Receiving the responsibility

Junior tight end Aaron Hernandez figures to be one of Tim Tebow's go-to receivers this season.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, August 2, 2009 at 6:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 11:41 p.m.

Note: This is the third in a series breaking down the Florida football team by position. Next up is a look at the linebackers on Aug. 9.


Ranking the SEC receivers

1. LSU
2. Arkansas
3. Ole Miss
4. Alabama
5. Georgia
6. Florida
7. Kentucky
8. Auburn
9. Tennessee
10. South Carolina
11. Mississippi State
12. Vanderbilt

The upside

The Gators have one of the nation's best pass-catching tight ends in Aaron Hernandez (he's also a tough inside runner after taking those shovel passes from Tim Tebow). At 6-foot-2, 250 pounds (and very strong), Hernandez runs more like a wide receiver, which can create mismatches against opposing linebackers and strong safeties. Based on what happened in the spring, Hernandez figures to be Tebow's go-to receiver, and a guy who could catch 50-plus passes this season. With Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy now in the NFL, speedy veteran wide receivers Deonte Thompson and Riley Cooper have a chance to have breakout seasons. Thompson really came on strong in the spring and was UF's best deep threat. Speaking of coming on strong, senior David Nelson did it down the stretch a year ago, catching critical touchdown passes in the SEC title game and in the national championship game. He's a tall, reliable target and he enters two-a-days brimming with confidence. Carl Moore showed some flashes last season and had a productive spring, giving the coaches hope he can be a key contributor.

The downside

Cooper has kept the coaches in limbo the past two weeks while he ponders signing a professional baseball contract with the Texas Rangers. If the money is what he's asking for, he's probably going to sign and give up football, which would leave a real hole in the wide receiver group. Whether Cooper remains or not, the Gators will have backups with very little experience. Redshirt freshmen Frankie Hammond Jr. and T.J. Lawrence showed some flashes in the spring, but it's a different game now. Another potential problem is depth at tight end. True freshman Desmond Parks is the likely No. 2 guy, and he missed most of the spring with a knee injury. The only other tight end on the roster is walk-on Christopher Coleman.

Young guy to watch

Sophomore tailback Jeff Demps is expected to get the first crack at filling the Harvin role as the slot receiver (and lining up in the backfield), but true freshman Andre Debose also is going to get a chance early to show what he can do. Coach Urban Meyer put the pressure on Debose when he compared him to Harvin on National Signing Day in February. When you look at Debose's high school highlight tapes, you can see where Meyer is coming from. He appears to have explosive speed and that lightning first step that can lead to big plays.

Depth chart
11-Riley Cooper
85-Frankie Hammond Jr.
82-Omarius Hines

83-David Nelson
25-Brandon James
88-Paul Wilson

6-Deonte Thompson
18-T.J. Lawrence
4-Andre Debose

16-Carl Moore
7-Justin Williams

81-Aaron Hernandez
80-Desmond Parks
84-Christopher Coleman

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