Florida's Wide Receiver Corps Has a New Type
It's relatively well-known that Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen elects to heavily rotate his skill players on offense in order to keep guys fresh and maximize the potential of the roster within his scheme.
The 2019 wide receiver position is a key example. Mullen utilized the talent he inherited from Jim McElwain's time in Gainesville, and put together a productive passing offense.
Six wide receivers (and eight skill players in total) recorded at least 20 receptions in 2019. Those receivers, specifically, ranged in size: From Josh Hammond standing at 6-0, 194 lbs. to Trevon Grimes at 6-5, 214 lbs., and about everything in between.
But, after putting together two complete recruiting classes and adding four transfer wide receivers, it's become clear that Mullen and wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales have an eye for a particular trait when recruiting pass-catchers.
Since Mullen took the Gators' head coaching reigns, Florida has brought in six wide receivers via high school recruiting, and another four two via transfer. Seven of those ten receivers stand at or above 6-2, the majority of which also having pretty long arms and big catch radiuses.
Jordan Pouncey, a legacy transfer from Texas and brother of incoming freshman cornerback Ethan Pouncey, is an outlier 6-1, 205 lbs. Prized 2018 recruit Jacob Copeland stood at 6-0, 192 lbs. at signing, but being a top 100 talent in the nation in his class, Copeland is a pretty easy exception.
2019 signee Dionte Marks measured in at 5-11, 178 lbs. when he joined the program, but Florida now lists him at 6-2, 178 lbs.
Otherwise, Florida's been all about size advantages at wide receiver.
- Van Jefferson: 6-2, 197 lbs.
- Trevon Grimes: 6-5, 214 lbs.
- Trent Whittemore: 6-3, 190 lbs.
- Ja'Markis Weston: 6-3, 205 lbs.
- Jaquavion Fraziars: 6-4, 212 lbs.
- Xzavier Henderson: 6-4, 192 lbs.
- Justin Shorter: 6-4, 220 lbs.
And that goes without mentioning Florida commit Leonard Manuel, who's 6-4, 212 lbs. He will sign with either Florida or Ole Miss on April 1st.
Florida has two commitments at wide receiver for the 2021 recruiting class as well. The first, Daejon Reynolds, is 6-2, 208 lbs. While freshly (re)committed receiver Trevonte Rucker only stands at 5-11, 165 lbs., his arms are long enough to provide a catch radius similar to the receivers listed above.
Dan Mullen acknowledged the trend during his National Signing Day press conference. Though he added that in the future he would be looking for slot receivers and prospects who are dynamic after the catch, it's hard not to identify the height being added to the receiver room.
...A lot of it's creating match-ups. So what is your match-up advantage. 6'4", you have a height advantage. A guy that runs low 4.3s you have a speed advantage, a guy that's lightning quick. You're looking for what are the things -- what physical traits maybe create match-up problems for defense. We were able to get a bunch of tall guys that create size match-up problems for defenses. They all have great ball skills and all are pretty fast, have speed to take top off of coverages.
-Dan Mullen on National Signing Day, 02/05/2019
While Mullen said he could look to add more "lightning quick" receivers in the future, he noted that the lengthy receivers in the 2020 class are plenty fast themselves.
Back-to-back classes predicated on length at wide receiver indicates Mullen's ideal vertical passing offense, with wide receivers who can be trusted to come down with contested catches at the boundary and have the speed to take the top off of defenses. And it appears the team will continue stockpiling length in the future.
Grimes has emerged as a boundary weapon for Florida, who can be trusted to make contested catches with his length and athleticism. The cherry on top? He's plenty agile, leading the Gators in yards after the catch per reception (minimum of 20 targets) at 8.2 yards on average, per Pro Football Focus. He turned 23 of his 33 receptions in 2019 into first downs.
Tight end Kyle Pitts, who was a previously committed member of Mullen's first recruiting haul, is a similar example of how receivers in Florida's new-look receiver group will be utilized. Pitts was often utilized on corner routes and in the redzone as a vertical weapon. You just can't defend guys who are 6-6 and run a 4.7 40 yard dash, and that's why he trained with the wide receivers last spring.
Mullen is hoping for much of the same with his new receivers as he's over halfway done with flipping the roster towards his guys.
With quarterbacks of the future in Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson currently waiting in the wings, both possessing great arm talent, Mullen should be licking his chops at the future of Florida's passing offense.