GAINESVILLE, Fla. — We saw a different side of Antonio Callaway in Florida’s season opener last Saturday.
The star wide receiver earned the nickname ‘big play Callaway’ after catching a ton of deep passes in 2015, when he set the school record for most receiving yards by a true freshmen. Callaway finished with 35 catches for 678 yards and led the SEC in yards per catch (19.37 avg.).
Five receptions were the most he had in a game last season, and that only happened three times. So Callaway didn’t haul in a lot of balls, but when he did they gained big chunks of yardage.
That wasn’t the case, however, in Florida’s 24-7 win over UMass.
Callaway set a career-high with eight receptions, but had just 72 yards receiving (9.0 avg.). In his previous 12 games, he averaged more than 10 yards per catch in 10 of those outings.
But with a short-passing attack against UMass, Callaway was a workhorse at a new spot in the receiving corps.
“I thought he stepped up,” Gators coach Jim McElwain said. “He was ready to play and taking advantage of opportunities. I think he really understands that. Playing a new position, I thought he handled that well.
“This week he’ll play kind of two true positions. Last year he was kind of just a Z. This last game he played X. Now his versatility to be able to get him on the inside when needed … I’m excited about his growth as a receiver.”
This is only his third year playing the position, so he’s only scratched the surface of his potential. With more development to be had, McElwain admires Callaway’s work ethic and approach to the game.
“I think his upside’s huge,” McElwain said. “Here’s a guy that loves to practice. It makes a difference. When you love to just go out and play, you know what, it makes the games go a lot easier.
“He’s a guy that a lot of times makes it look pretty easy, but that’s because of the work he puts in out there on the practice field.”