Florida football: What to expect with Kadarius Toney back

A week from Saturday, junior wide receiver Kadarius Toney will be a sight for sore eyes for Florida football fans.

It has been a long time for Kadarius Toney and Florida football.

Roughly six games to be exact.

Toney was knocked out in the first quarter against Tennessee-Martin and has been fighting a shoulder injury ever since.

But, now Toney is expected to be one of three Florida football playmakers to return to the field next Saturday when No. 7 Florida takes on No. 10 Georgia in Jacksonville.

During the weekly SEC coaches’ call, Florida head coach Dan Mullen said Toney was a playmaker and getting him on the field will only make the Gators better.

“He’s an explosive guy when he gets the ball in his hands, so having that back … obviously, the more playmakers you can put on the field, the better you are, the harder you are to defend, the more explosive you can be. So I think it will be great to get him back out there,” Mullen said.

In his three seasons with the Gators, Toney has 43 catches for 484 yards and two touchdowns. He also has 39 rushing attempts for 363 yards and a touchdown.

Overall, from scrimmage, Toney has 82 plays for 847 yards and three touchdowns. That’s an average of 10.3 yards per play.

Just factoring in his receiving production, Toney has averaged 11.3 yards per catch — but 24 yards per catch this season in limited action.

Putting Toney back in the lineup should give quarterback Kyle Trask more confidence to throw the ball downfield. Now, Trask only averages about 8 yards per pass, which isn’t bad, but considering the wide receiver weapons at his disposal, it may be a little lower than expected.

Florida football has done well to milk the short passes for what they are worth. Tight end Kyle Pitts has added a new complexity and mismatch in that respect.

And, without Toney in the lineup, opposing secondaries have been able to target Van Jefferson, Freddie Swain or Tyrie Cleveland on potential deep balls.

Toney brings a physicality similar to that of Pitts. And, we’ve all seen how productive that kind of physicality can be on the field — Pitts leads the Gators with 391 yards on 35 catches and four touchdowns.

Toney will fit in back in the slot wide receiver spot, allowing him to be another short-range target for Trask, along with Pitts. This should draw in another defensive secondary player and give Cleveland, Trevon Grimes, Jefferson or even Jacob Copeland better one-on-one matchups downfield.

Now, this doesn’t suggest Trask should start chucking the ball downfield or that Florida football should drastically change its play-calling. What it does do, however, is open things up offensively to give Trask more looks on short-distance passes — which he has excelled in completing — or the option at looking 20-30 yards downfield for another target that isn’t covered up.

Toney back in the lineup should open the playbook up a bit more for Mullen and the coaching staff. It should also be a concern for Georgia’s already questionable secondary that has just five interceptions this season.

Next: Who knew scheduling would be this hard?

No. 7 Florida will take on No. 10 Georgia next week in Jacksonville.