While Florida just got a boost in their receiving corp with three receivers returning after a few days of holding out of practice, including Trevon Grimes, Jacob Copeland and Kadarius Thoney, the Gators might be better off than expected, especially if the emergence of receivers Ja'Markis Weston and Trent Whittemore continues.
Both Weston and Whittemore are entering their second season with the Gators after redshirting last year. While they have plenty of room to grow, Gators head coach Dan Mullen gave raving reviews today during a Zoom press conference as to what he's seen from the duo entering this season during fall camp which began only a little over a week ago.
"So, you look at obviously Trent (Whittemore), one of the things he does well - (he's) got fabulous hands, very smart ... he knows all three different receiver positions, gives you a lot of flexibility out there on the field and you can be able to move him around," Mullen said of Whittemore.
The redshirt freshman receiver is currently listed at 6-foot-3, 192 pounds, and with the loss of former Gators receivers Van Jefferson, Tyrie Cleveland, Freddie Swain and Josh Hammond, Florida will need all the help they can get. If Whittemore can provide a reliable, consistent target for quarterback Kyle Trask entering this season, the team will perhaps have a clear replacement for former "Mr. Reliable" in Hammond.
"Ja'Markis (Weston), I've seen just an unbelievable improvement from him from this time last year. Last year, he was coming and he was this really this big, athletic guy. Now you watch him, you watch him route running - top end -, you watch his ability catching the ball - he's catching the ball so much better. You know, that gets you really excited about those young guys."
Mullen's attribution of Weston is correct, he is a big and athletic receiver. At 6-foot-3, 217 pounds, he has the tools - at least physically -, to become one of the team's go-to targets in the redzone and downfield.
The Gators will have to rely on several targets this year, and it appears as though their growth and development, something Mullen has consistently harped on as of late, is the key to their success. Having a long period of time before the season opener on Sept. 26 is great, however, the team had not been able to practice together at length since the end of last season.
With potential targets of Weston, Whittemore, Copeland, Grimes and Toney, it appears the Gators will have a healthy rotation of receivers to thrive with. The Gators have other players who can step up as well. While Florida still awaits the NCAA's decision on transfer receiver Justin Shorter, his veteran presence has certainly helped young players such as Whittemore and Weston, even though he's not been with the program as long as they have.
"You have a veteran guy like Justin Shorter doing an unbelievable job," Mullen said. "He was there kind of leading the way. It was great for him, great adjustment for him being an older, veteran guy getting in there while those guys were gone and really showed what he can do."
Attrition happens for all college football teams, but it appears the Gators are doing quite the opposite in their wide receiver room. Now, they'll simply hope the trend continues.
"Going from these guys that show little flashes and say that they could be great players to seeing them actually do it every day within the system is pretty exciting."