sometime. One memory I have of one of the last two SEC games under Mac. I was at both, was a picture on the jumbotron of a Gator Defender that got burned on a play. Of course from the 50 yard line 20 rows up it was clear as day. But his eyes showed he didn’t know what to do in the situation he had been placed. Could have been a turn over instead I believe the tide scored. If they didn’t they did shortly after. He didn’t play the ball and his safety was in the wrong time zone. Wasn’t a fast developing play. I had the ten thousand yard stare after watching it.

          • I think I had that look myself the last couple years of my 42 year business career. I think I also had that stare every time Mac was being interviewed on TV, knowing that the light in his eyes was just the sunlight shining through the back of his head. Oops; that was insensitive.

          • Dan F, I am no football expert, but I think our DB crew is very talented. When we were dominating or DB’s had the coaching and training to put them in position to make plays. Turnovers particularly. They missed some plays then but you could see in their faces they knew they made a mistake and more importantly knew (through coaching) what they did wrong and how to fix it. Since Mac had the ‘I don’t know’ look 90% of the time, the team followed suit. Muschamp did leave us with talent that made Mac look good.

        • Both you guyses cracka me up. But the comment about the sunlight shining thru the back of Mac’s head put me on the floor so bad I almost….uh….err…soiled myself.

          Good thing I wasn’t drinking ice tea, the spew would have ruined my monitor.

          • When the cyalume lightsticks came out in the eighties (chem lights) we used to send new troops to get batteries for the chem lights. Falling for it once was normal, falling for it again and again was like our coaching last year.

          • 65, don’t get me started….in the old 24th Infantry we were always sending brand new 2LTs down to the flight line to pick up a bucket or two of prop wash–whatever amount they could spare. Sometimes they’d come back, sometimes they wouldn’t.

            In Germany, I actually sent a female 2LT over to medical supply to get a box of Fallopian Tubes before an exercise down range. She came back alright–straight to DISCOM headquarters and filed a sexual harassment complaint against her company commander…er, uhh, that would have been me. No sense of humor, I tell ya, but those sure were good times.

          • 6 Gotta get to work but I have been laughing for days on the Fallopian Tubes, How about sending a young troop out with a ballpeen hammer and a stick of chalk on a tank to check the armored vehicles for soft spots. Didn’t have cell phone video back them but that would have made one hell of a you tube video.

  7. The article is a classic “seems like we have heard this before” piece, but I am sure Swain did not call the Sun to spout quotes. He was responding to questions. I cannot fault these receivers under the past offenses. No one besides Callaway stood out under the last regime and they were all heralded out of high school. I felt particularly bad for B. Powell, who was having a great year with Grier, but due to poor offense and no plan beside Grier..he suffered. I recall the dramatic increase of productivity of Ernie Mills who got one year under Spurrier, which translated into a 10 year NFL career. Conversely, Stacey Simmons, who was equally talented and perhaps faster, moved in ’89 and did not have that type of post college career. Also recall the tweet from Cox Jr about our “high school offense” and backing up player who he sated were good but being done in by a bad system and Nuss play calling. I believe we will see the same uptick in performance with some of the guys we have labeled “busts.”

  8. Smith, Only a few players have called out the last regime for lack of.. lack of? Fill in the blank. And as typical of a new regime all the players are high (figuratively I hope) on the new staff. Even though the spring game was a bit comical and hopefully the troll will leave that comment alone. The players seemed quicker and more adept than at any time last year in real games. I remember the old Ball Coach talking of putting up half a hundred. Don’t think that is Mullen’s way but I think he will be doing everything he can to get the most out of the talent we have. You mentioned the transition from HS to College to Pro. Some cannot seem to make those leaps. I think with the camps that HS to College is a little easier. And yes, all these stories are rehashing something from the past. can’t wait ’til game day. Go Gators! I am not labeling anyone bust yet. There are some that have to really pull a rabbit out of the hat but I think the lack of direction and focus (component of coaching) turned talent into mediocrity.

  9. My word(s) for it is/are, “sense of urgency”, but we are all talking about the same thing. I know, I know, I’m not supposed to get excited about next year, yadda yadda oye vey……BUT I CAN’T HELP IT! GO GATORS!

    • I have the same feeling 6. I get excited every year. New coach, new team (yes old payers but new team as far as I am concerned) Again a lot of stats and facts people may say otherwise but the ‘feel’ is better. Didn’t feel like this when Mac was getting his two SEC titles. As for ‘break out’ years? I think our offense as a whole will have that. Before you guys jump on me I didn’t say NC or SEC. Not that it would be impossible just unlikely. BUT we could do better than 8 wins. Key in my opinion. Consistent QB play (not great), OL Consistent play, Good to excellent play by offensive skill guys (particularly TE). We got some interesting players in the transfers. An aggressive defense. Corners and Safeties that “think they are receivers” Pressure on opposing QB’s. The chess pieces are in place. The line of departure is September 1st in the Swamp. And our special teams need to again be special. GO Gators!

      • Yes! I believe a key component in our downfall last year was the lack of aggression on defense after Collins left. Collins changed his terminology to coincide with what the guys were accustomed with under Champ…and playing fast instead of thinking all the time resulted in a typical Gator D. Coach Shannon seemed to be a classy guys and may have been an asset for South Fla recruiting, but his schemes were outdated and reactionary.

        • Smith,

          You put into words what I was thinking on our D and Shannon. When we were at our best offenses were reacting to our defense and our offense and our defense was scoring. I’d add under Muschamp we were aggressive but without discipline.

  10. I agree with you cheeky a little bit but I think to many people focus on the quarterbacks. we’ve had a couple decent quarterbacks that have played for us since Tim Tebow and did bad with us but then went to go do good after that with another school like jacoby Brisett he’s in the nfl I mean he’s not a starter but the fact that he is in the nfl shows you he wasn’t bad. I just think it had to do with the offense as a whole the WRs couldn’t get open and the offense couldn’t block and the quarterback looked like a deer in the headlights but I honestly think Mullen has got us on the right path he’s changing the mentality and culture of are program for the good. I’m not gonna lie I always liked dan Mullen but I didn’t know he had such an electric personality . You can really tell he wants to win and knows what’s he doing. I’m really excited for the future of gator football . GO GATORS!!!!

    • Garrett- Smith mentioned the defense being predictable before. Our whole team was. They were to the point when they lined up I could have told you where the ball was going unless the play was broken up. If fans could read them what about well trained defenses. OL missing assignments, Receivers missing or not blocking. QB looking at primary target.

  11. I think we definitely had a coaching upgrade at wr, and swain should benefit from it. If he can have a good year, he might be able to go pro after this season, or the next. he knows that time is not unlimited and looks like he realizes that the team quitting on the season last year was time that cannot be brought back. when you quit, you lose the benefit of the deeper search for skill that great teams have done. that’s hopefully true for most of the team, but even then there is no guarantee what the outcome will be. The quitting came from fragility in the program over several years, and Mullen has to fix those issues (roster, approach, cohesion into a unit, and more) too. its imo doable, maybe not in the timetable the fans would like, but Id love to hear stories down the road about how the team learned from this. Remember we had a trainwreck just as bad as last year in 2013 and the program had one or two good moments since but no one has ever said we learned what we had to after that year. all we learned is that Muschamp was not Dan Quinn and that Mac, who had a lot of good traits, did not generate the atmosphere needed to perform at an elite level. I understand we all want to return to the way things should be, running up the score on teams like south Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Auburn, Missouri, but we were barely able to beat these teams over the last few years sometimes, there is a lot of improvement needed before we can talk like that.