After four games, wide receivers coach Kerry Dixon is "extremely happy" with his unit.
"Those guys are very competitive, and you always want to get more,' said Dixon on Wednesday. "You know, the more guys you can have, the better. It was interesting, I was having a conversation with a player this week. And this is about Noah and the Ark. You know, Noah took two of everything on the ark, right? So I told him, I need two of everything. At the receiver position, I need 10."
Dixon's group picked up plenty of reinforcements this offseason. Florida had two wide receivers early enroll, Freddie Swain and Joshua Hammond, while also adding Rick Wells and Tyrie Cleveland in the fall. Although each of them can contribute, Dixon understands there is a learning curve during the first season for the freshmen.
"Josh and Freddie, they both got here early on so they understand the offense a lot better. And then Rick and Tyrie both missed some time during fall camp so they're just now catching up to the learning curve," said Dixon. "But those guys have done a great job. They care about it, they come in and get extra work and that's a competitive group. Those young guys are really competitive. They want to play and they want to push the guys in front of them, so it's good."
In the end the Gators playing true freshmen not only helps with their depth at the position, it also helps attracting future talent.
"I think that's huge. You know, when guys come to the games and they can see young guys are actually out there playing, it's not jut fluff, it's not just talk. It's real," explained Dixon. "The best players will play. If you come in and you work hard and you understand what you're doing, you'll get out there on the field and you should perform on Saturdays."
Swain has demonstrated his knack for getting open during practices and games.
“I noticed in the spring that he’s a lot more effective when he’s playing inside than out," said Dixon. "We made a change with him and put him behind Brandon [Powell] in the slot and you can see he’s really effective, he understands the defense, he can run routes on the inside and he’s really effective in there. We need him to be good. One thing I really like about Freddie is his competitiveness too. He wants to be out there and he’s going to make plays when he’s out there.”
Cleveland is another receiver itching to return to the field. The wide receiver caught his first ball in the loss against Tennessee last weekend, after dealing with a hamstring injury during camp and his suspension for firing a BB gun.
"He's doing a really good job. You know, we don't ask him to do too much right now, especially when guys miss that amount of time and they're just getting here. So what we try to do is bring him in and talk to him about certain situations where he would go in the game and put him in the proper position to be successful. That's our job as coaches is to get them in the right spot and make sure they can have success on the field."
According to Dixon, Cleveland has impressed the staff by never letting his circumstances stop him from losing sight of what he needs to do.
“Anytime you go through that it’s a little mentally draining," said Dixon. "He was down a little bit but he stayed engaged. One of the things about him, he always asks questions in meetings. If he didn’t know something he would always feel free to ask. He stayed engaged that way. When he came back out it wasn’t too hard for him to pick up on certain things.”
“The more and more he gets into it, everybody has the opportunity to play," he added "If he continues to grow and he continues to learn and understand the game, he has the opportunity to be up there quite a bit.”
“I think Antonio’s [Callaway] a lot faster than what some think. You know, his speed, his initial quickness, and he just has a knack for the ball and the ability to make plays," said Dixon. "When you see him in pads and you see him out there on the field, he’s moving."
Antonio Callaway is a favorite target for the Gators' quarterbacks this season. Since his freshman year, the wide receiver has seen plenty of interest his way, however, this year his ball skills have taken center stage.
"He plays with a better sense of urgency, and that comes with a year of experience. He knows the offensive scheme a lot better. So that’s helping him out a ton. One of the things that he really has to pay attention to is the attention to detail. And I think once he gets that done as far as his release techniques, why I have to run a certain route a certain way, then he’ll really excel.”
Dixon is not shocked by Callaway's talent and drive.
“It’s funny because after the very first practice he had here, I thought he was special. We do a release drill in practice versus the DBs, and just his initial quickness off the ball was elite. And it’s starting to show.”
Odds and Ends
Ahmad Fulwood a good blocker. What about the other guys in that aspect?
“One of the things, Ahmad is really, really good at blocking. I want to see him be more aggressive when the ball is in the air. Another special blocker on the perimeter is Brandon Powell. Callaway’s done a better job this year. Some of these younger guys, you want to see them come along and develop into that type of blocker, but Ahmad has been doing a really, really good job of that phase of the game.”
On C.J. Worton and his injury
"I think it [the injury] messed with him a little mentally, but he's breaking through that. He's showing up in practice and he's working hard, and he's continuing to grow as a player. But just working through the mental aspect has been huge for him and I'm excited to see him back out there."
“When he’s fully healthy I think he’s another guy that over time can bring you some big plays in the passing game," added Dixon.
"He just does everything that you ask him to do. He’s always in the right spots no matter where you put him on the field. He’s gonna line up, he’s gonna do his job. He’s gonna come back and he’s gonna play the next play. And that’s been really good to see out of a freshman.”