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Receivers ready for whatever coverage Kentucky does, doesn't, show

September 5, 2018
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Tyrie Cleveland had never seen anything like it in his entire football career.

With 3:23 left in the first half of the Florida Gators 2017 game against the Kentucky Wildcats, down 14-7, Cleveland lined up outside, looked up and didn’t see anyone there. The Wildcats linebackers and secondary were in the middle of the field, seemingly confused and discussing their coverage. Cleveland wanted to take advantage.

“That was crazy when I saw it on the field so I tried to tell Feleipe [Franks] to hurry up and snap the ball so he saw me waving my hand and took advantage of it,” Cleveland told reporters on Tuesday, recalling the insane circumstances of his 45-yard touchdown.

“Since I’ve been playing football that is the first one ever in my career playing football.”

He would see it again before the night was over. With less than a minute to go, now with Luke Del Rio at quarterback, Freddie Swain stepped to the line of scrimmage at the Kentucky 5-yard line. There was no confusion or chaos going on with the Cats defense that time, yet Swain still turned wide eyes to Del Rio and stuck his hands up to indicate he was left completely uncovered. Del Rio audibled and Swain hauled in an uncontested pass for the win.

Receiver Dre Massy still sounds shocked when he thinks back to those two plays.

“Naw that's the thing, never seen that ever." 

It was somewhat of a lucky break for a team that Massey says came in unprepared and saw Kentucky score on them during the second drive and keep it close all game.

“I think we kinda overlooked them last year a lot and they surprised us obviously out of the gate so I think this year we gonna take them a lot more serious this year and try to get that win." 

For the Gators wide receivers, taking their SEC opener more seriously this year means starting with their matchups at the Kentucky corner position. Both Cleveland and Massey referred to the Cats corners as tall guys (comparing the average heights of both units, the Kentucky corners are about half an inch taller than the Gators receivers) but someone they’ve at least seen before.

“They tall, they definitely tall and big but they pretty much the same people as last year,” says Massey.

Adds Cleveland, “They play a lot of Cover 3, stuff like that. I played them twice so I’m very familiar with what they do. We just have to go out there and execute and be very detailed on the things we have to do on Florida’s offense.”

The Gators receivers—with the majority of starters only playing the first half—pulled in 241 receiving yards during the first game. The Kentucky secondary allowed 137 yards through the air week 1. With both schools preparing for their first league game, tight end RJ Raymond says their preparing for a touch match.

“They’re gonna be good. They’re gonna play hard, they’re gonna play tough. They always give us a tough matchup every single year no matter how good one team is or how good they are going into the season. They always give us a tough matchup and it’s always a fun game. We’re gonna expect them to play hard and give us their best shot.”

Cleveland says when all is said and done though his unit has the edge; it has nothing to do with a streak or previous years, but simply who they are: “I feel like we got the edge because it’s Florida, you feel me, Florida is always supposed to win. Just the speed over here is just ridiculous so I feel like me and all the guys in the receiving room are going to be ready to go.”

It will take that speed and any other edge since chances are the Wildcats won’t leave two receivers wide open and uncovered again. The Gators will keep their eyes open for the chance though and Massey says they’ll be ready if they do and prepared if they don’t.

"I hope they do but if they don't we gonna just find a way to win." 

Receivers ready for whatever coverage Kentucky does, doesn't, show

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