College football programs traditionally show significant improvement from year one to year two under a new coaching staff.
If that happens at Florida under coach Dan Mullen, the Gators could be College Football Playoff contenders next season after going 10-3 and rising into the top 10 in the nation in 2018.
For it to happen, the Gators will have to improve in some areas and some new, inexperienced players are going to have to come through at certain positions.
Over the next several days, The Sun is breaking down the team position-by-position, one position at a time:
Who’s gone: No one.
Who’s back: Everyone. The top seven wide receivers from last season are all expected to return — Van Jefferson, Trevon Grimes, Josh Hammond, Freddie Swain, Kadarius Toney, Tyrie Cleveland and Jacob Copeland.
The seven combined to catch 149 passes for 1,989 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2018. The go-to guy was Jefferson, the Ole Miss transfer who had 31 receptions for 439 yards and six scores.
Who’s new: Sophomore Kyle Pitts, a four-star tight end prospect coming out of high school last year, ended up moving to wide receiver midway through the 2018 season and flashed big-time potential as a match-up problem on the outside. The question is, will he remain at wide receiver, move back to tight end, or seeing playing time at both? The already strong receiver group will gain three new additions this summer with incoming freshmen Dionte Marks (would could end up at defensive back), Ja’Markis Weston and Arjei Henderson.
What’s next: If Jefferson decides to return for his senior season (and many believe that he will), the Gators will return everyone from a receiving corps that made strides and became more productive over the course of the 2018 season. If the receivers continue on their current path, this potentially could become perhaps the best wide receiver corps since the Steve Spurrier coaching years.
The guy who has a limitless upside and really started coming on late last season is Jefferson, who finished with a flurry, catching four passes for 92 yards and a touchdown against FSU and four passes for 64 yards in the Peach Bowl.
Grimes is another receiver who started flashing his potential in the second half of the season. His production (and confidence) should go up in year two in the offense.
Hammond and Swain need to continue to make strides, something both did last fall, while Toney, Cleveland and Copeland will look to continue their development as complete receivers. They made a move in that direction last season.
A guy to watch in the spring is Pitts. He may have the biggest upside among the wide receivers. Now, will he become one full time?
Possible scenario: Jefferson returns, the receiving group continues to progress like it did in 2018, and quarterback Feleipe Franks continues to make positive strides. If that occurs, the Gators could/should have one of the most potent passing attacks in the SEC.
Editor’s Note: We omitted Copeland from an earlier posting.