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  • Redshirt senior Jake McGee warms up before the Florida Gators sixth spring practice on March 25 2015-1280x852

    Redshirt junior Jake McGee looks to lead the Florida Gators passing attack in his final season of college football. / Gator Country photo by David Bowie

Florida Gators passing game will
go; with or without receivers

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Written by Nick de la Torre, August 21, 2015, 11 Comments,
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The Florida Gators are just over two weeks before the Jim McElwain era will begin as Florida hosts New Mexico State on September 5. We’ve discussed at length the quarterback battle, running backs and the work McElwain has done on the offensive line, but what about receivers?

“I don’t know if sometimes the receivers so shocked the ball’s gotten to him or something, I don’t know, but then they react like they’ve never done it before,” McElwain said when asked how the receivers have progressed this fall camp.

That’s hardly the glowing report fans want to hear about a position that has only had one season where a player had more than 600 receiving yards in the last five years. In fact, other than Demarcus Robinson, the Gators didn’t have a receiver with more than 22 catches or 354 yards receiving in 2014.

The quick fix was to recruit talented freshman Antonio Callaway and to move speedster Brandon Powell over to the position full time, but the group as a whole is still lagging behind the rest of the offense. The routes and timing are getting better but the whole “catching the ball” thing that is all so important for the position seems to be a puzzle the players just can’t crack.

How is McElwain supposed to resurrect an offense that has been offensive to watch at worst and sleep inducing at best if he doesn’t have receivers who can catch the ball?

It’s simple; really, throw the ball to the other players.

If the receivers can’t get their act together McElwain has shown that he can affectively use the other skill position players on the roster to aid the passing game. In 2013 at Colorado State, McElwain’s offense completed 298 passes. 74 of those went to tight ends. To put that into perspective, the Gators had 199 total receptions from the entire team in the same year. The 1,039 yards that those receptions by tight ends covered were more than half of the yards that Florida’s offense threw for in that season as well.

Then you can add 35 receptions from McElwain’s running backs in 2013 and 310 more yards and you almost have Florida’s entire 2013 passing offense covered by Colorado State’s running backs and tight ends.

2013 is not just an outlier either. Starting with McElwain’s stop with the Alabama Crimson Tide as offensive coordinator, the coach has shown that he can and will get other players involved in the passing game. Only once in the past seven years have McElwain’s tight ends and running backs combined for less than 80 receptions (2014) and, on average, the two position groups haul in more than 88 passes a year.

This bodes well for Jake McGee and the tight ends, who much unlike the underwhelming receiver group, have actually been turning heads and impressing the coaching staff this camp.

“There’s some guys at that position and what that does is allows us some flexibility in some personnel groups,” McElwain said of the tight ends. “Maybe be able to get in some green and green X and explode to empty and now you got guys out there on people … that’s where we try to create some match-ups, so kind of putting in, we’re putting in a lot of formational things right now that maybe don’t look conventional and doing it because of the depth of that position.”

McGee is clearly the leader of the group. The oldest, most experienced player is also the most well rounded of the bunch but Florida has some playmakers at tight end behind McGee.

“I think they’re coming along great and I’m excited what they’re going to bring to the field in the fall,” McGee said of C’yontai Lewis and DeAndre Goolsby. “They’re talented players and they’re two guys I’ve tried to help as much as I can to get them as good as they can be with whatever impact I can have with them.”

We can’t forget the running backs either. Junior Kelvin Taylor has had just seven receptions in his two years at Florida. McElwain had two running backs with more than 10 receptions last season alone. If you go back to 2009 at Alabama, McElwain’s running backs caught 63 passes. Taylor was a quick study, saw how much McElwain used the running backs in the passing game and he went to work. Taylor caught balls from both Will Grier and Treon Harris in the offseason and when a quarterback wasn’t available to throw to him he found a JUGS machine.

“This whole camp I would say I maybe dropped two balls the whole camp and I caught a whole lot of check downs this camp,” Taylor said. “So I feel it paid off a whole lot, and just me with the blocking scheme, that’s like night and day I know that very well, I know that great. But yeah I feel like it paid off a whole lot so I’m excited.”

McElwain is determined to turn the Florida Gators passing offense around, with or without the receivers.

