GAINESVILLE, Fla. — After Florida finished practice on Friday, the Gators huddled around wide receiver James Robinson.
The true freshman finally had the chance to formally introduce himself to his teammates after being cleared academically by the NCAA and subsequently enrolling in school.
With pleasantries exchanged, Robinson’s focus now is on finding his way into a packed wide receiver rotation.
“I’m excited for his opportunity,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said after the team’s practice on Monday. “His opportunity not only to play football, but his opportunity to get an education at a great university.”
Robinson is a 4-star signee and the No. 15 wide receiver in the Class of 2017, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. But his chances of being able to sign at Florida seemed bleak heading into National Signing Day.
Robinson was cited for marijuana possession while on a visit to Ohio State in January and also had to improve his academics as a senior in high school.
Despite the troubles, McElwain fought for Robinson to be able to sign at Florida, even though there was pushback from the administration.
“I feel it’s my responsibility to give guys a chance,” McElwian said. “… And you know I never will throw somebody out that has something to him and gets an opportunity to be successful.”
Robinson could provide yet another weapon to Florida’s already deep wide receiver corps. At 6-foot-4, he has the height to grab a pass at its highest point and could be a valiant threat in the red zone. That’s a needed commodity for Florida, considering the Gators finished tied for 126th out of 128 FBS teams in overall red-zone scoring efficiency (71.4 percent conversion rate) and scored only 21 touchdowns in 42 red-zone trips.
At 205 pounds, he has the potential to overpower smaller cornerbacks and be a valuable mismatch on the sidelines.
“He’s big,” McElwain said. “That’s a good thing.”
Robinson worked with the backups during the team’s fastball period on Monday and caught a couple tough passes during individual drills.
His skill set will complement the speedy deep threats in Antonio Callaway and Tyrie Cleveland, the versatility of Dre Massey and Kadarius Toney, and the sure-handedness of Brandon Powell, Freddie Swain and Josh Hammond. Fellow true freshman Daquon Green also could be in the mix for reps this season.
Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier likened the wide receiver group to a fidget spinner, a toy that continuously spins around for as long as the user pleases. For the duration of camp — and throughout the season — Nussmeier plans to rotate the receivers in different schemes and different formations.
“We do have depth,” Nussmeier said. “We have guys that do different things well. That’s going to be the whole key is putting these guys in the best position for what they do well, and obviously there’s only one ball. We’ve talked about playing unselfish as a group, and that group is exciting.
“We’ve got some guys that can turn the field over fast and [I’m] really looking forward to watching how they fit in as pieces into the packages that we’re using.”
For Robinson, though, the focus is just getting on the field — however that might be.
“Time will tell,” McElwain said. “He’s got a long ways to go, obviously not being here in Summer B and getting here late [for] practice. The catch-up piece for him is not trying to get it all at once, but let’s perfect it little by little and see if he can get out there and help us.”