GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Tyrie Cleveland showed Saturday why he was the prized recruit of Florida’s 2016 class.
The true freshman wide receiver caught three passes for 79 yards and a touchdown the Gators’ 40-14 win over Missouri.
His 46-yard grab on the offense’s opening drive of the game was the third-longest pass play for UF this season.
“He worked on it all week and he did a great job,” quarterback Luke Del Rio said of Cleveland’s deep ball.
It was a glimpse of the big-play potential Cleveland has. He was ranked the nation’s No. 2 wide receiver and came to Florida with high expectations because of his combination of size (6-foot-2, 196 pounds) and speed (4.36 40-yard dash).
However, a lingering hamstring injury caused Cleveland to miss most of fall camp and two games in September. He was also suspended for the season opener for his offseason BB gun incident.
But Cleveland has come up with catches in the last three games and scored his first career touchdown against the Tigers.
Welcome to the end zone, @Tyrie_1!
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) October 16, 2016
“It was good to see him,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “He’s a talented guy, he’s a great person, he’s a great kid. Struggling with those injuries and then the learning curve being behind a little bit. You know, this is gonna be a really important (bye) week for him as well as he continues to just kind of grow into that offense and really get another true, big-time threat on the other side from Antonio (Callaway). … But I was excited for Tyrie and he’s a guy that really cares and he’s really glad to be here.”
That’s evident every time Cleveland makes a big reception, because those Gator Chomps follow. Del Rio said Cleveland’s skill set has always been there, but he’s starting to make up for his lack of practice time and game experience.
“Tyrie’s done a great job just at developing his mental side of the game,” Del Rio said. “He came in and we saw the athleticism and talent he had and were like, ‘Woah, he’s going to be really good.’ But he’s learning all the nuances, the splits, when to convert things, when we audible or check out of a play what he has to do.
“Really, really proud of him. I thought he played great tonight. And he is competitive, man. He wants the ball every play.”