The Florida Gators added a towering weapon to their wide receiver room with West Orange High School wide receiver Jayden Gibson announcing his intentions to continue his football career at the University of Florida on Wednesday.
The recruiting history for Dan Mullen and his staff has been much maligned since they arrived in 2018. Despite building valuable momentum early on in five cycles – often culminating in being named the leader for top prospects – the Gators have observed helplessly as several elite-tier talents decamp to other programs.
The most glaring struggle is failing to close on the talents in their own backyard.
However, wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales has been a consistent bright spot, holding his own on the trail. He continues to be by landing Gibson, who is considered the best wide receiver prospect in Florida this year.
Equipped with a highly desirable skillset, AllGators took the time to break down the facets of Gibson’s game that make him a strong pull for the 2022 cycle.
Gibson’s size is evident.
When viewing his junior and senior tape, the most noticeable factor about what makes Gibson a strong prospect is his 6-foot-5, 185-pound frame and how he can control it.
Usually, when players possess lanky limbs at Gibson’s age, they can struggle to control the way they move, which results in an abundance of wasted movement.
However, Gibson seems to have his legs underneath him and is able to control his long limbs efficiently. He uses his size to his advantage and maximizes his length to make plays on the ball and after the catch with consistency.
As the No. 20 rated wide receiver in 2022, according to SI All-American, his length will be an asset that gets him on the field early on in his collegiate career. In fact, it will pay dividends to his progression as he can use his attributes to overcome his lack of polish as a route runner while he learns the intricacies of that area.
Ultimately, Gibson will be utilized in multiple different facets across the UF formation, while the Gators’ offense will look to exploit his size to create mismatches in short-field situations.
He will be a notable red zone target in Dan Mullen’s system based on his stature alone.
Speed and agility
Gibson’s size is what you initially recognize. However, upon further examination, you notice his ability to separate himself from defenders.
Moving relatively well for someone of his stature, Gibson utilizes his long strides to get behind defenses with ease off the snap. Equipped with a quick first step, he is always capable of taking the top off of defenses when his man does not give him the appropriate amount of cushion.
With above-average acceleration into top gear, Gibson is a deceivingly fast receiver. However, being fast is not the same thing as being quick. Luckily for Gibson, he’s a little bit of both.
Having a knack for moving laterally, he can make defenders miss tackles with his suddenness after the catch.
Showcasing light feet and a swift sidestep, Gibson has improved his playmaking with the ball in his hands.
He is a legitimate threat to beat the opposition with receptions deep down the field or make players miss to pick up extra yards and possibly breakaway after a possession catch 10 to 20 yards down the field.
His versatility in that regard will make him a quarterback’s — namely 2022 commit Nick Evers — go-to target.
Attacking the ball
Already standing above the defensive backs he will face, Gibson pairs his impressive height and length with eye-popping explosiveness off the ground.
Able to rise above defenders, his ability to high point the ball is unrivaled.
His strong hands make it difficult for defenders to work through his arms in an effort to break up the breadbasket.
On top of his strength as a go-up and get-the-ball type receiver, Gibson has an incredible ability to track the ball while it’s in the air.
He is able to adjust his head to the football without losing its location to make acrobatic receptions with ease, a sign that he is ahead of natural development to consistently bring down deep balls.
For example, Gibson a play on the sidelines at about the 20-yard-line where he looked for the ball on his outside shoulder but was able to adjust inside to make a one-handed grab. He would then score.
All in all, there is a lot to love about Gibson’s potential, simply for the way he is able to work toward the ball and the consistency in which he brings them down.
Gibson is a prototypical X-receiver at the next level. Possessing the necessary attributes — both physically and skillfully — needed to operate on the boundary, the ceiling for Gibson is arguably the highest of any Gators commit to this point.
He joins an already impressive list of 2022 wide receiver commits for the Gators, including Chandler Smith and Isaiah Bond.
With Gonzales’ focus to pull in elite-tier speed, the Gators continues to gear up for the future of the UF skill position players.
As a mixture of the recruiting criteria for Gonzales in recent years — length, versatility and speed — Gibson will be a significant contributor for Florida during his three to four years in blue and orange.
In some lights, his usage will be similar to that of former Gators tight end Kyle Pitts.
Obviously, he sits substantially smaller than Pitts from a weight perspective. He won’t sit attached to the line of scrimmage.
However, his potential as a red-zone weapon and opportunity to create mismatches suggests that he will be moved around the formation when at his peak.
Gibson told AllGators that he plans to be an early enrollee in January 2022.
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