Having watched tape of the elusive and dynamic Percy Harvin, Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney has a good understanding how high the standard is he’ll be expected to live up to now that he’s wearing Harvin’s old jersey number, No. 1.
He’s good with that, comfortable with the expectation.
Not only does he plan to match the Harvin standard, he’s going to try and exceed it, he said after Saturday’s practice.
“He’s an explosive player,” Toney said of Harvin. “I want to try and be more explosive. But I see the caliber, the type of player he was. That’s intriguing.”
Toney normally doesn’t like being compared to other players. But in the case of Harvin, he’s OK with it.
“A person like that, you can’t really complain about that,” Toney said. “That’s a high-caliber person. The things that he did for the Gators and in the NFL, that was tremendous. To be in shoes like that, that’s big.”
Comparing Toney to Harvin seems natural, and it really has nothing to do with the number on his jersey. It’s all about the things he can do with the ball in his hands. He’s Harvin-like with his speed, ankle-breaking cuts and ability to create explosive plays.
Playing slot receiver and also lining up at times as a wildcat quarterback, Toney averaged a whopping 10.9 yards a touch last season.
“He’s an athlete, playmaker. He just does what he does,” quarterback Feleipe Franks said. “He’s definitely a big part of our offense, definitely is one of our best playmakers.
“When he does touch the ball, you see on Saturday, he just makes something electric happen every time.”
Which, of course, begs the question: why doesn’t he get more touches?
Coach Dan Mullen’s recent decision to give him Harvin’s old number may be an indication that that’s going to change this season.
“What did he average, nine yards every time he touched the ball last year?” Mullen said at media day Thursday.
“I thought it was nine,” Mullen said. “So if once every three plays we gave him the ball, if it was nine, we only had to get one yard on the other two plays to get a first down. So, if I was a smarter coach (he’d get more touches). But any time we need a first down we give him the ball, in theory, we should get a first down then.”
While many may wonder about his lack of touches, Toney doesn’t.
He didn’t even realize he averaged almost 11 yards a touch last season until he was informed of it Saturday.
“I don’t keep up with stats. I just play,” he said. “But that’s pretty good, though, ain’t it?”
Toney was asked what he needs to do to get more touches.
“Just stick to the system, whatever Mullen wants me to do,” he said. “Just play punter for a play, whatever. I’m willing to do whatever.”
Even though UF’s wide receiver room is crowded with proven playmakers now, one thing that might help Toney see the ball more is the fact he has developed into a more complete receiver.
He was a dual-threat quarterback in high school and made the move to wide receiver shortly after he arrived in Gainesville. In 2017, his freshman season, Toney looked like an athletic quarterback trying to play wide receiver. He made some plays, but also seemed awkward at times.
Last season, he became a little more natural at receiver and became involved in the passing game.
Now, he’s wearing No. 1 and performing like a complete receiver, Franks said.
“I think he’s been a complete receiver since last year,” Franks said. “He goes out there and listens to coach G (Billy Gonzales). He’s like a sponge, always getting information from (the coaches).
“You don’t have to coach him up too much on how to
do certain things, like routes and stuff. There’s different things in
routes we run in our offense, like option routes, you don’t have to
coach him up on. He just goes out there and plays football. He’s an
athlete, he just goes out there and makes things happen.”
Sounds like Percy Harvin.
Toney is ready to start living up to that No. 1 standard.
“A number is what you represent,” he said. “It’s what you make of it, really. You can get any number and turn it into something. It’s really what you do with it (that matters).”