GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Gators potentially have their deepest wide receiver group since the Tim Tebow era.
Florida returns all five of its top wide receivers from last season, has another returning from season-ending injury and five more with the potential to make an impact if given the opportunity. The group has a combination of speed, surefire hands and playmaking abilities that will give Florida’s starting quarterback — whoever it may be — enough options to spread the ball around the field
Here’s a closer look at the Florida wide receivers.
Junior Antonio Callaway
Callaway is Florida’s biggest playmaker on offense. He leads the team with 1,399 receiving yards on 89 receptions (15.7 yards/catch) over the last two years — including 721 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2016 — and was voted by the media to the preseason All-SEC second team. Callaway has the top-end speed and ball skills to compete with just about every defensive back in the country.
His main problem is staying out of trouble off the field. He was was suspended by the school in January 2016 as part of a Title IX investigation in relation to an alleged sexual assault and then fully reinstated in September after being found not responsible. In May, Callaway was cited for marijuana possession while in a vehicle with 40-year-old Kendrick Williams, who has a lengthy rap sheet. Callaway reached a plea deal for the citation Monday, and his status for the season opener against Michigan is undecided.
Senior Brandon Powell
Powell started 11 games last season and finished second on the team behind Callaway in catches (45) and receiving yards (387). While not the flashiest receiver or a deep threat, Powell has become a reliable check-down catcher who has the ability to make plays in open space. He will fight for a starting job heading into fall camp and could see playing time at all of the receiver spots.
Redshirt junior Dre Massey
Massey was supposed to be Florida’s dynamic, versatile receiver in 2016 until his season ended. The speedy junior college transfer tore his right ACL on the season-opening kickoff. A year later, Massey looks to be ready to participate in fall camp after being limited with a bulky knee brace during the spring. If he is back to full health, Massey could be a threat in the slot and on kickoffs for the Gators and provide the needed spark for the offense.
Sophomore Tyrie Cleveland
Cleveland finished the season with 298 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns on 14 catches, but he showed his playmaking ability late in the season. No play of his was bigger than his 98-yard catch-and-run in the Gators’ 16-10 win at LSU.
With a full year in McElwain’s system under his belt, Cleveland looks poised to build on his sporadic freshman year success. He is expected to start opposite Callaway once fall camp gets under way.
The rest of the group
In addition to the four receivers above, sophomores Freddie Swain (8 catches, 118 yards, 2 touchdowns in 2016) and Josh Hammond (14 catches, 177 yards), redshirt sophomore Kalif Jackson, redshirt freshman Rick Wells and true freshmen James Robinson and Daquon Green are expected to make an impact in 2017. Robinson, a 4-star signee and the No. 14 rated wide receiver in the Class of 2017, is continuing to deal with the NCAA regarding academic issues and is the only member of Florida’s latest signing class that has not enrolled in school.
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