Kim Klement / USA TODAY Sports

Ranking the Gators' Units: Receivers / Tight Ends (#2)

Talk about a group that has come a long way in just a couple of years. When Jim McElwain arrived on campus there were all of two 4-star receivers on the roster. He doubled that number up in his first full recruiting cycle and then added a couple of more in the last one. A steady group of tight ends are also on board making this a deep and talented unit for Florida football.

When McElwain took over as the head of Florida football in the spring of 2015, Florida likely had the least talented group of receivers on roster in decades. McElwain moved Brandon Powell from running back and signed an underrated Antonio Callaway to make a little jump in talent, but there was lack of top talent and depth in the group like we haven’t seen.

All of that has changed in the three years of recruiting. 4-Star prospects Dre Massey, Tyrie Cleveland, Josh Hammond, and Freddie Swain were added before last season along with an underrated Rick Wells. McElwain and company stacked the receiver group a little more in the offseason signing two 4-star receivers in Daquon Green and James Robinson as well.

Tight Ends have shown some real talent, but have to be more consistent.

Here is what we think about the group…

The Bad Stuff

The off-the-field stuff is probably the most worrisome if we had to go somewhere with it. Antonio Callaway got in trouble again recently. Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells saw the doghouse last year early on because of non-football silliness. Signee James Robinson has been in trouble as well.  If they will stay on course and stick with football, there aren’t many flaws in this group.

The tight end position underperformed last season. Maybe some of that had to do with the quarterback situation. Either way it has to improve.

Ranking the Units: The Secondary (#8)

Ranking the Units: The Quarterbacks (#7)

Ranking the Units: The Linebackers (#6)

Ranking the Units: The Offensive Line (#5)

Ranking the Units: The Defensive Line (#4)

Ranking the Units: The Running Backs (#3)

Possible Bright Side

It appears that freshman James Robinson is going to make it in to school, that certainly wasn’t a given when he signed in February.

Junior Dre Massey was thought by some to be the best receiver on the team before h got hurt last year on the opening kickoff of the season. We don’t know that is true just yet, but we will find out in September.

I have people telling me that redshirt sophomore Kalif Jackson is better than anyone realizes. They wouldn’t put him among the top four in the group, but he hasn’t done anything yet and nobody expects much from him. He is a huge target at 6-foot-4 and 217 pounds and that is something they would love to utilize.

Any year in the previous five I would tell you that signees Daquon Green and Robinson would automatically step in and play big roles at receiver. It is a little different with the talent and depth they have now, but they are talented enough to do just that.

One guy I don’t really want to list here, but believe he can play the position and well is freshman Kadarius Toney. He arrived in January after graduating high school early. He is listed as a quarterback and they love his ability to run from the position, but he could be a tremendous dynamic player at receiver if he plays the position.

Redshirt sophomore Moral Stephens was a player that we thought might be looking to move on before the spring, but a really good spring has shown a great deal of promise in the young man. He might have more physical tools than any of the other tight ends on the roster.

Freshman tight end Kemore Gamble had a really nice spring. He is as capable a pass catcher as they have at the position and will play in year one. If gamble becomes a capable blocker, they won’t wait for the other guys to do what they are capable of, he will move up the depth chart. Here are some senior highlights of gamble. 

The Good Stuff

Talent and talented depth are finally here at the receiver position. I would line up Antonio Callaway (721 yards in 2016, 3 TDs), Massey, Brandon Powell (387 yards, 2 TDs), Tyrie Cleveland (298 yards, 2 TDs), and Joshua Hammond (177 yards) against any five receiver group in the conference and take this group. They still have a lot to prove, but have been handcuffed by the quarterback position. They are now more experienced and should be able to really help the quarterback than they have in the last two years as well.

Massey will be a difference maker. Coming off of ACL injury, he was extremely quick and smooth in the spring while having to stay away from contact.

Callaway had his first spring practice since being on campus. It was big for him in actually being able to soak in the offense more and get a better understanding. That is something that has been an issue in the first two years.

Hammond will be the surprise for everyone this year. He had the best spring of any receiver and is ready for a big breakout year. Hammond will show his versatility and line up at either outside receiver spot or in the slot.

I haven’t mentioned sophomore Freddie Swain (118 yards), but he will have an impact in 2017 as well. He missed spring ball with injury, but wil be back for fall. 

We’ve seen big time plays from both DeAndre Goolsby (342 yards, 3 TDs) and Cyontai Lewis (184 yards, 2 TDs). Another year of maturity will hopefully lead to more consistency, but they have the talent to play with anyone.

Bottom Line

One of the great things about the group is they have enough talented depth to sustain an injury or suspension or two. It is hard to say that All-SEC performer Callaway is that much better than Cleveland or Massey at this point. Certainly he has proven more, but they both have shown big time talent. The receiver position has undergone such a miraculous overhaul and will finally be really fun to watch in the fall. Tight Ends just have to be more consistent, but don’t rule out Stephens or gamble pushing hard and possibly making a big difference in 2017.


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