There are a lot of familiar names in Florida’s 2021 wide receiver room: Jacob Copeland in the No. 1 jersey, redshirt junior Justin Shorter and sophomore Xzavier Henderson, to name a few. However, the unit anointed itself something else over this past camp — the Endzone Party Boyz.
“Shoutout to Jacob Copeland, he made it up,” Henderson said Tuesday during media availability. “We just been in the end zone a lot this past camp and he just made it up one day after practice.”
The nickname, now emboldened on a sweatshirt as Copeland tweeted Tuesday, highlighted the unit’s confidence and belief in their own abilities, as Henderson said he felt the entire position group was full of deep threats.
While the focus of the offseason revolved around new quarterback Emory Jones’ legs and a potential run-heavy offense, the second-year pass catcher said a more powerful run game would help free up the receivers around the perimeter for explosive plays.
“I feel like the receivers, once they start pounding the ball and open up the run game, it’s going to open it up for us on the perimeter, give us some one on one shots,” Henderson said.
Henderson, a former four-star recruit according to 247Sports, caught only nine passes as a freshman in 2020 but said he’s grown a lot simply from having a year in the SEC under his belt.
“I had to learn a lot,” Henderson said. “Take a lot in, the speed of the game, it’s kind of slowed down for my second year because I have more knowledge of the game and now it's more about executing.”
Shorter, who also spoke to the media on Tuesday, echoed Henderson’s statement and tabbed the sophomore as a breakout candidate to surprise Florida fans this upcoming season.
“His growth that I've seen, just him being able to go out there and just do it,” Shorter said. “I've seen him make plays that I'm just like, in my head, I’m watching tape back when I got back home because I don’t know even how he even made that play. So I’d say him, he’s going to definitely going to step up this year and make a lot of great plays.”
The former Penn State wideout said he’s been throwing with Jones on a daily basis and emphasized the amount of work and repetitions the team put in since he arrived on campus.
“I’m out here in the stadium or in the indoor just getting reps and reps and reps,” Shorter said. “When you do stuff over and over and over, it just gets easier and easier and easier and you can just see our connection, not just mine and his but everyone’s, really, in that wideout room and the tight ends and running backs, we’re all just in sync.”
Shorter understands the importance of repetition, too. When asked how he’s honed his craft, the redshirt junior said, on top of receiving drills, he’s caught about 450 balls from his mother every single morning. He said throwing with his mom is nothing new and praised her arm.
“That’s my QB1,” Shorter said. “Not going to lie, you guys should really see her spiral, she can actually throw it hard, too, and it’s accurate every time. I’m blessed to have her, ever since I was growing up, I grew up playing baseball, so they were always out there with me, we were probably out there three or four hours every single day and she’s over there throwing pitches to me.”
Shorter, Henderson and the rest of the Endzone Party Boyz get the chance to take their offseason preparation and swagger to the field of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday when they take on Florida Atlantic at 7:30 p.m.
Contact Ryan Haley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryan_dhaley.
Ryan Haley is a second-year journalism major with a sports & media specialization from Jacksonville, Florida. He grew up playing a bunch of different sports before settling on golf, following Rory McIlroy and all Philadelphia sports teams. He also loves all things fiction, reading, watching shows and movies and talking about whatever current story or character is in his head.