Nick de la Torre

About Nick de la Torre

A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC

  1. ctreshAugust 21, 2015, 10:12 am

    Nick, thanks for the somewhat encouraging article. I hate to hear that our receivers simply can’t catch the ball, but I love hearing that KT worked all summer on his hands and blocking. I really hope he has turned the corner and become a much more well-rounded back that we can rely on at any time of the game and on any down. Also, it’s great to hear that we can look forward to some 2-TE sets and really utilize our athletic big guys to create mismatches.

    Maybe our receivers need to stop running routes at practice and spend about 3 hours a day in front of a JUGS machine throwing bullets at them? If you can’t catch the ball then it really doesn’t matter how well you ran your route lol

    • Andrew Spivey
      Andrew SpiveyAugust 21, 2015, 10:59 am

      I think a lot of the WR’s problems come from confidence honestly.

  2. malscottAugust 21, 2015, 10:40 am

    Can you learn to catch? Is that even teachable? I know you can learn to catch better. Hmmm. I always thought the only reason you are a receiver is because you can catch. Then you learn to block and run routes. It appears we have some guys that need to be D-backs or special teams blockers/tacklers…If you are a receiver and can’t catch, are you really a receiver? You’re just a guy running around the field. I know …sounds a bit harsh. Just saying. Go Gators.

    • Andrew Spivey
      Andrew SpiveyAugust 21, 2015, 10:59 am

      Extra JUGS machine work for the receivers.

  3. malscottAugust 21, 2015, 8:17 pm

    Charleypell: Respectfully, I disagree. I would assume we’re kind of in a conundrum with two decent kids and one is going to be named the QB. Nether with a ton of experience. If they are that close we need both in the event one goes down. Our receivers have had trouble catching and getting separation. And, certainly, our Qb’s haven’t helped their cause either. Driskel underwhelmed so much he eventually self-imploded and transferred. I hope extra work on the jugs machine actually works for our receivers. And, I hope these QB’s can rise to the occasion. Grier hasn’t even played a game yet, so it’s a bit premature to rate him one way or another. Treon was decent, played hurt last year. Expect our offensive-minded coaches to cater to our QB’s and nurture them through the process. The last coaching regime didn’t even know how to utilize players. We had a fabulous athlete that disappeared on the depth chart and is now a second string TE in the NFL! He had 6 or 8 TD passes in one game and he wasn’t even a QB!! How do people like that not get used? Through crappy coaching-that’s how!! Expect good things this year. I am , and most of us are. We have to hold our kids in a higher possibility than we have. On that note, I hope our kids can develop some skills on the receiving and and see the balls coming. Even Mac said they might be surprised to see the ball actually making it to them, it’s been so long. That tells me the passes are at least in the same zip code this year! Here’s to our kids surprising us all.Go Gators.

  4. scooterpAugust 21, 2015, 10:25 pm

    Charley….I’m going to go with the guy who has made a living of working with QBs and has a record of building productive offenses over someone who sits behind a computer and thinks he has all the answers. Sorry….but Griers 30+ scholly offers from people who are paid to win football games tells me that a lot people who judge talent to put food on the table and a roof over their heads beats out fan guy with an opinion. It’s no secret, Harris held his own last year and he beat out Grier because he fit Ropers offense that was dumbed down to play to his strength. He avg 9 pass attempts a game for a reason…..we want him to throw it as little as possible!!!!

    • trans25August 21, 2015, 11:10 pm

      Scoot……If the offense was dumbed down, it was for numerous reasons not just for Harris.

    • tmitch_2August 25, 2015, 1:11 pm

      I think Harris has the capacity to fit any offense. I don’t think you want a QB who passed for nearly 6,000 career yards (2113 as a senior), 75 TDs (28 as a senior) and only 4 ints, to not throw the ball. I think that he was terribly under utilized last year, because of roper’s inability to coach big time talent. Forget what these guys did in highschool and the scholarship offers, that means crap now. Harris throws a decent ball, and as a true freshman I thought he made some ok decisions, as 2 of his 4 ints came in the FSU game. Just because he could not save us last year as a true freshman, most gator fans want to see Grier start, by thinking/saying that he’s a better fit for Mac’s scheme. Question, would Grier have done any better than Harris LY?

  5. Andrew Spivey
    Andrew SpiveyAugust 22, 2015, 12:47 am

    Naming anyone the starter at QB right now makes no sense. Why let the cat out of the bag when you don’t need too.

    • gatormadeAugust 23, 2015, 12:46 am

      That’s a good question Andrew. Barret Sallee seems to think naming a starter is beneficial at this point- getting more reps and continuity with the first team. I’m not sure though. Care to elaborate?

