Breaking down Gators' receivers for 2020 season
We break down the 2020 Florida football team by position group. This week a look at the receivers.
Even though those four productive seniors from last season are now getting ready for their NFL careers, Florida’s group of receivers is considered one of the top three or four in the SEC heading into the 2020 season. There’s one main reason for that.
The junior brings star power and instant credibility to the group.
Following a major breakout season in 2019 in which he caught a team-high 54 passes for 649 yards and five touchdowns, Pitts is considered one of the nation’s elite tight ends heading into this season.
With wide receiver speed and a 6-foot-6, 239-pound frame, Pitts is a real matchup problem for opposing defensive backs and outside linebackers, something he showed last season.
Pitts seemed the ideal complement to those four senior wide receivers — Van Jefferson, Freddie Swain, Tyrie Cleveland and Josh Hammond. Now that they’re gone, opposing defenses likely are going to focus on trying to shut down, or at least slow down, Pitts. That’s going to create opportunities for a wide receiver corps that is going to feature a combination of experience, freshmen and two transfers, one who is a former five-star recruit.
First, the experience. It comes from three players — seniors Trevon Grimes and Kadarius Toney and redshirt sophomore Jacob Copeland — who have already proven themselves on the field. After opting out of the first week of preseason camp, they’re back and ready to go.
Grimes has caught 59 passes for 855 yards and five touchdowns over the past two seasons and will have the opportunity to emerge as a go-to receiver, while Toney, one of UF’s most dynamic offensive players, has caught 50 passes for 606 yards and two touchdowns and also has rushed for 368 yards and a touchdown over the past two years. The coaches are planning to get Toney more involved in the passing game and the overall offense by giving him more touches.
Another senior who could play a significant role is Rick Wells, who has had an up and down career but has flashed big-time ability at times. Some, including the departing wide receivers, are predicting a breakout year for him.
As for the inexperience, the Gators are expecting two redshirt freshmen — Ja’Markis Weston and Trent Whittemore — to have a significant impact based on how they performed on the scout team going against the starting UF secondary last fall and how they’ve performed early in camp. Two highly rated true freshmen — Xzavier Henderson and Jaquavion Fraziars — will try to work their way into the playing rotation.
The group could get quite a boost from two transfers. Jordan Pouncey, a graduate transfer from Texas who is eligible this season. He brings a veteran’s presence. Penn State transfer Justin Shorter, a former five-star recruit, is seeking a waiver from the NCAA that would make him eligible this season. If he gets it, he could be a major contributor.
At tight end, there is excellent depth behind Pitts, provided by Kemore Gamble, Keon Zipperer and true freshman Jonathan Odom. Dante Lang has moved to defense.
Going into the season, the Gators are counting heavily on two redshirt freshmen (Weston and Whittemore) who have been impressive on the practice field but have yet to play a down of college football. So, the element of the unknown is present with the group.
Young guy to watch
Ja’Markis Weston. Dan Mullen proclaimed this tall, rangy athlete the sleeper of the 2019 recruiting class. And he hasn’t backed down from that statement since then. A three-star recruit coming out of Clewiston, Weston did not attend any camps during his high school career, so he was a little-known prospect among the recruiting services. But Mullen and his staff saw a potential future big-time receiver in Weston, who has size, speed and has shown on the scout team he has the ability to make plays. Mullen has said the freshmen wide receivers who were redshirted last season are going to surprise a lot of people this fall. Weston is one of those guys.
Don’t be surprised if ...
Trevon Grimes emerges as an All-SEC wide receiver in his senior season. He has the skill set — size (6-5, 214), speed, hands, athletic ability. And now he has the opportunity with last year’s four productive seniors moving on to the NFL. Like his Twitter handle says, it’s Grime Time.
“We’re fortunate with the leadership of last year's (four senior wide receivers) and the bar that they set and the standard that they set. The young guys are now the old guys. You look at Rick Wells, (Jacob) Copeland, Tre Grimes, those guys are now looking at how last year's veteran group carried themselves around the room and they learned how to do it the right way and they’re going to carry that on. And then you get into some of our young guys that redshirted last year. They were able to watch that. Now they’re able to see this next group of guys doing it the same way those guys did it, so I think they really set a great bar, the guys that left last year, for the young guys to work on. And these new guys that are coming into the program are going to look and say, ‘OK, this is the right way, this is how you do things.’ ” — Dan Mullen
Probable depth chart
— Jaquavion Fraziars
Ranking the SEC receivers
6. Ole Miss
7. Texas A&M
10. South Carolina
13. Mississippi State