Time for UF receivers to realize potential, Doering says

Florida wide receivers need to create more separation from defensive backs, ESPN/SEC Network analyst Chris Doering says. [Cyndi Chambers/Correspondent]

One of the best wide receivers in school history, Chris Doering has found it difficult watching Florida’s receivers struggle and stagger through unproductive season after unproductive season.

It’s been so frustrating that at times UF’s all-time leader in touchdown receptions has been tempted to step onto the practice field and show them how it’s done.

How to beat man coverage. How to get open. How to make tough catches and big plays. How to make a difference.

That’s the way the UF receivers used to do it, but now haven’t done it consistently for the past several years.

“There’s a group of us former players that talk and there’s some frustration in the recent past about the passing game,” said Doering, now an analyst for the ESPN/SEC Network. “Not only the way they’re running routes, but the play calls. You’ve got to give guys an opportunity. When you’re running against man coverage a lot, you know, crossing routes, slants, breaking routes. You’ve got to be able to do some of those things.

“I don’t think the play calls have always been the best for giving receivers opportunities to be successful. That’s what Coach Spurrier did really well, play design, play calling at the right time and then guys that have already been coached to know exactly what they’re supposed to do in those scenarios.”

Doering has been frustrated and discouraged by the passing game and the unproductive play of the Gator wide receivers. Now, with proven winner Dan Mullen and proven wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales taking over, Doering is hopeful for the first time in a while.

Hopeful and cautiously optimistic.

“Potential is the key word,” he said. “Potential is great, but if it’s not actually realized and there’s no utilization of the potential, then it’s just wasted.

“The passing game is not just about receivers. It’s the blocking up front, it’s the quarterback understanding what he’s seeing and being able to either get to the right play or make the right read. It’s just been a complete disconnect on that side of the ball at every position.”

Having spent some time with Mullen, Gonzales and the receivers during the spring, Doering said he feels there’s a chance there will be a reconnect in the passing game this season.

The Gators have some talented receivers, led by Tyrie Cleveland, Josh Hammond and transfers Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes, and a coaching staff that gets it when it comes to the passing game and making it work.

“Being able to get everybody on the same page is going to be big,” Doering said. “I think you’ll see a lot more production. I’m going to be quietly optimistic about this group (of receivers). They may have a chance to be probably the third best group in the conference.

“You look at Ole Miss being No. 1 by far, and South Carolina has a chance to be second. But Florida could be right there with the third-best group.”

For the wide receivers to reach their potential, it starts where it always does — with coaching.

That’s the way it was back in Doering’s day (1993-95), when Steve Spurrier and Dwayne Dixon coached up some talented athletes who also included Reidel Anthony, Ike Hilliard and Jacquez Green and turned them into the most prolific wide receiver group in school history.

“The reason our group was so good was because Dwayne Dixon was a guy who had recently gotten done playing, so he’s out there running the routes, showing you how to do it,” Doering said. “And Coach Spurrier spent a lot of time with us talking about running things exactly the way he wanted you to.

“We spent so much time throwing routes on air that it was all about reps and timing and developing that rapport.

“That teaching maybe has not been there the way it should have been (the past several years).”

Doering points to the receivers’ lack of ability to beat man coverage and get open under Kerry Dixon and the former coaching staff.

He said it appears a lot of potential teaching moments were passed over on the practice field the last three seasons.

“It was really tough to watch as a former receiver, guys that aren’t able to get off man coverage,” Doering said. “If you can’t beat man coverage, it’s going to be a long day. Florida guys at the wide receiver position just couldn’t separate.

“You’ve seen how quickly they (the former staff) were just trying to get reps on tape (in practice). What Coach Spurrier was really big on was corrections on the field, spending time teaching on the field. That’s where the receivers could have benefitted more, having some of that immediate correction on the field and doing it correctly at the teaching session.

“Coach Spurrier would run the routes. We’d laugh at the way he’d run, but it was cool to see him out there. He was an active part of the throwing and catching game. When you have the head coach that has that much emphasis, it means a lot. I think Dan will be able to bring some of that, too.”

Doering also said the receivers will have a better chance to reach their potential under Gonzales, a veteran wide receivers coach who has had success wherever he’s been, including being part of two national championship teams at Florida under Urban Meyer.

Several of the receivers said this spring that Gonzales is the best wide receivers coach they’ve ever had.

Doering can see that.

“I’m really excited about Billy Gonzales, knowing what he does, knowing how he coaches,” Doering said. “I think it’s going to be a group that starts to live up to their potential a little more.

