Will Florida Gators Freshman WR Xzavier Henderson Avoid Redshirt?
With the Florida Gators losing four of their top wide receivers to the NFL Draft only a few months ago, the tide is quickly turning to the new crop of receivers to step in.
Last season, the Gators fielded one of the most impressive groups of wide receivers in the nation. The group included Van Jefferson, Tyrie Cleveland, Josh Hammond and Freddie Swain. All four receivers are currently in the NFL, either drafted in the case of Jefferson (second round, Los Angeles Rams), Cleveland (seventh round, Denver Broncos) and Swain (sixth round, Seattle Seahawks) or signed immediately as an undrafted free agent in Hammond's (Jacksonville Jaguars) case.
With that said, Florida will need to adequately replace the four departed, not only for 2020, but also for 2020 when even more receivers such as Trevon Grimes and Kadarius Toney will be graduating following this season.
One of the players most-exected to play a big-time role with the Gators in the future is 2020 signee and four-star freshman wide receiver Xzavier Henderson, younger brother of former Gators cornerback CJ Henderson.
The Gators have not been shy in the past as far as playing freshmen. Simply put, if you're dominant enough, you'll get your shot. Last season, seven out of 19 of the Gators' freshmen avoided a redshirt, playing in more than four games in 2019. Those included: tight end Keon Zipperer, offensive lineman Ethan White, defensive end Mohamoud Diabate and defensive end Khris Bogle along with cornerbacks Kaiir Elam, Jaydon Hill and Chester Kimbrough.
While the Gators likely hoped to redshirt at least one or two of these freshmen, particularly White, they all ended up playing a major role for the team as the season moved along.
The same could occur for Henderson who will likely begin the season as a reserve. The Gators will want to figure out a potential replacement for Grimes who will play the big-target receiver for the gators and quarterback Kyle Trask this season. Henderson, 6-foot-4, 192-pounds, has the size to become a perfect replacement for the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Grimes.
While Henderson's size is a great starting point as to why he might be able to see the field quicker than a typical receiver, the Gators also deploy a very different target-share formula, one that has absolutely worked for head coach Dan Mullen thus far.
For example, last season, the Gators' top-targets at wide receiver caught 49 passes (Jefferson), followed by Swain with 38, Grimes, (33), Hammond (27) and Cleveland (25).
That target-share can pave the way for multiple receivers to get involved. Fielding five receivers (and eight total pass-catchers) with 20-plus receptions is already extraordinarily rare, but to have all five receivers make a true impact on a game-to-game basis is even more inexplicable - yet, the Gators have achieved it.
Henderson provides more than simply athletic ability and size, he will be a dominant blocker for Mullen and wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales, having shown plenty in that respect in high school. For a receiver, the more you can do, the better, and Henderson simply brings that type of presence, even if he will be a freshman.
Now, Henderson will not instantly be installed as the team's top receiver, no, he will likely play as a reserve for the majority of the season, but his field presence and potential can give him plenty of room to play in more than four games.
Avoiding a redshirt shouldn't be too hard.