Debose returns to UF practice
Published: Friday, March 28, 2014 at 1:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 28, 2014 at 1:57 p.m.
Florida wide receiver Andre Debose is back practicing with the Gators for the first time since tearing an ACL in preseason camp last August.
“Andre Debose has been cleared for non-contact,” UF coach Will Muschamp said Friday. “He practiced (Thursday), also a little Wednesday. He was in team drills (Thursday). He’s in an orange jersey, so he’s non-contact.
“It’s good to get him back on the field and involved in the offense.”
Debose, one of the best kick returners in school history, was battling for a starting role at wide receiver before he injured his knee in a non-contact drill early in camp last summer.
He will be held out of contact this spring, but will be able to participate in all other drills in the new offense.
Debose, who also missed his true freshman season after undergoing hamstring surgery, was recently granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.
“He’s the leading kickoff returner in UF history (with four for touchdowns). Certainly we’re looking for a couple kickoff returns from him. That would be nice,” Muschamp said. “I think that he can be really special with the ball in his hands, but I think his work ethic from last year was very good up to his injury. I was extremely pleased with where he was and to me, with Andre, it’s just the battle of consistently doing it well.
“I think he understands that. I like where he is right now from a maturity standpoint, from a work ethic standpoint, all of those things. I’m extremely pleased at this point.”
With Debose adding to the number of wide receivers this spring, the coaching staff has moved redshirt freshman Marqui Hawkins from wide receiver to safety, where he will line up in today’s scrimmage.
There is little depth at safety, where potential starter Keanu Neal remains out with a hamstring injury.
“Well, I think as much as anything, numbers,” Muschamp said of the move. “He played safety in high school. I thought he was a physical player in high school and did some nice things. We'll see how he does.
“It's hard with us, we're so far along defensively. To make that move mid-stream is tough on him, so we've been out getting him lined up and those sort of things and just see how instinctively he plays the game. He wasn't making a whole lot of movement at receiver and we felt like it was the best move for him and us."
While Debose has returned to practice, two other injured players — sophomore tight end Colin Thompson and true freshman offensive lineman Nolan Kelleher — remain in limbo with uncertain futures.
Both are battling chronic injuries, Thompson to his foot and Kelleher to his back. “Nolan will not go through spring. He’s going to see another specialist in the coming weeks,” Muschamp said. “Colin was asked to be totally off of any physical activity other than just lifting until after spring. I believe it’s April 15 or 16 that he’s going to see another specialist.”
Muschamp said redshirt freshman offensive guard Rod Johnson (knee), redshirt freshman defensive end Jordan Sherit (hyperextended elbow) and sophomore wide receiver Chris Thompson (head) could be cleared to practice Monday.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.