With the Orange and Blue Debut in the rear view, the Florida Gators football team enters the doldrums of the off season. The team will workout together through the off season with the strength and conditioning staff but Jim McElwain and his coaching staff are solely focused on recruiting with the spring evaluation period beginning.
With that in mind Gator Country will go over where the current roster stands, what the depth chart looks like, and how the 13 incoming freshmen will fit in at their positions when they arrive on campus in June.
We’ve hit on quarterbacks, defensive ends, running backs, and defensive tackles and today it’s back to offense with receivers.
Senior — Chris Thompson
Senior — Ahmad Fulwood
RS Junior — Alvin Bailey
Junior — Dre Massey
Junior — Brandon Powell
Junior — C.J. Worton
RS Sophomore — Ryan Sousa
Sophomore — Antonio Callaway
RS Freshman — Kalif Jackson
Freshman — Josh Hammond
Freshman — Freddie Swain
Questions heading into spring
The departure of Demarcus Robinson and suspension of Antonio Callaway left the Gators thin at receiver this spring. In 2015 Callaway and Robinson accounted for 63% of Florida’s receptions by receivers (83), 66% of the yards (1,200) by receivers and 55% of the touchdowns (6) scored by receivers at the position. Florida, seemingly for years now, has been looking for consistency, reliability, and explosiveness out of the receiver position. With the two biggest weapons at the position not on the field, who would step up into that role?
What we learned
This is the last call for Ahmad Fulwood and Chris Thompson. The two seniors of the group have been mostly non-factors on offense for three seasons. Thompson has played in 30 games and has nine receptions for 78 yards. Fulwood has played in 38 games, catching 35 passes for 387 yards and two touchdowns. Those are career numbers, not season stats. For as much as Jim McElwain talked about both players this spring, they were hardly targeted during the Orange and Blue Debut. Thompson hauled in one pass for 21 yards and Fulwood wasn’t even targeted in the game.
Is it over for Thompson and Fulwood? Not necessarily, but there is a group of young, hungry and talented receivers who appear ready to step up and play right now if the seniors don’t get it going.
The most impressive receivers this spring were two newcomers. With Brandon Powell missing the spring with a foot injury, Dre Massey put a lot of distance between Powell and himself with his play. Massey, a junior college transfer, feels the urgency to play right away given that he only has two years of eligibility left.
The other newcomer was Josh Hammond, the younger brother of former Florida Gators receiver Frankie Hammond. The two share a name, but their games are very different. Frankie was the smaller speedster, a track star at Florida. Josh is a big, physical receiver who already has a great grasp of the offense as well as the knowledge of how to use his long frame to his advantage. Florida won’t have a true go-to receiver until Callaway returns, but Hammond showed something that Florida has lacked — consistency.
C.J. Worton is another guy that’s on the bubble. A junior, Worton’s time is starting to tick away. He caught two passes for 62 yards in the Orange and Blue Debut. Worton has flashed at times, but he hasn’t been able to get out of his own way off the field.
Early enrollee Freddie Swain was solid in the spring, but we haven’t seen enough of him yet. Swain is a good route runner, has solid hands and can really go get it with his leaping ability. How much he can contribute as a freshman is still a question, but he will have an impact for Florida during his career.
The next group of guys includes Ryan Sousa, Alvin Bailey and Kalif Jackson (who missed spring with an injury) but they’re clearly behind the aforementioned players.
Playing time and catches are wide open. As of now, people inside the program remain hopeful and optimistic that Antonio Callaway will be able to return to the team before the season begins but Florida still needs someone to line up across from him. Right now, assuming Callaway starts, you can pencil in Dre Massey at the slot and then you’re still searching for someone to fill the last slot.
Tyrie Cleveland is probably the most talented player Florida has gotten since Demarcus Robinson. Robinson’s stats, off the field issues and reluctance to fight for extra yards aside, his raw ability and talent is undeniable. Cleveland impressed us at the Under Armour All-American game; where he was a big play waiting to happen all spring. It may be too much to ask for him to come in and start day one, like Callaway did, but Cleveland has the ability to be an instant impact player.
Rick Wells is another guy that could contend for playing time early. Given the state of the position, all of the freshmen that Florida signed last recruiting cycle have a great opportunity to play right away. Florida has a lot of depth at the position heading into this fall. There is a lot of young talent and, based on what we’ve seen, the young talent should pass up the older players sooner rather than later.