    • Andrew Spivey
      Andrew SpiveyAugust 23, 2015, 1:22 pm

      Both quarterbacks are getting comfortable with the first team but having the competition continue for a little longer will help keep the pressure on these guys.

http://www.gatorcountry.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Redshirt-senior-Jake-McGee-warms-up-before-the-Florida-Gators-sixth-spring-practice-on-March-25-2015-1280x852-150x150.jpg Nick de la Torre FeatureFootball ,,,,,,,,,,,
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The Florida Gators are just over two weeks before the Jim McElwain era will begin as Florida hosts New Mexico State on September 5. We’ve discussed at length the quarterback battle, running backs and the work McElwain has done on the offensive line, but what about receivers?

“I don’t know if sometimes the receivers so shocked the ball’s gotten to him or something, I don’t know, but then they react like they’ve never done it before,” McElwain said when asked how the receivers have progressed this fall camp.

That’s hardly the glowing report fans want to hear about a position that has only had one season where a player had more than 600 receiving yards in the last five years. In fact, other than Demarcus Robinson, the Gators didn’t have a receiver with more than 22 catches or 354 yards receiving in 2014.

The quick fix was to recruit talented freshman Antonio Callaway and to move speedster Brandon Powell over to the position full time, but the group as a whole is still lagging behind the rest of the offense. The routes and timing are getting better but the whole “catching the ball” thing that is all so important for the position seems to be a puzzle the players just can’t crack.

How is McElwain supposed to resurrect an offense that has been offensive to watch at worst and sleep inducing at best if he doesn’t have receivers who can catch the ball?

It’s simple; really, throw the ball to the other players.

If the receivers can’t get their act together McElwain has shown that he can affectively use the other skill position players on the roster to aid the passing game. In 2013 at Colorado State, McElwain’s offense completed 298 passes. 74 of those went to tight ends. To put that into perspective, the Gators had 199 total receptions from the entire team in the same year. The 1,039 yards that those receptions by tight ends covered were more than half of the yards that Florida’s offense threw for in that season as well.

Then you can add 35 receptions from McElwain’s running backs in 2013 and 310 more yards and you almost have Florida’s entire 2013 passing offense covered by Colorado State’s running backs and tight ends.

2013 is not just an outlier either. Starting with McElwain’s stop with the Alabama Crimson Tide as offensive coordinator, the coach has shown that he can and will get other players involved in the passing game. Only once in the past seven years have McElwain’s tight ends and running backs combined for less than 80 receptions (2014) and, on average, the two position groups haul in more than 88 passes a year.

This bodes well for Jake McGee and the tight ends, who much unlike the underwhelming receiver group, have actually been turning heads and impressing the coaching staff this camp.

“There’s some guys at that position and what that does is allows us some flexibility in some personnel groups,” McElwain said of the tight ends. “Maybe be able to get in some green and green X and explode to empty and now you got guys out there on people … that’s where we try to create some match-ups, so kind of putting in, we’re putting in a lot of formational things right now that maybe don’t look conventional and doing it because of the depth of that position.”

McGee is clearly the leader of the group. The oldest, most experienced player is also the most well rounded of the bunch but Florida has some playmakers at tight end behind McGee.

“I think they’re coming along great and I’m excited what they’re going to bring to the field in the fall,” McGee said of C’yontai Lewis and DeAndre Goolsby. “They’re talented players and they’re two guys I’ve tried to help as much as I can to get them as good as they can be with whatever impact I can have with them.”

We can’t forget the running backs either. Junior Kelvin Taylor has had just seven receptions in his two years at Florida. McElwain had two running backs with more than 10 receptions last season alone. If you go back to 2009 at Alabama, McElwain’s running backs caught 63 passes. Taylor was a quick study, saw how much McElwain used the running backs in the passing game and he went to work. Taylor caught balls from both Will Grier and Treon Harris in the offseason and when a quarterback wasn’t available to throw to him he found a JUGS machine.

“This whole camp I would say I maybe dropped two balls the whole camp and I caught a whole lot of check downs this camp,” Taylor said. “So I feel it paid off a whole lot, and just me with the blocking scheme, that’s like night and day I know that very well, I know that great. But yeah I feel like it paid off a whole lot so I’m excited.”

McElwain is determined to turn the Florida Gators passing offense around, with or without the receivers.

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