Forward focus: UF's receivers
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 12:02 a.m.
The Florida Gators experienced a considerable bump in Will Muschamp's second season, going from 7-6 in 2011 to 11-2 in 2012 with a berth in a BCS bowl game.
2013 probable depth chart
So, what happens in Year 3?
With so many players departing through a combination of graduation, transfers and leaving early for the NFL, UF is a team in transition as it moves forward into 2013.
Over the next few weeks, The Sun will break down the Gators by position to give readers an idea what to expect this UF team to look like in the fall.
Three of the top four receivers from last season have moved on. Tight end Jordan Reed, QB Jeff Driskel's go-to guy in the passing game in 2012, is skipping his senior year to enter the NFL Draft. He gave the NFL scouts plenty to look at last season, catching 45 passes for 559 yards and three touchdowns. Two other productive receivers from a year ago — Frankie Hammond Jr. and Omarius Hines — have exhausted their eligibility. Hammond came into his own as a senior, catching 22 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns, including a 75-yard scoring play in the win at Tennessee. Hines was a valuable and versatile performer in the offense. He caught 23 passes for 242 yards and also had some key runs on jet sweeps and end-arounds. Also gone is Stephen Alli, who has decided not to play his senior season.
Senior Andre Debose is the Gators' most experienced wide receiver, but he's coming off a season in which he was not a factor in the passing game, catching only three passes for 15 yards. He's down to his last chance to have that breakout season everyone (including Debose) has been anticipating. UF's most productive returning receiver is junior Quinton Dunbar, who had somewhat of a breakout season in 2012 with 36 catches for 383 yards and four touchdowns. UF's only other returning wide receivers — Raphael Andrades, Solomon Patton and Latroy Pittman — combined for only five receptions for 27 yards this past season and are still developing. The Gators have four tight ends returning, and the one who appears to have the physical skills most similar to Reed is true sophomore Kent Taylor, who caught only two passes last season, one for a touchdown in the Sugar Bowl. Clay Burton, Colin Thompson and Tevin Westbrook are known more for their blocking than their pass-catching skills.
Looking at the low number of scholarship wide receivers remaining on the roster coming out of the 2012 season (only five), the Gators made wide receiver a recruiting priority and filled the need by signing five wide receivers, including one (Demarcus Robinson) who is already on campus as an early enrollee. The five freshmen — Robinson, Alvin Bailey, Ahmad Fulwood, Marqui Hawkins and Chris Thompson — will have a chance to get into the playing rotation next season if they pick up the offense during camp. The highest-rated incoming freshman happens to be the one already in school. Robinson has a chance to position himself for significant playing time in 2013 if he has a good spring.
With the exception of Dunbar, the Gators must replace most of their receiving production from last season. UF has some talented wide receivers who have been around for a while, but are still searching for their roles in the offense. The infusion of five highly regarded freshmen should make for some healthy competition in August.
Stronger or weaker in 2013?
The strength of the receiving corps last season was Reed. Now that he's gone, the tight end position does not figure to be the go-to one in the passing game in 2013. That means the wide receivers are going to have to elevate their game and be more productive. The addition of the five freshmen should bolster (and likely upgrade) the wide receiver positions. With more wide receivers, Driskel should have more options in the passing game. Overall, the receivers have a chance to be stronger in 2013.