“The reason I was able to play for nine years in the NFL was because of the way Coach Dixon and Coach Spurrier taught the passing game, taught how to run routes. That’s something Coach Gonzales is going to bring to these guys.”

Gonzales will have some talent and potential to work with. Now, it’s a matter of turning potential into production, something that hasn’t happened in years.

“It’s a group that I think is maybe sneakily talented, but has not yet lived up to the potential that they have,” Doering said. “With Van Jefferson’s experience and Trevon Grimes’ size and ability and then with Tyrie maybe having a little bit different teaching, I think there’s a couple of different guys that we could see have big years.”


  1. Hopefully Jefferson and Grimes will be eligible to play. BIG difference in wide receiver roster depending on their status…Unless I missed it, they have not received official notice yet. Add Cleveland and Copeland and the group really has a chance to be good. Gator fans will remember the 96 team had Anthony, Hilliard, and Green on the roster at the same time. They all knew how to beat man to man, so at least one of them was open most of the time.

    • Jefferson was cleared by the SEC on in-conference transfer rules, but still has to hear from the NCAA, but since he should have no problem considering the NCAA has cleared all the other ‘Ole Miss players who transferred out of Oxford. Grimes getting cleared is maybe 50/50 imo.

      But UF won’t be short on quality WR’s this year. We have a great group to work and a terrific WR’s coach in Gonzales to coach them.

    • I thought this was the one thing that told us something new about things:

      What Coach Spurrier was really big on was corrections on the field, spending time teaching on the field. That’s where the receivers could have benefitted more, having some of that immediate correction on the field and doing it correctly at the teaching session.
      “Coach Spurrier would run the routes. We’d laugh at the way he’d run, but it was cool to see him out there. He was an active part of the throwing and catching game. When you have the head coach that has that much emphasis, it means a lot. I think Dan will be able to bring some of that, too.”

      thanks, Robbie and Chris, this is why you read the newspaper, not the fluff stuff.

  2. We saw what our receivers did under Meyer when Billy Gonzales was WR’s coach, and then we immediately saw the drop-off the following two years when Meyer, in a completely bizarre turn of events, ran Gonzales off to LSU by appointing Steve Addazio as OC. A lot of folks don’t realize that Meyer’s S/O offense was created by Mullen, Gonzales and Meyer, and Gonzales felt shafted when an a**-kisser like Addazio got the OC job after Mullen left.

    You will see an huge turn-around at WR. Matter of fact, there’s is going to be a big turn-around everywhere on this team because of extremely FAR SUPERIOR coaching than what we had under McElwain.

    There was no plan on O when Nussmeier was here, and I said when Mac first hired him that it was a huge mistake then. People just have no idea how much Nuss trashed our offense. He had absolutely ZERO idea what he was doing as an OC. Anyone who hires him as an OC again should have their head examined first.

    I don’t expect an SEC or NC this year, but I do expect 9 wins, perhaps possibly 10 if we get a good, lucky bounce here or there, and a solid season that will get recruiting rolling again.

    Make no argument about it… losing seasons and stagnant, boring, incompetently- coached teams are what have hurt recruiting and getting back into the win column again will do wonders for this programs, which will be able to start selling itself again.

  3. Ben Jefferson should be a gurranteed with the new rule change and the fact that all the other ole miss transfers were granted eligibility it would blown my mine if he wasn’t and as far as grimes go that’s less certain but still a really good chance. It definitely be great if we could have them both

    • Garrett. Agreed! Would be a tremendous difference if both are eligible. Yes, I am cautiously optimistic about Jefferson, but with the NCAA you never know. Sometimes their rulings aren’t consistent.

    • It’s actually not a guarantee at all. Everyone wants to keep lumping him in with the players who were already granted eligibility, but he’s not in that same group. Of the 6 players who transferred, Jefferson is the only one who was a member of the 2015 signing class. The rest of the players were 2016 signees. The SEC rule cleared the way as far as transferring within the conference, but as far as getting past the hurdle of being immediately eligible because he was deceived by the Ole Miss coaching staff, he doesn’t have the same argument. Hard to claim you were deceived when you’re the only one from your class making that claim. I’m sure this is the main reason why his case hasn’t been decided yet. It’ll surprise me more if he’s ruled eligible than not.

      • Joe You hit the nail on the head. While on the surface it would seem like a done deal that Jefferson would be eligible, the class distinction you raised is exactly the reason I am not 100% confident Jefferson will be ruled eligible. Grimes’s family is from South Florida, so it would certainly have made more sense for him to transfer to a school closer to that area. Again, I certainly hope they both are on the eligible roster, but I would be pleasantly surprised if they are.

