The emergence of Antonio Callaway last season was a big step in the right direction for a receiver group that hasn’t done much over the last several years. The numbers at the positon have always been fine, but getting some to step up and make plays has been a tough deal. This spring is a big one for a handful of the group, but a huge one for an offense that really wants to get in gear in 2016.
For our purposes I broke the receivers up into two groups, outside receivers and slot receivers. There is one or two in each group that could be in the other. But, this is the way we see it for now.
The known commodity…
It certainly was a surprise what sophomore Antonio Callaway (5-11, 198) was able to do in his first year in 2015. Now Florida understands what they have in Callaway and he has to be a target they go to as often as they can. Callaway caught 35 passes for 678 yards and four touchdowns. The healthy 19.4 yards per catch show just what kind of big play maker he is.
The thought when Callaway was signed was that he would be a slot receiver, but with the additions there, look for him to stay outside and do his damage there.
Now or never…
There are two seniors in the group and the first to talk about is Ahmad Fulwood (6-4, 208). Fulwood is the guy that probably has done less to live up to his billing than any other at the position. A high 4-star prospect with size and good speed, Fulwood has amassed 35 receptions for 387 yards and two touchdowns in his three seasons on campus.
His big 86-yard touchdown catch and run in the 2014 season bowl game is the one play that we can look at and say this is the kind of player he can be. He gets one last go around to step up and a guy that was on the field a lot, he needs to take advantage if the ball starts coming his way.
For a team that has had issues with team speed, Chris Thompson (6-0, 171) is the fastest guy on the team and should have been able to take advantage of that trait. Instead the local Gainesville prospect has nine catches for 78 yards in his three years on campus.
You would think Thompson would be great on special teams returning kicks as well, one crease and he would be in the end zone. That hasn’t materialized much with just three returns averaging 24 yards on kick offs. It is time for this young man to step up on offense and maybe special teams in his last year on campus.
Make your move…
I had all but written C.J. Worton (6-0, 195) off and then he goes and makes the best catch in the last several years in the end zone against Alabama in the SEC Championship. The junior receiver has the skills to be a good one, but his caught just 6 passes for 81 yards in his two years on campus.
He’s had to fight through his propensity to be a lazy blocker and this squad needs all hands on deck doing their job to succeed on offense. If he can battle those issues, he is a constant play maker in practice and will get his chance to shine. If he doesn’t fight through that, he won’t see the field much more than he has.
It is still undetermined whether junior Treon Harris (5-11, 195) will play as a receiver or defensive back this coming season, but he certainly will know the playbook much better on offense. What we know of Harris is that he is tough and willing to give up his body for the team.
While we aren’t sure how well he can catch the ball, he has shown the ability to make people miss and he can get up field fast. He could play inside or out, but with the numbers getting better at the slot, we’ll consider him an outside receiver option at this point.
To be determined…
Is redshirt freshman Kalif Jackson (6-4, 212) growing into a tight end? We don’t know at this point. He was offered by Florida mainly as a red zone threat and that is certainly something they could use. He’s not particularly fast, but can get up for the ball.
Even though it is early in his career, I believe Jackson needs to find that niche that he can be used in the offense. The staff continues to transform the roster and this unit has got to see more production.
Redshirt sophomore Ryan Sousa (6-0, 195) is someone that needs to get on the fast track at this point or he will be lost in the shuffle. He’s seen action in just two games in his two years and playing time isn’t in sight at this point.
As mentioned, the roster is being turned over and more receivers are coming in. This is a huge year for Sousa in terms of showing that he can make a difference at Florida.
Gonna get an early shot…
True freshman Josh Hammond (6-1, 179) is an Under Armour All-American that showed up huge as a senior at Hallandale High School and this writer believes he is in for a big spring and season if he stays healthy.
Hammond is blessed with decent size, good speed, excellent quickness, and super technique. As the younger brother of Gator Great and current Kansas City Chief Frankie Hammond, Josh is much more advanced than Frankie was coming out of high school. His progress this spring should be fun to chronicle.
Many of the descriptives for Hammond can be used for fellow true frosh Freddie Swain (6-0, 177). From nearby Citra (FL) North Marion HS, Swain arrived early on campus out of high school and is expected to compete early for playing time.
He too has the quicks, the speed, and the technical skills that should allow him to challenge the other receivers on campus. A real play maker in high school, it will be fun to watch the growth of Swain as well.
We know what junior Brandon Powell (5-9, 184) is capable of as a receiver. It is all about the health and an injured foot that will determine what kind of impact he will have this spring and in the 2016 season. Powell has 44 catches for 534 yards and four touchdowns in his two years on campus, a number that would be quite higher if healthy. He also has rushed the ball 30 times for 101 yards as he spent his freshman year in the backfield, but occasionally going out for passes.
If Powell is healthy he will be hard to unseat as the starter in the slot position. He makes the hard catches and he isn’t afraid to sacrifice his body over the middle of the field. He certainly can make people miss after catching the ball as well.
Time to make a move…
Redshirt junior Alvin Bailey (5-11, 192) has played in 16 games in his three seasons on campus and has just three receptions for 49 yards, all from last season. Bailey is one that performs well in practice, but hasn’t been able to turn that into production on the field and has dropped a couple of passes during live action to set him back a bit.
A quarterback in high school, he understands the game and has decent tools to be a good player at this level. He just has to make it count when given a chance during football games.
Gonna get an early shot…
They didn’t bring in junior Dre Massey (5-9, 184) from the junior college ranks to sit on the bench. He will of course have to earn his spot, but the shifty speed merchant. In nine games at Holmes Community College he caught 21 passes for 548 yards and six touchdowns. Last year he also ran the ball 59 times for 452 yards and three touchdowns.
A quarterback in high school, expect Massey to catch on quick and they will really push him this spring to see what he can offer.