Adding Versatility: The Early State of the Florida Gators 2021 WR Class
Since Dan Mullen’s return to Gainesville in 2018, the Gators offense has seen a resurrection of the firepower that has been void from the program for nearly a decade.
Bringing back the offensive juice that once led Florida to two national championships, Mullen has been heavily focused on providing weapons for his quarterbacks and even himself to utilize in play-calling efforts.
A large part of this turnaround has been the consistency and reliability of those who play at the wide receiver position.
Just over a month removed from having three wideouts selected in the NFL draft and one being signed as an undrafted free agent soon thereafter, wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales has shown he can develop players at a high level to move to the ranks of the NFL when their time comes.
As a result, Florida has been able to use development as a selling point to secure three early commitments from talented wide receiver prospects in the 2021 recruiting class in Daejon Reynolds, Trevonte Rucker, and Charles Montgomery.
Already obtaining three players who each bring a very different skill set to the table, UF looks to be building a diverse and talented unit that consists of a mixture of height, speed, versatility, and outright athleticism.
A substantial similarity of guys who have rolled through the program in recent years has been the pure length and physicality exhibited by guys like Van Jefferson and Tyrie Cleveland, attributes displayed by Florida’s fifth-ranked overall recruit for 2021 Daejon Reynolds.
Exemplifying the traits that made the players who came before him so consistent, Reynolds pairs a jump ball ability with an adequately-tuned route-running prowess for someone his age. Projecting to be the man lined up on the outside of formations - most likely as an X-receiver - Reynolds has a chance to take the top off of defenses and play a role in the offense similar to the guys mentioned above when his time comes.
However, where the trend of long and physical wide receivers has seemingly been broken is in the majority of the receivers already committed in the years class.
With the 2020 class focused on replacing the length aspect of the group - signing players like Xzavier Henderson, Jaquavion Fraziars, Justin Shorter, and Jordan Pouncey, none of which standing under 6-foot-3 - 2021 seems to be focused on speed and versatility at the position.
Having two-thirds of the commits being under 6-foot for the 2021 class thus far, Florida looks to be diversifying its unit going forward to provide balanced skillsets within the group that correlates to higher playmaking ability in various situations. Adding pieces such as Trevonte Rucker and Charles Montgomery, the Gators gain two parts that can play anywhere on the field.
With Rucker, the Gators are getting a guy who excels in making plays after the catch and can be used out of the slot to play the short and intermediate passing games.
Having seen time at quarterback throughout his high school career as well as being featured at cornerback, Rucker is an uber-athletic player who can play all over the field.
Rucker consistently shows a shiftiness with the ball in his hands that allows him to make big plays and make people miss in the open field.
Similarly, the Gators’ latest commit—Montgomery—can also be used in a variety of ways. Listed as an athlete in his recruitment, Montgomery has seen time at running back, wide receiver, and quarterback throughout his high school career.
Seemingly most comfortable in his play as a wide receiver, Montgomery is another one who projects to see the bulk of his snaps in the slot position.
Having players that make the opposing defense hold their breath is a sight for sore eyes, and on the Gators are starting to emphasize alongside their previous ideal prototype.
Adding more shiftiness to the team and more players who can contribute the way Kadarius Toney does, the multitude of play calls that are available increases exponentially.
With the future of Florida’s wide receiver corps looking strong and versatile with guys like Reynolds, Rucker, and Montgomery waiting in the wings, the Gators offense seems to be in good hands going forward into the early 2020s.