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Florida co-offensive coordinator setting high bar for Gators WRs
Florida co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales took his turn meeting the local media Thursday for the first time since his hiring, and much like Gators head coach Dan Mullen, he told the fans what they wanted to hear.
Gonzales borrowed from Mullen’s repertoire by reiterating that, “The ultimate goal here is to win championships — not just SEC championships but national championships.”
Getting more specific to his position group, meanwhile, Gonzales also set a high goal for Florida’s wide receivers in 2018.
“Throughout the last couple of days of getting the chance to see them run and the energy that they have, I’m excited about this group of guys, I really am,” he said. “I’m as hungry as anybody to be able have a 1,000-yard receiver here again. I think that’s one of the things in my room [that] is a goal. We want to win games, but I want these guys to have a lot of success.”
Florida hasn’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since Taylor Jacobs in 2002 (1,088 yards), though the Gators were close during Gonzales’ and Mullen’s last stint in Gainesville under Urban Meyer. Chad Jackson led the team and the SEC with 900 yards in 2005, Dallas Baker had 920 receiving yards in 2006 and Percy Harvin totaled 858 receiving yards in 2007.
Last season, top Gators receiver Tyrie Cleveland had just 410 yards.
As SEC Country broke down earlier this week, though, the Gators have a really intriguing group of wide receivers for 2018 who could blossom in Mullen’s spread offense.
Cleveland was undermined by injuries down the stretch of his sophomore season and would seem the best bet to challenge for that 1,000-yard mark, if anybody on the roster is to come close. Ole Miss transfer Van Jefferson (456 receiving yards for the Rebels last season) is another interesting target, if his 2018 eligibility is cleared by the NCAA.
“I want to be able to create a culture of making sure they compete within the room,” Gonzales said of his wideouts. “There’s one ball out there. Everybody wants the ball, whether it’s the running backs, the quarterbacks, tight ends and receivers. You know what, I want guys that are hungry to have the ball. You earn the right to get that ball in the offseason. …
“There’s only one ball out there and then you better be able to do something with it. I want guys that when they catch the ball, I want 90,000 people sitting up and getting excited about what the guy’s going to do. I am impressed with them. I’m excited to have a chance to work with them. I think they’re hungry. I think they’re eager. But it’s like anything else, until we put the pads on, until we get going, everybody looks good through drills.”
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In other Florida football news
- Gonzales and fellow co-offensive coordinator John Hevesy explained how they’ve built such a long-standing connection with Mullen and how that benefits them on offense.
- Hevesy, who also coaches the offensive line, says left tackle Martez Ivey made the right decision returning for his senior season.
- Hevesy also gave an optimistic outlook on injured left guard Brett Heggie.
- Florida kicker signee Evan McPherson talks about the challenge of replacing the nation’s most accurate kicker, Eddy Pineiro.
- SEC Country’s Zach Abolverdi writes that 4-star recruit Kaiir Elam, who is ranked the No. 14 cornerback in the Class of 2019 by the 247Sports composite, is a top priority for Florida.
In basketball news
- After its crushing overtime loss to Georgia on Wednesday night, the Florida men’s basketball team dropped from a No. 4 seed to a No. 6 seed on ESPN’s “Bracketology” projections. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi presently has the Gators opening the NCAA Tournament in Pittsburgh, but that projection continues to change with Florida’s roller-coaster season. The Gators (17-9, 8-5) visit Vanderbilt on Saturday.
- The Florida women’s basketball team lost, 85-80, to No. 17 Texas A&M on Thursday night for its sixth straight loss, all against ranked opponents. The Gators (10-16, 2-11) host Vanderbilt on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Gators record breaker
- Florida swimming standout Caeleb Dressel won the SEC title in the 200 individual medley in 1:38.13, while setting a Gators, NCAA and US Open record, besting the previous mark set by Stanford’s David Nolan (1:39.38) in 2015. Read more here.
College World Series champs open season
- The Florida baseball team, ranked No. 1 in all the major preseason national polls, opens its 2018 season at home at 6:30 p.m.Friday. The reigning College World Series champs will hold a pregame presentation recognizing the program’s first national championship. The first 500 fans will receive a replica national championship trophy, and fans will be able to take photos with the CWS trophy on the concourse.
- Gators baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan revealed his expected starting lineup for the opener. Here’s how it looks (not according to batting order) — SP: Brady Singer; C: JJ Schwarz; 1B: Keenan Bell; 2B: Blake Reese; 3B: Jonathan India; SS: Brady McConnell; LF: Austin Langworthy; CF: Nick Horvath or Andrew Baker; RF: Wil Dalton; DH: Nelson Maldonado.
- The latest edition of the Chomp Chat podcast also looks ahead to the start of the season.
What they’re saying on Twitter
- Steve Spurrier visited the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee on Thursday:
— Coach Steve Spurrier (@SteveSpurrierUF) February 16, 2018
- Video of Florida wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland getting ready for what many expect will be a huge season for the junior:
— Footwork_King 🤴 (@footwork_king1) February 15, 2018
- Former Gators wide receiver Antonio Callaway is looking to turn the page on a rough end to his time at Florida as he prepares for the NFL draft:
Separate from those things that pull you away from what you dedicated to!!
— A.D (@Ripbobby_G) February 15, 2018
- The College World Series champs put out a preseason hype video in advance of their opener Friday night:
New season, new team, same goal.
— Gators Baseball (@GatorsBB) February 15, 2018
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