Florida wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland, right, catches the game winning 63-yard touchdown pass in front of Tennessee defensive back Micah Abernathy (22) as time expired in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, in Gainesville, Fla. Florida won 26-20. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Orange and Blue Preview: Gator Wide Receivers

With the University of Florida’s annual Orange and Blue Game just days away, it is time to look at a major position group that will be the difference for the team during the regular season: wide receiver.

First-year head coach Dan Mullen added some nice pieces to an already strong receiving core to make it one of the pinnacle factors for the team.

Who Will Be Missed

After a season filled with struggles, UF also lost many solid pieces, and the receiving group was no different. The Gators lost two significant starters in senior Brandon Powell and junior Antonio Callaway.

Powell played 40 total games for Florida in his career there. The 5’9 slot receiver played all over the field with solid hands and elusiveness. Powell will also leave a big hole in the return game with over 700 yards over four years.

Callaway, who was suspended for the entirety of the 2017 season, will also be missed. Before his suspension, Callaway was the top receiver on the team. The 5’10 receiver totaled 1399 yards and seven receiving touchdowns in his two years played at Florida. He is expected to be draft into the NFL during the 2018 draft.

Fresh Faces, Fresh Season

Even with notable losses, the Gators have seemingly improved at the Wide Receiver position.

During the recruiting trail, Mullen pulled in two big recruits in Jacob Copeland and Justin Watkins. Gator fans expect both contribute immediately.

Copeland, a four-star recruit from Pensacola, Florida, signed with the Gatos Feb. 7. The 6’0 receiver has high expectations coming to a team that is predicted to throw the ball more frequently — and possibly more successfully.

Mullen has stressed how fast the game is for the young players on the team. He expects growing pains but believes that success is near. The Gators also received two transfers in Trevon Grimes and Van Jefferson.

Jefferson, who previously played with Ole Miss, had 947 yards on 87 receptions and four touchdowns in his two years with his previous team. Many expect him to be an immediate upgrade when he is on the field.

UF also returns solid talent at the wide receiver position, including sophomore Tyrie Cleveland. Many expect the 6’2 Texas native to make progress on an impressive freshman season in which he had 22 receptions for 410 yards and two touchdowns.

Co-Offensive Coordinator and Wide Receivers Coach Billy Gonzales believes that effort will be the big difference to determine if the group will improve over next year. Only time will tell.

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