Florida Gators looking to bring back wide receiver tradition

The Florida Gators haven’t exactly thrived in passing offense in recent years. Come to think of it, the Gators haven’t thrived in much offense at all.

A good quarterback is needed to make it all come together, but if the pieces surrounding the passer are any indication, the end of those struggles could be near.

Florida returns established wide receivers including Tyrie Cleveland, Freddie Swain, Josh Hammond and Kadarius Toney. Then, there are guys like Rick Wells, Daquon Green and freshman Jacob Copeland who have shown promise but haven’t even had the chance to scratch the surface yet.

With the NCAA waivers coming in this week for transfers Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes, the room got even deeper and the potential of the position group shot even higher.

Still, aside from the additions of Copeland, Jefferson and Grimes, this is essentially the same group of wide receivers that did not impress a year ago.

But so much has changed since then.

Major changes have come to their bodies thanks to training from strength and conditioning coach Nick Savage, and they will be playing in a completely different offense—the same offense that many of the all-time great Florida receivers played in years ago.

But until the Gators prove something on the field, this group of wide receivers will continue to be looked over by outsiders. They are fine with that.

“I like the underdog role, because you have a chance to just go out there and prove yourself,” said Cleveland. “I feel like these receivers we have now, we’re very talented and smart. We’re just going to compete and work hard every day. When it comes Saturday in the fall, we’re going to show them.”

Florida’s wide receivers have big expectations for this season, and with so much talent at the position, the competition is higher than it’s been in years.

In the end, there will only be one ball, and there can only be so many receivers on the field at one time. That could, and should, create some tension.

While it’s all business on the field, the wide receivers are a tight knit unit. Cleveland even said that he has noticed the guys are closer to one another than the other teams he’s played on in the past.

“Every day we go out there and compete on the field and we work each other out,” Grimes said. “After that, there’s no hard feelings. Whoever gets the ball one day, he may get the ball four times, one day he may get it zero. Every day we just work, we compete, and then after we get off the field we all literally go to our lockers and laugh and talk, so there’s no hard feelings there. We all have love for each other.”

Even the quarterbacks have taken notice of the position group making strides. They worked together and built a stronger connection throughout the summer, and now that it is time for fall camp, it’s become second nature.

They have confidence in their receivers to go out and make plays, which gives them confidence to put it up for them.

“It feels like every time you throw to them it’s going to be a catch,” said redshirt sophomore quarterback Kyle Trask. “Everybody’s been working so hard over the summer. It feels like we’re so reliable at receiver. They have a good range when you throw them the ball. I’m not afraid to throw to anybody.”

Each wide receiver brings something different to the table. With speed, size and agility, there is a weapon for almost any situation.

“Dangerous, very dangerous,” Grimes said. “I personally feel like we have one of the best wide receiver corps in the nation … I feel like we can phenomenal this year.”

If the talent on paper translates to the field, this group will turn heads and break ankles in 2018.

Bailiegh Williams
Growing up the daughter of a baseball coach in a household that revolved around Gators sports, Bailiegh’s future working in sports was her destiny. She played four years of varsity softball at Suwannee High School and one year on softball scholarship at Gulf Coast State College. In her first year she discovered a love for journalism so she packed her bags and moved to Gainesville to finish her A.A. and begin interning for Gator Country. She is now on track to graduate from the University of Florida in 2019. In her free time, Bailiegh enjoys binge watching her favorite TV shows and spending time with her family and her two fur babies.