The 2016 season was a whirlwind for then freshman receiver Freddie Swain. The new playbook was huge and he wasn’t as dedicated to really digging into it and spending time learning it. It’s a pitfall many freshmen across the country fall in to.
The former North Marion High School standout had always been able to rely on his athleticism he didn’t know how important getting into your playbook could be when you’re on a field where you’re no longer the biggest and fastest on the field.
Swain was ready to make plays on Saturday but underestimated how important the work you put in on Sunday through Friday
“I wasn’t really focused. I just wanted to play,” Swain, now a sophomore, said on Tuesday after practice. “I wasn’t really learning about why I should run this route the correct way and why I should push this certain depth. I was just playing.”
Just playing was good enough as a freshman. Swain caught two passes in the season opener against North Texas and a 26-yard touchdown against Kentucky in week two. He caught two passes against Tennessee, including his second touchdown.
Then Swain hit a bump in the road. He the labrum in his right shoulder
“I was really playing with one arm,” he said. “My labrum was torn up. It was real bad.”
Swain played most of the season with that bum shoulder. He hauled in eight passes for 118 yards and two scores but only had two catches after his injury. He won’t use that as an excuse. In fact, before the injury is when things started to click for him. Swain gained confidence from his six catches in the first month of the season and it started to fuel his fire off the field.
“A couple of games in I would say (it clicked),” he said. “When I saw that I could compete with the best of the best and I was competing with them just basically off of talent and nothing behind it like knowing plays and knowing why I’m running that route. That’s when it clicked.”
After the season Swain needed surgery to fix his labrum. That forced him, against his wishes, out for the entirety of spring camp. Without being able to take reps on the field, he again dove back into the playbook.
How much has that paid off? Swain is going to play all three receiver positions for the Gators this season. He likes playing in the slot because, in his own words, “The linebackers are in the slot, so… that’s really where it’s fun at.”
Playing receiver is different when you’re playing the X versus the Z or in the slot. There are different techniques, different checks and options to routes, different blocking responsibilities. It’s something that he wouldn’t have been able to handle early in 2016 but a responsibility he now relishes.
With Antonio Callaway out for the season opener, and potentially more games while he’s suspended from team activities, Florida will need the sophomore Swain to step up and he’s ready to answer the call.
“I’m just focused in and locked in on what I have to do,” Swain said. “I left all the distractions alone and I just focused in on what’s my goal. It’s paying off.”