Tuesday's Take: What Will Florida Miss About Each Senior Wide Receiver?
Four seniors, four entirely different stories.
Wide receivers Van Jefferson, Freddie Swain, Josh Hammond and Tyrie Cleveland all played their final game in the Swamp this past weekend against Florida State. Each had moments of brilliance for this team. Lets rank who will be missed most:
4. Tyrie Cleveland
Cleveland will be missed the least when you compare his production to other receivers, but it as nothing to do with ability. It is simply because the offense that coach Dan Mullen brought in favored inside receivers more. Combine that with the transfer additions of Jefferson and Trevon Grimes, and it became significantly more difficult for Cleveland to get touches.
However, he will always have a place in Gators fans hearts. Cleveland is responsible for two of the greatest moments in Florida history between the LSU 99-yard catch and the "Heave to Cleve" against Tennessee. His speed and hands will get him a chance in the NFL, and, even though it may be less than the other three, he will still be very missed in Gainesville.
3. Freddie Swain
Were there many moments this season better than Swain's opening touchdown against Auburn? What a moment and what a career.
The arrival of Mullen had the opposite effect on Swain that it had on Cleveland. He was a new player once the spread offense arrived back in Gainesville. The slot receiver usage allowed him to thrive like he never did his first two seasons. He showed his ability to catch short balls in space and go to work.
He was also a vocal leader in that wide receiver room. That is a huge component that will be especially missed. Yes, there are voices that can replace that and will, but Swain was special in terms of personality. He was infectious. That whole room, as well as everyone else on the team, loved Swain.
2. Josh Hammond
Hammond was just so unbelievably reliable. The man simply doesn't drop passes. And this season more than previous, he showed his explosiveness as well. Think about the plays Hammond made this season.
Where would Florida have been this year without the 65-yard catch against Miami? There's a huge chance the Gators would have dropped that game without that catch. What about the jet sweep against Kentucky? If Hammond doesn't pick up a first down on that drive and Florida has to punt, Kentucky could absolutely have won that game.
And let's not forget the Auburn touchdown. It wasn't a highlight-worthy score, but at that time in the game every score was huge. Every score was necessary. It seems that every play Hammond makes is a "gotta have it" type of play. That will be severely missed.
1. Van Jefferson
Many may think Hammond or Swain will be more missed than Jefferson, and you certainly have an argument. This is definitely not a cut and dry argument, but let me make the case for Van:
He is the best route runner on this team. It's probably not particularly close either. Also, let's look back into last year when Jefferson arrived.
He was the only receiver at the start of 2018 that was ready to flourish immediately. Grimes needed time and everyone else that was already in Gainesville needed an adjustment to the new offense.
Jefferson was ready right away. And although it may have not shown up statistically, if you watch the game you notice defenses keying on him. You know that his moves are too clean to single-cover.
Trust me. Everyone else in this offense has thrived the past two years and in large part because of Jefferson. He will be extremely missed because of his ability to be an absolute technician at WR.
So, cherish the bowl game Gator fans. The receiver room can still absolutely be strong next season, but this group was really special.