Could Florida Look to the Transfer Portal for Future WR Help?
Right now, the unquestionable strength of the Florida Gators' football roster in their wide receiver position.
But with four seniors set to move on from the team this offseason, including three starters, that won't be the case in 2020. Van Jefferson, Josh Hammond, Freddie Swain, and Tyrie Cleveland, who have combined for 110 receptions, 1563 yards, and 13 touchdowns, will all be gone.
Now, the Gators do have two 2020 WR commits in Jaquavion Fraziars and Leonard Manuel, and are hoping to get pen-to-paper with cornerback C.J. Henderson's brother Xzavier. The Gators also signed three receivers last year in Dionte Marks, Trent Whittemore, and Ja'Markis Weston,
However, Trevon Grimes, Jacob Copeland, and Kadarius Toney are the only three receivers with a touchdown on their résumés that are projected to return.
Oh, and of course tight end Kyle Pitts, but this is only about the receiving corps.
The bread and butter of Florida's offense this season has been the passing game, with quarterback Kyle Trask at the helm and a legitimate two-deep wide receiver corps, in the total absence of a run game. Should the run game fail to improve in 2020 drastically, then Trask and Co. could be in trouble with far fewer passing game weapons.
So... could the Gators once again look to the NCAA transfer portal for help at wide receiver? They've done it before - Jefferson and Grimes both transferred to Florida shortly after the Mullen era began. And if they do, who could they target?
Note: Prospects listed courtesy of 247Sports Transfer Portal Tracker.
Malik Heath, Copiah-Lincoln C.C., 6-3, 210 lbs.
It should be noted that Heath, a Mississippi State commit, is scheduled to make an official visit Florida this upcoming weekend when the Gators face their in-state rival, the Florida State Seminoles.
That sounds like a pretty important visit with less than a month until the Early National Signing Period.
The lengthy receiver prospect was a big-time recruit out of high school, who actually committed to Mississippi State while Dan Mullen was the Bulldogs' head coach and never backed off of his commitment. He was recruited primarily by Florida's current running backs coach and special teams coordinator, Greg Knox.
Heath has once again committed to Mississippi State, but not to the same staff that he was previously looking forward to playing for coming out of high school. That staff is now at Florida, and has a big need for an immediately eligible receiver in 2020.
Heath can provide that, as well as super solid production. In two years at the JUCO level, Heath has tallied 61 receptions for 835 yards and seven touchdowns, over 17 games. He also clocked a 4.43 40 yard dash coming out of high school - that size and speed combination is ideal.
Competition level has to be considered, but on tape, Heath displays elite body control and can hit top speed pretty quickly out of his breaks. Whether he's breezing by cornerbacks and safeties on a deep post or breaking tackles on screen passes, Heath has the intangibles to make a catch and gain serious yards after.
Justin Shorter, Penn State, 6-4, 226 lbs.
The news of Shorter hitting the transfer portal shocked the college football world on Tuesday, and it naturally led to his inclusion in this story.
The redshirt freshman wideout has been a body in Penn State's receiver room, and not much more since arriving in Happy Valley. Shorter has recorded only 15 catches in two seasons for the Nittany Lions, taking those receptions for 157 yards and a score.
A five-star coming out of high school, Shorter is considered the 149th best all-time prospect by 247Sports. Like Heath, Shorter is a big-bodied receiver who can thrive at the boundary, utilizing his length and athleticism to win contested catches. Also, Shorter is a very willing blocker - that's something that would make Mullen and wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales very happy.
The entire nation will have their eyes on the talented receiver as he weighs his options. Florida would be silly not to give him a call.
Devonta Jason, Mississippi State, 6-3, 211 lbs.
Don't sleep on Jason's connection to Florida's coaching staff.
The sophomore, who entered the portal after dealing with a five-game suspension this year and briefly left the team for personal reasons this past summer, was a target of Mullen's back in his day as Mississippi State's head coach.
Jason visited the campus weeks prior to Mullen leaving for Florida, and earned an offer from Mullen and Knox in April of 2016. His connection to Florida's staff is similar to that of Heath's.
He's yet to touch the ball this year, but Jason did record two catches for 42 yards in three games as a freshman. A former four-star, there's loads of untapped potential in Jason's game. The lengthy receiver, much like the other players listed, is a high-pointer and can make highlight-reel catches. He's a super physical receiver who enjoys blocking and uses his physicality to beat press coverage.
However, unless he was schemed open across the middle, Jason's route tree was fairly limited in high school. He typically remained on the vertical stem, running screens, hooks, and go routes. But with long strides aiding a lack of elite athleticism, there's room for Jason to grow as a route runner. He'd have to sit a year after transferring, and perhaps that would be in his best interest as he continues to develop into a more well-rounded receiver.
Florida would give Jason the opportunity to do just that.
Jordan Pouncey, Texas, 6-2, 205 lbs.
In 2017, Pouncey, the cousin of Florida's former starting offensive line tandem Maurkice and Mike Pouncey from the late 2000s, publicly stated that he didn't trust Florida's coaching staff throughout his recruitment.
That staff, of course led by former head coach Jim McElwain, is no longer in Gainesville. Meanwhile, Pouncey is no longer in Austin, TX.
Believed to be a package deal with his brother Ethan, a senior cornerback at Winter Park High School in Orlando, FL, could Florida once again have a set of Pouncey bros grace Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium?
Perhaps. Ethan is also being recruited by the Gators as they look to round out their 2020 signing class. Jordan has only nabbed two receptions for 19 yards in his Longhorn career, but the former three-star would at least give Florida a receiver with college experience and size to play outside. He isn't the twitchiest of athletes, but he gets the job done and has experience playing special teams as well.
Both will visit Florida when the Gators take on FSU.