Wide receiver Antonio Callaway is one of the top receivers in the country. Week in and week out, he is able to produce in many different ways. He can beat defenders with his speed or quickness, during the release or drive phase, with route running, and at the catch point. He’s an all-around weapon; a guy that offensive coordinators in the NFL are just waiting to get their hands on.
Another talented player in the same state, but on the other side of the ball, is Cornerback Tarvarus McFadden. McFadden is arguably the best corner in all of college football. His combination of size, physicality, and ball skills has teams drooling over how he could help create turnovers for coordinators at the next level.
Back in November of 2016, the two went head-to-head down in Tallahassee. In that game, Callaway finished with 6 receptions for 58 yards, as Florida lost 31-13. Their passing game was horrendous. Callaway and his offense were only able to register 148 yards through the air, and averaged a measly 4.23 yards per attempt. Everything was short, and according to Krossover, they were 1/5 on passes over 20 yards.
This was no surprise, considering the type of talent the Seminoles have in the secondary. McFadden finished with four tackles and one pass deflection. When the two were matched up 1-on-1, though, Callaway got the best of him.
McFadden is a physical player. He’s a corner that excels in press because of his ability to disrupt the release and timing of routes. Well, on 3rd down and 5, Callaway doesn’t even give McFadden a chance to disrupt his release. The defense shows a double a gap blitz and a single high safety look. Callaway knows if the defense indeed blitzes, then he will have a 1-on-1 matchup with McFadden.
Florida St. plays pattern matching, as the release of the WRs dictates who the DBs are supposed to cover. On the snap, Callaway shows off his suddenness on the one step slant and easily separates without restriction. But what makes the play even more special is his spectacular field awareness and play speed. He has McFadden beaten from the jump, so he takes a peek at how the defender across the field is playing the tight end. The defender is playing tight man coverage, so based on the tight end’s route, Callaway knows that he may be in the vicinity post-catch.
Callaway double catches it, but keeps his head in the play. The defender #7’s feet stall, and Callaway is able to blow by him. McFadden only gets close enough to grab the jersey, but his attempt to bring Callaway down is thwarted by the latter’s strength and balance.
Callaway plays the position with a level of physicality that not many guys his size do. Physicality is supposed to be McFadden’s game, but you will see on the following play that Callaway takes it to the Seminole. The motion pits the two against each other and, as the ball is snapped, Callaway clears some space to operate. With McFadden falling back, Callaway steps back and receives the screen. McFadden recovers and squares Callaway up, but Callaway hits him with a strong stiff arm to the face mask, which turns a one yard loss into a four yard gain.
Later in the third quarter, they are matched up into the boundary, typically an automatic win for McFadden. When offenses attempt to attack him into the boundary, he is just too good of a player to beat 1-on-1 into such a confined area. He knows how to use the sideline to his advantage. In this case, Callaway makes him look silly. McFadden takes inside leverage on the Miami native to take away any quick inside passing concept.
Callaway uses his suddenness to win during the release.
But midway through the fourth quarter, McFadden almost picks off Appleby. On the following play, McFadden shows of his football intelligence. Do you remember the placement of the ball, formation, pre-snap movement, and play call on the very last clip you watched? Well, McFadden did.
On the following play, McFadden recognizes the very same play on which Callaway beat him earlier in the game — into the boundary, same formation, same motion, and same route by Callaway. McFadden processes all of this quickly and nearly picks off the quarterback.
Football is a team game, and even though Callaway may have slightly edged out McFadden out in this game, the Gators still lost. It was an interesting matchup to analyze, and one that all fans are looking forward to seeing again this college football season.