  4. So what you are saying is that Mus knew nothing about offense (which we all knew, but he was/is a defensive genius) and that coach Mac was the worst head coaching hire the University of Florida has ever made in the modern era, post WW-II. I mean, let’s call it what it is. Coach “aw shucks” was atrocious. Every time he could make a poor decision, he did. I’m sorry, I know he is gone, but I don’t really think we appropriately rank McElwain in Florida history as a coach. Doug Dickey, with all of his flaws, was a much better coach than McElwain. Dickey’s 75 team was arguably the best in the country, in terms of talent. McElwain never fielded the best team in Florida, much less the best team in the country. You have to go back to Raymond Wolf in the 1940’s to find a worse coach than McElwain. Thats why he went from a head coach to a wide receivers coach at a school that really doesn’t throw the ball all that well.

    “A horse is a horse is a horse, of course”…

    • Agree, especially on the offensive side of things you pointed out. And thanks. Yet, I wouldn’t call Muschamp a defensive genius. No doubt we played good D overall under him and he recruited good D players. but his teams also gave up almost 700 yards against Bama and 400 yards rushing against a Georgia Southern team that threw as many passes in the game as most teams do in a series. Honestly, our best stats the last few years have come against the worst teams. I would say he is a very good D coordinator but “genius” is a word that gets thrown around more often than it deserves, I think.

      • In our best time under Meyers we had Mullen OC and Strong DC. Seems our defense was rated top 10 in most metrics. Our offense did some good things with a OC that was great at getting our players into the right places to gain yards. Our defense was so good at times I thought our def rankings were too low. I don’t think our defense will struggle this year. They are fit and should play better under an aggressive DC. Our offense needs to be adequate and not turn over the ball and stay on the field long enough to keep the D from getting gassed. mkf Muschamp was a good DC no genius. Good at recruiting D.
        I would expect our D to be positive in the takeaway numbers this year.

        • You’ve explained the last several years pretty much in one paragraph, 65, as well as what to expect this season. Biggest two things, I think, are finally, superior conditioning, and finally, superior coaching at every position. Both sides of the ball should show marked improvement this year as does the W-L record (not to mention special teams), and then we watch blue chip recruiting improve by leaps and bounds. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it did get built pretty quick (old Latin proverb or something like that).

          • GI mentioned fundamentals, particularly in receiving. I think that carries across the board. Our OL and DL last year looked like they were lacking in execution which was probably a lack of adhering to the fundamentals of the position. I do agree with You, Tampa that we need to up the recruiting but I have a feeling (mentioned that a lot here) we are going to surprise in our performance and the recruiting will follow.

  5. I remember a long time ago when a High School star at defensive line got by on his size, strength, etc. He got to college and that was not enough, he had to learn how to play both his position and as a team. Every position is the same, some might be good enough to get by on talent, but not many and not at the NFL level. Run those routes and the assignments so many times it becomes automatic, then adjustments for the coverage can be made as long as they QB is on the same page. When you can do that you have a great team.

  6. I think back to when Mac was OC at Bama, their passing game was imaginative(and easy b/c their OL and running game were great), their WRs got separation, etc. Somebody else must’ve been pulling the strings for the Bama O, b/c it appears Mac was incompetent in the highest degree as HBC at UF.
    Our skill positions(combined RBs and WRs, IF at least one of Jefferson and Grimes, preferably both, are eligible) are as good as any in the SEC. As we all know, it will come down to QB and OL play. Mullen and co. know how to prepare a team, and how to call winning plays, can they get a QB ready, and wake up the OL?

  7. The evidence of how worthless Captain Yellowteeth and the idiot coaches he brought in just keeps mounting. They were a mediocre high-school coaching staff, and yet our AD gave Nuss a giant raise the year before he was fired. A fish rots from the head, and when you have a leadership that rewards failure and incompetence, you will get failure and incompetence.

  8. Mac knows offense, I mean that’s pretty clear by the fact that he helped bring Bama their first title under Saban before they had elite athletes all over the field and bench. It’s more so evident with the fact that he had the #2 passing QB in the nation, the #1 WR in the nation and one of the most explosive offenses in the nation his last year at CSU. That was the main reason he got the job here. Something happened between his job at CSU and coming here where he just completely lost his mind and ability to coach. He gave far too much control to Nuss and that destroyed the offense. When he put his two cents into running the offense, which was usually with the scripted plays to open the game, they more times than not drove right down the field and then everything fell apart as soon as Nuss started calling plays on the fly. He clearly knows how to run an offense when he can just solely focus on that and not running an entire program. I just think he got in way over his head with a big time power 5 job and running the whole show and just lost his mind. He’s more suited for what he’s doing now or running a lower tier program like CSU. He’s not cut out for a power 5 HC job.

