A year ago, dropped passes were huge factors in quite a few games. It is something that the receivers in 2016 must improve upon if they want to see success on the field. But, there are a lot of areas the group can improve in and there are some they are doing very well. When they meet in a classroom setting to talk about it, they understand full well what is going on.
"I chart drops every…. single… day,” Coach Dixon said emphatically when asked Friday. “We have production charts. We chart everything from catches, from 20-plus (yards), 16-plus, 12-plus, from drops, blocks at the point of attack... if my man missed anything like that, we chart it, and they get to see it. And they really like it."
"We're doing a lot better (than last year). They're starting to understand that they're competing. They're competing by coming in and seeing who has the most production points and they know it really equates to football.
So much is made about a player with great ability to catch the ball needing to be on the field, but if they aren’t able to do the other things needed to win, it is hard to justify for the few passes a game they may get.
“When you look at a game, you're not going to get the ball 20 times if we have 60 plays,” Dixon said. “You probably won't even get it 20 if we played 80. So the production chart really focuses on the things outside of catching the football. It's more 'what did you do to help us in this play get better? Now, there are more bonuses for when you do make a big play, but at the same time, it helps us hone in on everything else for when you don't have the football."
Helping the receivers this year is an entire offensive staff that returns intact for the first time in eight years. As a matter of fact it is the receiver coach that changed every year for the previous seven, not allowing the kind of continuity a group needs to flourish. Dixon understands that is a big deal.
"It's huge,” he said. “When you think about the players that are older in this program, they've been through multiple coordinators and at my position, multiple coaches. So when they can go through something for a second time, a whole year, I think that's huge to have us all around with the same thoughts and now they're starting to understand what we want and what we expect and that's really helping us."
One player the staff, including Dixon, is looking for bigger things from, is senior Ahmad Fulwood. At 6-foot-4 and 211 pounds, Fulwood has elite size and strength to be a very physical receiver and the speed to go down field as well. A four-star receiver out of high school, Fulwood has just 35 catches for 387 yards in his first three years on campus.
They have seen a big improvement from Fulwood so far this spring.
"Yeah, Ahmad has done a lot better as far as picking up the scheme and understanding where he's supposed to be,” Dixon said. “He's really honing his technique and you can start to see it show up out on the field. He's using his physical presence and that's something that's encouraging to see and I want him to see him continue to grow."
With his size and strength, Dixon wants him to utilize those traits.
"Yeah, you get a point where a receiver likes to try to use quickness all the time,” Dixon said. “But with his size and structure, we would like to see him be a lot more physical and aggressive at the line of scrimmage and he's done a great job of that."
Florida saw a big infusion of talent this spring with the arrival of junior college transfer Dre Massey and freshmen Freddie Swain and Josh Hammond who arrived early from high school. All three look to be contributors in year one.
"Them being here midyear is huge,” Dixon said. “You can start to see them grow as practices go on. Josh and Freddie and Dre, they are all doing really good things. I want to see them continue to grow to where we can use them so they can be more versatile around the field for us."
They bring different skill sets to the team that can be utilized.
"Hammond is very, very smooth in and out of routes,” Dixon said. “The quickness part we still have to work on some things, but he understands his body and he knows what he needs to do as far as getting open. Freddie has really good initial quickness. He needs to really hone in on his route-running skills and that'll help him become more effective in the future here."
"They determine how much they play. So if (Hammond) comes out and produces and Swain comes out and he produces and we see that on our production charts week-in and week-out, he'll play. But it's all based on how they come out and produce."
Massey has had a really productive spring in the SLOT.
"Yeah, he's guy you want to get the ball to. He has that type of speed. He has that type of quickness, so he's somebody that can be a difference maker for you. Just has to continue to grow and understand the game as a whole."
Redshirt junior Alvin Bailey has been a guy that has been mentioned a bit this spring as improving as well. Bailey has just three catches in his three previous seasons but they hope he can make a bigger impression in 2016.
"You know Alvin had a good Wednesday and did some really good things here (in the scrimmage),” Dixon said in a week that followed Bailey being out injured the previous week. “I just want to see him continue to grow as he has. You know he's getting better with route running, which is something we've really talked about in the offseason just to make him better. And he's doing a good job of understanding of what he needs to do technique wise to be able to contribute and be a guy for us."
One receiver that continuously has to work on the things you do when you aren’t getting the ball is junior C.J. Worton. Worton can be a big play maker as we saw in the SEC Championship game with a long touchdown grab in the end zone that he fought for and won, but it is a battle for him to do the other things.
“C.J. has to continue to come out and get better every single day,” Dixon said. “That's it. And once he focuses on that as far as one day at a time, then you'll see a lot more of C.J. He has all the talent in the world and we just have to continue and grow those technique things down so you can see him."