2020 Florida Gators Season in Review: Wide Receivers

With the Gators' 2020 season officially in the books, it's time to take a look at how each position group fared during a complicated season.
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Florida's 2020 season will undoubtedly be most remembered by the passing game success that quarterback Kyle Trask and company found.

Tight end Kyle Pitts might steal the headlines, joining Trask as a top ten Heisman Trophy candidate, but Florida's wide receiver corps deserves as much praise as any position on the roster for how it performed during the year. It must be remembered that, entering the year, the wide receiver room was considered one of UF's most concerning spots by some pundits and analysts.

After the 2019 season in which Florida's passing attack originally became threatening under head coach Dan Mullen, four wide receivers found homes at the NFL level. Van Jefferson, Freddie Swain, and Tyrie Cleveland were drafted while Josh Hammond signed to a practice squad. 

Replacing four professional-caliber contributors at one position is a daunting task. But Florida had zero issues with it.

Florida turned to Kadarius Toney, a gadget player who received specialized touches in his previous three seasons, as the team's wide receiver No. 1, and the move paid massive dividends. Primarily out of the slot but with snaps on the outside too, Toney would emerge as a dynamic, trusted receiver and led the team with 70 catches for 984 yards, scoring 10 touchdowns.

"I feel like I made a lot of strides through learning and practicing from [wide receivers] coach Billy Gonzales, just running different routes, different patterns, different ways to get open," Toney described of his season in December. "I feel like I got more into that, took off I guess."

Another receiver that took off was senior Trevon Grimes, who, like Toney, has since declared for the 2021 NFL Draft following strong ends to their UF careers. Grimes looked the part of a dominant receiver in two seasons prior to 2020, but with so many veterans ahead of him, his role never really grew until this season. 

Grimes would finish with 38 receptions, 589 yards, and nine touchdowns, all single-season career highs.

A total of six UF wide receivers caught at least 10 passes this past season, and 10 caught at least one. Penn State transfer Justin Shorter was dependable as a possession receiver, catching plenty of short passes and often churning out a good bit of yards after the catch. Whereas, redshirt sophomore Jacob Copeland emerged as a deep threat receiver as the year went on while eliminating some issues with dropped passes.

Redshirt freshman Trent Whittemore and true freshman Xzavier Henderson flashed within their roles as well. Although the two combined for just 19 receptions, each did enough to ensure an uptick in snaps next season with Toney and Grimes out of the picture.

How the rest of the room will pan out, however, remains to be seen. Losing Toney and Grimes could sting as much if not more as losing four receivers after the 2019 season, given the duo's star-power compared to the quartet's dependability. But if any coach has proven his worth around UF with an ability to develop talent on a year to year basis, it's Gonzales.

Perhaps Gonzales will have seniors Rick Wells and Jordan Pouncey to work with in 2021, should they use their extended eligibility. If not, he'll look to Shorter, Copeland, Henderson, and Whittemore as his top guys, while expecting Ja'Markis Weston and Ja'Quavion Fraziars to take a step forward in their development. All eyes will be on incoming freshmen Daejon Reynolds and Marcus Burke, along with any last-second 2021 commits and potential transfers, as well.