    • Joe, Mac was coaching in the Mountain West that didn’t have defenses anything like most of the Power 5 short of the Big 12. #2 QB and #1 WR could be they were playing in a pool that any QB or WR could do well. 14-10 conference record over three years in MW doesn’t jump out saying Mac knows offense. Bottom line.. NOT READY FOR HC in a major school ( I agree with you there), not enough evidence to prove he knows offense. If Nuss ruined his offense he should have fired him. He may know offense but he didn’t prove that to the Gator fans who watched the games.

      • Joe’s probably right at the end of the day, after all he had to show somebody something to get this far. I think, as an alternative explanation, that his personality finally did him in. Wouldn’t be the first guy to self destruct, nor the last.

    • He may know offense, but he didn’t know how to be a head coach. He hired terrible assistants and then failed to hold them or the players accountable. He inspired no one to do anything, and sat around eating barbecue and blaming the college for his failures. One of the most revealing moments of his tenure was after the Michigan game. We gained only 197 yards and scored 3 offensive points. He shows up at the press conference and says,”We had a great offensive game plan.”

      That’s when I realized he was a clueless fool. The only great game plan is the one that works in the actual game, and he couldn’t seem to understand that the best game plan in the world is worthless if you have no ability to get the players to execute that plan.

      • Richard I’m gonna jump in on this, and back you up. Not that you need it, but it’s killing me that we still have apologists for this program-wrecking clown. Charley Pell did more positive things for Florida in the long run than McElshark ever did, and we ended up on probation during his time.

        To all of those that say he was a good/great OC at Alabama. How creative do you have to be when your defense stops every team at 3 and out almost every series and gets 3 to 4 turnovers a game? And has an offensive line of 340 pound NFL talent that can run 4.8 40 yard dashes? Really? As another legendary Florida coach (Ron Zook) used to say, it’s about the Jesse’s and Joes, not the X’s and O’s. Nebraska destroyed Florida in January of 1996 with an offense that was developed in the 1950’s, and they did it because every time the lined up for a snap, whether it be offense or defense, they knew…they were stronger, more physical, and could kick our ass on every snap. Ed Zaunbrecher would have been an offensive genius if he got to play with Nick Saban’s athletic talent. Don’t give me the mess about McElwain being a good offensive mind. Let me name the more creative offensive minds since 1950 that UF has had (not in any order).

        1. Bob Woodruff
        2. Ray Graves
        3. Doug Dickey (yes, I said Doug Dickey..once he got the wishbone to work, it was lethal..he just made dumb decisions in clutch situations)
        4. Charley Pell
        5. Mike Shanahan
        6. Galen Hall
        7. Steve Spurrier (of course he is #1, I am just putting them in quasi-chronological order)
        8. Larry Fedora
        9. Brian Schottenheimer (only a UF backup QB, but has proven he knows more about offense than Jimmy Mac)
        10. Urban Meyer
        11. Our current head coach (Danny M)

        The only coaches in the modern era I might give Shark Week a nod over would include Charlie Weis (he should thank Tom Brady every day for his retirement plan), Ed Zaunbrecher (although he did kinda make you love the bubble screen), and maybe Lynn Amedee (although I have a soft spot for Amedee because he coached during the Emmitt Smith years).

        • CJ, I am blown away. Between you and Richard, your arguments are about as airtight as it gets. I think Joe has a point, and we all agree that he’ll probably never make an HC at a major program, but regulate my comments about his personality doing him in to the dust bin of psychobabble. He was dead long before that, just like a deer I shot once–the sucker ran two miles before he realized it. Good job and good Gator history to back it up!

        • CJ, I mean no disrespect, since it appears you are my Gator elder, but I think you may be letting your distaste for Mac cloud your analysis. Mac’s offenses at Bama averaged 408 yards, 21 first downs, and only 1.1 turnovers per game in four seasons. That’s 50+ yards/gm better than Bama’s previous four years. Yes, there were good O-linemen, with a total of four drafted in four seasons, but two of those were drafted after Mac’s first season, which was his worst statistically. As you say, the defenses were very good, but their stats of 1.9 turnovers forced/gm and 13 first downs/gm make your claim of “3 and out almost every series and … 3 to 4 turnovers a game” a bit of an exaggeration.

