Gators seeking replacement playmakers at receiver

Senior Quinton Dunbar will look to lead a young group of wide receivers in a new-look offense.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:04 p.m.

Bowl games are considered a reward for a successful season. What they really are is a primer for the next season, with all those extra practices playing a role in player development.

Unfortunately for Florida, there will be no bowl experience this year coming off the school's first losing season since 1979. So, getting ready for the 2014 season is on hold until the spring.

But the Gators' inactivity in December doesn't mean we can't start looking ahead to 2014 and projecting how the Gators might look at each position. This is the third of a 12-part series:

Wide receivers

Who's gone: Solomon Patton and Trey Burton.

Who's back: Junior Raphael Andrades, senior Andre Debose, senior Quinton Dunbar, sophomore Ahmad Fulwood, senior Michael McNeely, junior Latroy Pittman, sophomore Demarcus Robinson and sophomore Chris Thompson.

Who's new: Redshirt freshman Alvin Bailey and redshirt freshman Marqui Hawkins

What's next: A lot of production in the passing game leaves with departing seniors Solomon Patton and Trey Burton. The two combined for 82 receptions, 1,001 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013. Not only did Patton lead the Gators in receiving, he was perhaps the offense's lone dynamic playmaker. So, senior Quinton Dunbar and some of the young receivers are going to have to step up and produce. Dunbar's career has been on a steady rise over the past two seasons. If he continues to progress, he has a chance to be the go-to guy and potentially an elite SEC wide receiver. The coaches think two members of last year's recruiting class may be ready to take off after gaining valuable experience and showing steady progress in their true freshman seasons. Ahmad Fulwood is a big, fast, athletic receiver who really came on in the second half of the year and has a chance to emerge as a starter. The sames goes for Gainesville High alum Chris Thompson, who has impressed the coaches with his dynamic speed and playmaking potential. Another young player who is starting to emerge is Latroy Pittman, who disappeared after having a strong spring his true freshman season. He became an option in the passing game over the final weeks of the season and may finally be ready to make a significant contribution. The two wild cards are senior Andre Debose and true sophomore Demarcus Robinson. Debose is returning for his sixth season after suffering a torn ACL in camp in August. Before the injury, Debose was showing signs of becoming the dynamic playmaker everyone thought he would be after Urban Meyer compared him to Percy Harvin the day he signed with UF. If his knee holds up, and he gets back to where he was before the knee injury, Debose could have a significant impact on the offense and on special teams. Robinson seemed all set to emerge as a true freshman this past season, but problems off the field led to two suspensions that basically wasted his season. If his maturity level ever reaches his talent level, Robinson has a chance to be an outstanding player. Two other highly rated freshmen who redshirted last season — Alvin Bailey and Marqui Hawkins — will have a chance to work their way into the playing rotation.

The skinny: The Gators have only one proven wide receiver (Dunbar) and a bunch of talented young guys (Fulwood, Thompson, Robinson and others) with promising potential. If the young receivers emerge, and Debose finally starts playing up to his big-play capability, this group, with the help of a new offensive coordinator, has a chance to revive what has been a dormant passing game the past two seasons.

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