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Florida wide receiver Freddie Swain runs a route against LSU. He's caught 6 passes in six games.

Receivers not getting open not valid excuse for Gators’ passing woes

Ryan Young

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Everybody has an opinion on why Florida’s passing offense has been so underwhelming this season.

Most place the blame on offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. A growing faction puts it on redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks. And others continue to note that Florida’s wide receivers don’t seem to be getting open very often.

That is the focus of the latest Gators Mailbag Question of the Day.

Mike V. asks … “Why do our receivers never seem to get open?”

This excuse just doesn’t fly with me at all, for several reasons.

First, there were open receivers for potential big gains that Franks simply missed last week (and in previous games). Brandon Powell, in particular, was open downfield twice when Franks instead checked down to shorter routes. Franks acknowledged that Powell spoke to him after a particularly egregious decision to throw a short sideline pass to tight end DeAndre Goolsby on third-and-long as Powell sprung free downfield.

Franks’ field-vision problem has been a consistent issue that has limited his progress from week to week.

Second, I will always be of the mind that it’s on the offensive coordinator to find ways to get his playmakers open. I’m not going to say that Florida runs the same plays over and over. I’m not in the meetings; I don’t know the nuances on each given play call and what might have been intended. But it is pretty clear that the end result is a steady stream of screen passes and short over-the-middle stuff. Any defense that has studied Florida’s film has a good idea of what’s coming.

As for the few downfield shots the Gators have tried in recent weeks with no success, sure, the receivers haven’t gotten open. The absence of Antonio Callaway and Tyrie Cleveland hurts, and as Cleveland showed, he can win those post routes and make plays. If Callaway wasn’t suspended and Cleveland wasn’t hurt the last two weeks, the passing game would surely have hit on a few more big gains.

But at that point it’s on the coaches to go to Plan B, C, D, etc., and find ways to get the receivers open. There are ways. There are always ways.

Which leads me to the third and final point on this matter. Look at some of the teams that rank among the top 35 passing offenses in the country. Syracuse, Iowa State, UConn, Virginia, etc. Or many of the teams that rank higher than Florida in that category. How many 4-star receivers do those programs have?

Syracuse had none in its last four recruiting classes. UConn or Virginia didn’t have any, either. Iowa State had one.

Those teams would love to have 4-star wide receivers such as Josh Hammond and Freddie Swain.

Are the Gators facing tougher defenses in the SEC? Sure. But what about Vanderbilt, which ranks four spots higher in the conference passing stats than Florida, and passed for 264 yards against the Gators? No 4-star receivers whatsoever.

Florida has enough talent at wideout even without Callaway. The QB and OC need to do a better job utilizing it. Plain and simple.

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