          If X’s and O’s don’t matter, why bother to name your list of superior offensive minds? Obviously they had better players, right? If X’s and O’s don’t matter, how do you explain Spurrier’s success? It took the SEC 7 or 8 seasons to catch up to him, and still, his last season was his most productive offense. I contend that X’s and O’s were (was?) the biggest culprit in the Nebraska drubbing. Spurrier’s stubborn insistence on running most of the passing game from 5-wide under center played right into the strength of Nebraska’s defense. It wasn’t until after the ’96 FSU game that he went to the shotgun, and the result was a NC.

          I’m not saying Mac is a great offensive mind, but he was clearly good at Bama, otherwise, Saban, being the great manager his is, would’ve fired him.

          Gator-6, don’t give up on your theory so fast. I think it was indeed Mac’s personality and his almost incoherent rambling in press conferences and interviews that turned many Gator fans against him. I’m thankful for Coach Mullen’s enthusiastic personality and his ability to speak coherently in complete sentences. Go Gators!

          • Joe I appreciate the debate, and no I am not as old as you think. I am 49. I know my info because I have been religiously following Gator football since the age of 5 (I saw Don Gaffney play live) and I read probably 100 times what is generally referred to as the Bible of Gator football pre-1980, “Gators”, by the late great legend Tom McEwen from the Tampa Tribune. If you haven’t read it, get the book. It’s a phenomenal read. There are stats and game recollections going back to the early 1900s that are mind blowing.

            I actually like the ability to have a healthy back and forth on the topics, and I will admit you are right. There is essentially nothing I like about Jim McElwain, I think he is a fraud as an HBC, and as outlandish as this sounds, I think both Ron Zook and Mus were better HBCs at Florida than Mac ever was. Once McElwain no longer had Will Muschamp’s defensive talent he could not muster 5 wins. Saying he was good at Alabama is like saying I would be be good at a game of pin the tail on the donkey with no blindfold. I contend any offensive coordinator who was competent enough to coach in the SEC could have done what McElwain did with Alabama’s talent. And those UF offensive minds I mentioned: No, very few of them were stocked with huge pools of dominant talent when they coached offense, except for Meyer and Spurrier (in some, but not all years). There’s a difference between having a talented roster and having a Nick Saban-Alabama talented roster, where 4-star players ride the pine. If you change 4 things about McElwain, maybe he is a decent coach.
            1. Give him the ability to recruit (our roster looked like USF in terms of talent, laden with 3-stars)
            2. Make decent personnel decisions (it should have been a huge clue when Michigan fired Doug Nussmier along with Brady Hoke that maybe he just wasn’t that good)
            3. Have the stones to take over the game if your underlings are not doing it for you. If the UF offensive debacle was the fault of Nussmier, why didn’t the Alabama offensive wizard take over the reins, knowing his job may depend on it?
            4. Conditioning of your players actually matters in the SEC.
            I do appreciate the respect, and it’s always fun to agree to disagree.

          • Thanks Joe, it’s just that I thought for a while there the State of Texas was going to pull my certification in psychological double talk.

          • If they awarded PhDs in Gator Football, CJ, I’m sure you would have earned one before your 30th birthday. Think it would have been awarded by old Tom McEwen himself, as a matter of fact.

            I used to read Tom faithfully…..after finding out what he had for breakfast, I’d read in fascination as he wove a sports story laden with humor and insight until it was a virtual tapestry you couldn’t put down. even if the topic of the day wasn’t that interesting. And, those were just his daily columns in the Tribune. I had the great fortune of accidentally meeting him for a few moments once, and he was every bit the same person as he was in print–a real gentleman.

            The mold really was broken when he passed, but Pat Dooley reminds me an awful lot of old Tom. Thanks for evoking even more memories for an old Gator.

    • Man, those are blasts from the past, CJ. Heroes of my youth. I remember Lindy at right halfback in the Gator Bowl vs Baylor (and Ronnie Bull) Dec 31, 1960. So smooth in Ray Grave’s sweep offense that I knew right then and there that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up–a Gator running back. Wasn’t meant to be, but a kid could dream anyway. And of course, Pepper Rogers in his signature bow tie–who could ever forget the coolest coach on the sidelines? I remember too when he got blown up later in a boating accident, thankfully to survive and coach another day. Thanks for the memories!