Of all the Florida players flying under the radar heading into preseason camp, one stands out more than others: wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland.
Maybe it’s because the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder missed the majority of Spring camp with an injured hamstring, or perhaps it’s due to Florida adding two wide receiver transfers in Trevon Grimes and Van Jefferson, but it seems the majority of the media and fans alike have forgotten Cleveland led the Gators in receiving yards and finished second behind senior Brandon Powell in receptions in 2017.
Now, heading into his junior season at Florida, Cleveland has spent the offseason rounding out his craft and fine-tuning the little things that often make or break a wide receiver.
“Just the details in my route-running, technique-wise, and knowing how to take care of my body,” Cleveland said. “I’m just trying to get better every day.”
With progress often comes great responsibility, and it’s a role Cleveland, an often quiet and soft spoken individual, has worked to embrace. Rather than let his mouth do the talking, Cleveland would prefer to let his play speak for itself.
“I really don’t talk that much, I just try and lead by example and show the guys,” Cleveland said. “When I do talk, they know I’m for real.”
Yet those close to Cleveland saw him speak openly on his frustrations as he was away from the field. While many could have been deterred by a frustrating setback — a hamstring injury is notoriously unpredictable when it comes to recuperation — Cleveland remained focused and continued working on improving off of the field to learn an offense he labelled “more versatile” than past iterations.
“I’ve been working hard, bonding with the team,” Cleveland said. “In Spring I was just taking mental reps, helping the guys as I can, you know? I was really just trying to get mental reps and watch some more film.”
To succeed in Mullen’s offense, Cleveland has to prove he’s more than the one-dimensional deep-threat many have made him out to be, which means rounding out his skill-set has been a focal point of his improvement.
“That’s a big step for me this off-season. Throughout these two years I’ve been running mainly posts and go (routes),” Cleveland said, “so this year in the off-season I’ve been working on slants, curls, digs, comebacks, and all the details in that. I’m continuing to get better and my improvement has been a lot better, and I’m continuing to work on my craft and will continue throughout camp.”
Although he’s not thinking about the future after the Gators just yet, it’s important to remember the 2018 season could spell Cleveland’s final few months in Gainesville. However, instead of setting lofty personal or team-oriented goals, Cleveland said he’s simply focused on putting in the work every day and reaping whichever benefits, awards or titles that may or may not follow. Because, just like the outside perception of Cleveland, anything aside from relentless effort is outside of his control and often not worth harping on.
“I just want to come out here and work hard every day. Win games for the team, and the most important thing is make plays for the team,” Cleveland said. “All those come when you just work as hard as you can.
“I feel like the swag is back and everybody is juiced up, ready for the season. I feel like this year can be really big for us if we just come together, work hard and take one day at a time.”