When you think of the Florida Gators of the past five seasons, the last thing that comes to mind is offense. Despite the lackluster performances the last two seasons the Gators do have at least one bright spot, that being Antonio Callaway. Callaway entered Florida as the as the 20th ranked wide receiver prospect in the class of 2015 by 247Sports.com. During his freshman season, he was able to haul in 35 receptions for 678 yards and a 19.4 YPC with four touchdowns. His sophomore season saw slight statistical improvements, (except for TD’s) Callaway caught 54 passes for 721 yards 13.4 YPC and three touchdowns. He has led the Gators in receiving yards each of the last two seasons. Callaway has been able to produce while never having the benefit of a good quarterback throwing the ball his way thus far in his Gators career.
Strengths: Callaway’s biggest strength to his game is speed. He has the ability to use his speed to get open and has great after the catch ability to pile up the YAC. This ability is on display during his freshman year against the University of Tennessee. Down by 6 points with 1:39 left in the fourth quarter, facing a 4th & 14 Callaway is able to take a 20-yard curl route and turn this into a game-winning 77-yard touchdown. Once he was able to haul in the pass, he’s able to pivot up the field and get past the initial defender. Tennessee has another two defenders in place to make the potential tackle, but Callaway gets some assistance from a fellow wide receiver that’s able to spring him into open field, once in that open field the Tennessee defense isn’t able to track him down.
Callaway isn’t only a playmaker on offense he’s also a dynamic punt returner. During his freshman year, he was able to take two punts back for touchdowns. He’s averaging almost 12 yards per punt return on 55 attempts during his first two years on campus. During his sophomore year, he even returned an onside kick 44 yards for a touchdown against Missouri. Callaway’s return skills will provide bonus points for his owners in leagues with return yardage scoring. During the SEC Title Game in his freshman season against Alabama, Callaway receives a punt at the 15-yard line and is able to take it to the house untouched down the middle of the Alabama special teams unit. 15 yards into the return Callaway is able to use his speed to beat the angle on a defender and fly past him. Once he reaches the 40-yard line he has another defender with a potential angle and he’s able to accelerate and leave the defender with no chance of making the tackle on the play. Once he reaches midfield it’s only him and the punter and he is easily able to outrun the punter to the end zone.
Callaway also displays a good set of hands. He showcases the ability to make one-handed catches and difficult catches along the sideline. Against Kentucky, in 2015, Callaway shows his ability to make a one-handed catch in the middle of the field while running at top speed. He’s able to snag the ball out of mid-air with one hand and pulls the ball into his body to secure the catch. He is then able to accelerate up the field for an additional 15 yards on the play.
This past season against Tennessee, Callaway exhibited his route running and sideline catching ability. The play starts off with him using a double move, this gives Callaway enough separation for the quarterback to lay the ball along the sideline and he’s able to get both of his feet down and secures the catch in bounds.
Weakness: Callaway is yet another player with some off the field issues. He was suspended from January of 2016 until late August 2016. His suspension was modified in June making it possible for him to attend class and he was also able to participate with the team. Up until that point he wasn’t allowed on campus to attend class or to workout with the Gators. Callaway and a Gator teammate were accused of sexually assaulting a fellow female student. Callaway was later cleared of these charges in the middle of August, but his availability for the beginning of the 2016 season was still in doubt. It wasn’t until a week before the opening game against UMass that Callaway was cleared to play.
Callaway isn’t the biggest receiver. He’s listed at 5’11” 197 by the University of Florida, but as always you have to take these team provided measurements with a grain of salt. Seeing Callaway on film he looks closer to 5’9”-5’10” and around 175 pounds. His lack of size prevents him from being very physical after the catch. You won’t see him breaking very many tackles if any at all. You don’t see him getting pressed much in college but that will be an issue in the NFL when he has to face bigger corners.
Conclusion: Callaway is quite the dynamic player. Halfway through his sophomore season, he became only the 21st player in FBS history since 1996 to score a touchdown via throwing a pass, rushing, receiving, punt return and a kickoff return. During his time at Florida, he has had to deal with horrible quarterback play. He’s had the likes of Austin Appleby, Luke Del Rio, and Treon Harris throwing him passes for the majority of his career. Fortunately for Callaway during spring practice, Felipe Franks (4-star quarterback and 247’s 6th ranked Pro Style quarterback in the class of 2016) will get a chance to impress the staff with Luke Del Rio sidelined with a shoulder injury all spring. The Gators were only able to muster 29 offensive touchdowns last season, slightly more than 2 per game. Adding Franks to the starting lineup could add a much-needed spark to the offense and give Callaway a big production boost. During his sophomore season, he accounted for 25% of Florida’s receiving yards game and almost doubled the receiving yardage of next highest Gator in 2016. Currently, I view Callaway as a top 5 wide receiver for the class of 2018 rookie drafts.