Debose has break go his way, for a change
Published: Monday, March 26, 2012 at 6:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 10:27 p.m.
In his first two years at Florida, change was common for wide receiver Andre Debose.
He was billed as “the next Percy Harvin” by fans and media when he arrived on campus in 2009. But unlike the Pro Bowl receiver who made an immediate impact as a freshman in 2006, Debose missed his first season after undergoing a knee biceps femoris graft to repair a lingering high school track injury.
At the end of that year, his position coach and primary recruiter from high school, Billy Gonzalez, abruptly left for LSU and Urban Meyer went on a leave of absence.
When he was fully recovered from his surgery, Debose had to start over with a new receivers coach — Zach Azzanni. Months later, Azzanni was gone along with Meyer, and Debose was back at square one.
Shortly after Will Muschamp was hired, the former five-star receiver finally caught a break.
“I think change is very beneficial for some people, and some people have a harder time with it than others,” Muschamp said last week.
The first two years of change brought bad news for Debose, but then he faced change that wasn't uncomfortable or unfamiliar.
It was change for the good, as Muschamp hired receivers coach Aubrey Hill away from Miami.
Debose had lost two position coaches, but he got a father figure in return.
“I was very excited,” Debose said of Hill's hiring. “We ended up together anyway after I kind of turned my back on him for coming here.”
Debose was personally recruited in high school by Hill, who almost convinced the Sanford Seminole star to be a Hurricane.
“He played a big factor (in my recruitment),” said Debose, who picked UF over Miami. “Me and him kind of built a relationship then. I liked his personality and how he approached me as a young man.
“When you're making a decision on a school, you always want to have a relationship with your position coach. He did a great job with that throughout the recruiting process, letting me know that he would be there for me.”
Debose had heard that tune before. He put his trust in Gonzalez and Azzanni, only to have them leave a year later. Debose found solace in knowing Hill wouldn't do the same.
“It was hard for me to really get comfortable with a lot of coaches,” Debose said. “With all the coaching change, I'd have a position coach and then he'd be gone the next year. But coach Hill, he just let me know that he was always going to be straightforward with me, and I didn't have to worry about him up and leaving one day.”
Their reconnection produced results in 2011. Under Hill, Debose led the Gators in receiving yards (432) and touchdowns (four), and he also ranked first in the SEC in yards per catch (27.0). He looks forward to continuing their relationship, both on and off the field.
“I try to meet with him throughout the day if I can, just get into the office and watch film with him one-on-one,” Debose said. “He just gives me little details that I can work on. He always has something to say; that's his job as a coach. So I just listen to everything and try to grasp what he teaches me. And I've learned a lot from him. We built on that relationship, and I feel like he's a father figure to me now. I love the way he is.”