If you look at the top-10 single season receptions list for Florida, you won’t find any new entry since Aaron Hernandez in 2009. If you look at the top-10 career receptions list, you won’t find anyone more current than Andre Caldwell, who left in 2007. And if you look at the top-10 list for single-season receiving yards, the most recent entry is Taylor Jacobs in 2002.
That, folks, is a problem, and it’s a problem that has lasted for a decade.
Here is a list of the leading Florida receivers based on receiving yards for the past eight seasons.
2010: Deonte Thompson, 38 catches for 570 yards and one touchdown.
2011: Chris Rainey, 31 catches for 381 yards and two touchdowns.
2012: Jordan Reed, 45 catches for 559 yards and three touchdowns.
2013: Solomon Patton, 44 catches for 556 yards and six touchdowns.
2014: Demarcus Robinson, 53 catches for 810 yards and seven touchdowns.
2015: Antonio Callaway, 35 catches for 678 yards and four touchdowns.
2016: Antonio Callaway, 54 catches for 721 yards and three touchdowns.
2017: Tyrie Cleveland, 22 catches for 410 yards and two touchdowns.
The list is alarming enough – just two seasons with a receiver with more than 700 yards? – even before you consider Rainey was a running back and Reed a tight end. So, why has the passing attack fallen on hard times?
The offensive schemes used by Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain were part of the problem. Then, add in ineffective quarterback play, and the result is passing attacks at Florida that have been pitiful this decade.
The high-water mark for passing offense this decade? Try 215.8 yards per game in 2016 (that ranked 79th nationally). Only one other time (207.1 ypg in 2015) have the Gators averaged more than 200 yards per game. The other six seasons have been between 146.3 and 185.7 yards per game. That’s unfathomable at a school like Florida.
Will it be any better this season? Dan Mullen had some productive passing offenses during his tenure at Mississippi State, including seasons of more than 3,600 yards in 2014 and 4,000 yards in 2015. But he also oversaw some pop-gun units – including a league-worst attack in 2017 (166.9 yards per game) with an experienced quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald.
One positive for Mullen heading into spring practice next week is that there appears to be some talent on hand at receiver. Holdovers Tyrie Cleveland, Dre Massey, Kadarius Toney, Joshua Hammond and Freddie Swain have had their moments, especially Cleveland.
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