With spring practices only a couple of weeks away, it’s time to start previewing what the 2020 Gators might look like position-by-position.
Next up are the wide receivers. Here are three observations, two questions and one prediction about the group entering the spring.
1. It is a brand news start as this group will have a newer – and younger – look to it this spring. They lost four seniors from last year’s team, leaving Trevon Grimes, Kadarius Toney and Jacob Copeland as the only receivers with a track-record of playmaking. Redshirt freshmen Dionte Marks, Ja’Markis Weston and Trent Whittemore figure to receive a ton of reps, while Texas transfer Jordan Pouncey looks to make a strong first impression. How this unit progresses will go a long way toward determining how good the 2020 Gators can be.
2. It’s now or never for Rick Wells. The redshirt senior has been praised by his teammates and coach Dan Mullen over the past two years, but he’s only caught three passes in his career. The amount of youth and inexperience at the position will give Wells a better opportunity than he’s ever had before. He needs to take advantage of it.
3. It’ll be interesting to see what Pouncey brings to the table. He only caught two passes in his three seasons with the Longhorns, and some Gator fans viewed him as nothing more than a necessary component of landing his brother Ethan, a highly coveted cornerback. While he hasn’t produced much in his career, he seems to have the selflessness and willingness to block for others than will endear him to his coaches and teammates. He’ll probably receive a lot of first-team reps this spring, so he’ll get plenty of chances to improve the pass-catching part of his game.
1. Which of the three redshirt freshmen will take the largest leap? Unless UF’s talented crop of freshmen receivers and Penn State transfer Justin Shorter pick things up extremely quickly once they arrive over the summer, they’re going to need at least one of the redshirt freshmen to play a large role this year. Marks put on some size during his redshirt year, and he could be an option in the slot if Toney falters once again. Weston has the measurables that coaches like, but he was extremely raw when he came to Florida, so it’ll be fascinating to see how far he’s come. Whittemore is a good athlete who’s probably the readiest to play right now, but he probably has the lowest ceiling of the three.
2. Who will emerge as the starting receiver opposite of Grimes? Copeland is the most logical candidate, but he’s probably a better fit at slot than Toney. Other options include Wells, Pouncey and Weston. What made Florida’s receiving corps really good the past two seasons was the depth. They didn’t have one guy that opposing defenses could game plan around and try to take away. Instead, they had four or five guys who all presented equal threats, which gave them a mismatch to exploit on most plays. They need someone to step up opposite of Grimes to build this dynamic again in 2020.
1. Copeland will have a strong spring, cement himself into the starting lineup and have fans buzzing about him all offseason. He only caught 21 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns last season, but he showed some flashes of the type of weapon he can be over the second half of the season. He’s an explosive athlete who is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. He’s basically Toney but with a better feel for the position. The only things holding him back have been the bevy of upperclassmen ahead of him and his inconsistent practice performances. After Copeland’s breakout game against South Carolina, Mullen said Copeland hadn’t always done a great job of knowing where to be on every play and how to impact the game without the ball in his hands. With a clear path to playing time this year, Copeland should be much better in practice and make himself a rising star entering the fall.