Dooley: Gators hoping receiver upgrade comes through

Florida Gators wide receiver Andre Debose talks with reporters during football media day in the Touchdown Terrace at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Sunday in Gainesville.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, August 3, 2014 at 5:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, August 3, 2014 at 8:08 p.m.

Ahmad Fulwood was grinning just a little bit. It was that kind of grin that said, “I don't want to boast but watch what happens.”



*Monday: Gators start practice
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The corners of his mouth were pointed upward but only slightly. He probably wanted to say what Charlie Brown said on the pitching mound.

Tell your statistics to shut up.

But we can't. We can't because they are too striking, too overwhelming, too non-Florida. We can't because someone will remind us about them every time we try to forget.

And we can't because they are statistics that matter.

But Fulwood, the sophomore wide receiver, wasn't about to get into a discussion about statistics.

“In this offense,” he said, “we're all going to get the touches we deserve.”

That was the motto of Florida's Media Day on Sunday. As a cooling rain fell outside the Touchdown Terrace at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, the head coach talked about how much he felt his team has been upgraded on offense, both with players and the offensive coordinator. The quarterback talked about his explosive receivers. The receivers talked about erasing the doubts about their abilities to produce.

“We're going to flourish,” said Andre Debose, the sixth-year senior.

It has been a bit of a culture shock for Florida fans who grew up on the Fun 'n' Gun to watch Wide Receiver U. turn into Why Receiver U. As in — why would anyone who played the position volunteer to play at UF with the offense that was being run?

Florida has exactly one receiver on its roster with a 100-yard game. It belongs to Debose. It came against Furman in 2011. Solomon Patton has the only other 100-yard receiving game in the last three years. It came last season against Miami.

You all probably know the other statistics that you want to shut up, but still come at you in surround sound.

Florida hasn't had a 600-yard receiver since 2009. The Gators have ranked 12th and 13th in passing offense the last two years.

It hasn't been a lot of fun for fans who like the forward pass. And the result has been a lot of questions about the players themselves. I get it all the time. Why can't Florida recruit wide receivers any more?

“We don't take it personally,” Debose said. “It's not something we think about.”

There are a number of reasons why Florida hasn't had a big-time, go-to receiver since Riley Cooper caught 961 yards worth of passes in 2009. Some of it is the offense Florida has run. Some of it is the injuries at quarterback (John Brantley, Jeff Driskel and Tyler Murphy missed 15 starts over the last four seasons).

Some of it has as much to do with who is not here as who is here.

Chris Dunkley was supposed to be a stud. Never played a down at Florida. Ja'Juan Story was a four-star recruit in Will Muschamp's first class. Never played a down at Florida. Javares McRoy was a four-star guy in that same class. Never played a down at Florida.

Stefon Diggs and Nelson Agholor were two major recruits in 2012 that Florida thought it had locked up. Both made last minute flips.

You combine all of this — the offense, the quarterbacks, the misses — and it explains the dearth of All-SEC wide receivers at UF. (Percy Harvin was the last first-teamer in 2008.)

So is this the group that changes that?

“I have no clue,” said sophomore Demarcus Robinson, “but we're striving for that.”

Robinson could be the guy. Muschamp raved about his maturity on Sunday. This is still a guy who was suspended last year and has to stay out of trouble, but the skills are there.

“The game has slowed down for him,” Muschamp said.

Or it could be Fulwood.

“He's a matchup issue because of his length,” Muschamp said of the 6-foot-4, 202-pound Fulwood. “He's gotten stronger. His route-running has been more crisp.”

Or maybe this is the year Quinton Dunbar explodes. Or maybe it's Debose, who is working with his sixth different receivers coach, and on Sunday, was asked if he could name them all. (He couldn't remember Bush Hamdan's last name at first).

Or maybe it's Latroy Pittman, who has yet to live up to expectations. Or Chris Thompson of Gainesville High School.

Or maybe it's all of them. Maybe the individual numbers won't matter at the end of the season because we'll be talking about how the position produced in Kurt Roper's offense.

“It's tough to defend,” said Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. “It's fast. They're going to take their shots down the field and you usually don't substitute on defense so you're coming back on defense and get ready for the next play and they have a fresh receiver in there.”

Roper had three 1,000-yard receivers in his last two seasons at Duke. Florida hasn't had one since 2002.

Really, though, the only thing that matters is that this group of receivers will be given the opportunity to be great. That's all they've ever wanted. Let's see who grabs that chance.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at

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