Phillips playing catch-up with Gators' receivers


Florida's new wide receivers coach Joker Phillips comes to UF with a reputation for developing productive players at the position. (The Associated Press)

Published: Sunday, December 9, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 11:46 p.m.

Coming from Kentucky to Florida to coach the wide receivers is a big opportunity for Joker Phillips. It's also going to be a tremendous, and maybe a little tricky, challenge.

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Florida's new wide receivers coach Joker Phillips comes to UF with a reputation for developing productive players at the position. (The Associated Press)

Phillips, the former UK coach who was hired by Will Muschamp this past week, has extensive experience coaching wide receivers and comes to UF with a reputation for developing productive players at the position.

But he's going to have his work cut out for him in the spring, where he'll have only six scholarship wide receivers to work with (that number will grow in the fall with the addition of three or four true freshmen).

And the six scholarship players he will be coaching don't exactly have a lot of production on their receiving resumes at Florida.

This season, they've combined for only 38 catches for 345 yards and four touchdowns. And 31 of those catches, 306 of those yards, and all of those four touchdowns belong to one player (Quinton Dunbar).

The other five returning wide receivers have combined for only seven receptions, 39 yards and zero TDs.

It adds up to this being a busy and challenging spring for the Gators' new wide receivers coach.

Here is a look at the scholarship receivers Phillips will be working with in the spring:

Stephen Alli, Sr., 6-foot-6, 218 pounds — He has an intriguing combination of size and speed, but this Urban Meyer project has never really developed as a viable option at wide receiver. For the second season in a row, he's seen very little playing time on offense and has zero receptions. For his career, he's caught only three passes for 17 yards.

Raphael Andrades, So., 6-0, 190 — This late addition to the 2012 recruiting class had a good fall camp and saw some playing time throughout the season, but he really wasn't a factor in the passing game, catching only two passes for five yards. One reason behind his early playing time could be the fact the Gators did not have a whole lot of options at wide receiver this past season. Still, his experience should help in his development.

Andre Debose, Sr., 5-11, 189 — Florida coaches and fans have been shaking their heads over this player for the past three years. How could a guy with so much speed, talent and ability — which he's flashed at times — not be a bigger factor in the offense? Debose pretty much disappeared this season. He caught only two passes for 11 yards and was basically a non-factor in the offense. Inconsistent work ethic seems to be an issue that Debose hasn't been able to get past. Maybe under a new receivers coach, Debose will see this as his chance to redeem himself and have a big senior season. The ability is there for that to happen. Now it's up to Phillips to bring it out.

Quinton Dunbar, Jr., 6-1, 183 — He was supposed to have his breakout season as a redshirt freshman in 2011. That didn't happen. But it did happen this season. Dunbar emerged as a playmaker in the offense and is UF's leading returning wide receiver, coming off a 31-reception, four-touchdown season. He had some big catches, including a crucial TD reception in the fourth quarter against Florida State. He clearly grew more comfortable in the offense as the season went along. In his second year in Brent Pease's offense, Dunbar could put up some impressive numbers in 2013 as he continues to develop.

Solomon Patton, Sr., 5-9, 169 — Patton emerged as an important player in the offense this past season, mainly making plays on end-arounds and jet sweeps. It was a blow to the offense, and his development, when he suffered a broken arm in the first half of the Georgia game. The injury came at a time when Patton appeared to be more involved in the passing game. He showed good hands and the ability to create yards after the catch with a 17-yard reception in the Tennessee game. He's small, but Pease and Phillips will find a way to use his speed in the offense, and he could have a bigger role as a receiver in 2013.

Latroy Pittman, So., 6-0, 201 — His breakout performance last spring as a true freshman had many believing Pittman had a chance to emerge as a dynamic receiver for the Gators in 2012. That did not happen. Instead of building off his strong spring performance, Pittman seemed to regress somewhat during the season. He caught only two passes for six yards. Moving forward, Pittman has the size, speed and athletic ability to be a major player in the passing game. How he develops this spring under Phillips will be crucial for Pittman and the passing game.

Loucheiz Purifoy, Jr., 6-1, 189 — Muschamp was adamant after the FSU game that Purifoy is a cornerback, and he will remain one. At the same time, Purifoy is going to continue to get reps at wide receiver and conceivably could become a two-way player for the Gators in 2013. He has size, explosive speed and probably the best ball skills on the team. He has the physical attributes to become a dynamic receiver if he's given enough time and coaching at the position. He's already a dynamic player on special teams. This is a player who might rarely leave the field next season.

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