By Nick de la Torre
In part four of our spring football position battles series, we look at the wide receivers. Perhaps the most disappointing and enigmatic position over the past three or four seasons, this should be the most wide-open position battle during spring practice.
Gator fans had hoped that the addition of Brent Pease prior to the 2012 season would give the Gators a more wide-open, pass-friendly offense. While that wasn’t the case last season, the offense should open up more in Pease’s second season.
The Gators only major loss at the position from 2012 is Frankie Hammond Jr. Hammond, who caught 22 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns in 2012. He was the Gators primary X receiver during the season.
Quinton Dunbar, R-Jr.
It was the spring of 2011 when we first heard about Dunbar impressing the coaching staff. Despite earning high praise in the offseason, Dunbar finished his redshirt freshman campaign with just 14 receptions for 216 yards and two scores.
The next offseason brought more of the same. Dunbar was once again the most talked about receiver during offseason workouts but again struggled to transfer that success to game day. Dunbar hauled in 36 receptions for 383 yards and four touchdowns.
Dunbar enters this offseason as the most experienced player at the position and the only clear-cut starter out of the group.
Solomon Patton, Sr.
Patton was having his most successful season in orange and blue before breaking his arm against Georgia.
Patton should step back into his role from 2012 as the Gators primary option running the jet sweep. His size limits him somewhat but he has found a niche in the offense and is a valuable contributor to the offense.
Andre Debose, R-Sr.
The most enigmatic player and the most enigmatic position, Debose struggled to make a meaningful impact last season. Debose caught just three passes last season for nine yards and was eventually replaced on punt and kickoff returns.
Debose’s work ethic and maturity have held him back, but with just one season left to live up to the “next Percy Harvin” billing given to him by Florida’s previous head coach, it’s now or never for the talented receiver.
Latroy Pittman, So.
Pittman took the Quinton Dunbar route as a freshman. He impressed the coaching staff as an early-enrollee and drew their praise during offseason workouts. However, Pittman was used mainly as a blocker during his freshman campaign and only recorded two catches on the season.
Pittman has good size for the position, is a solid route-runner and is good with the ball in his hands.
Demarcus Robinson, Fr.
A former Clemson commit, Robinson’s recruitment went down to the wire. An early enrollee, Robinson chose Florida and will have an opportunity to earn playing time right away this spring.
At 6’2” 203 lbs., Robinson has a mix of size, speed and athleticism that separate him from the other players at his position. Robinson is electric with the ball in his hands and if he can adjust to the college game, should make an immediate impact as a freshman.
Loucheiz Purifoy, Jr.
Purifoy played a little on offense last season and will get more work on offense this spring. How much time he gets on offense is still unclear but Purifoy is way behind as a route runner and has a lot of work to do if he is going to become a serious contender for playing time on offense.
Purifoy was arrested for possession of marijuana in the offseason but the charges have since been dropped.
The Gators passing attack ranked No. 118 (146.3 ypg) in the country last season. Will Muschamp was obviously disappointed with the production from the group, so he brought in five receivers on the recruiting trail.
This position is truly wide open and whoever can perform in the offseason will earn playing time in 2013. Quinton Dunbar is the most experienced out of the group and should retain his starting position. After Dunbar, the rest of the group will compete for playing time.
If Andre Debose can realize his potential, he gives the Gators a real offensive weapon but don’t count out Robinson.
The group will be thin in the spring but when summer rolls around, the additions of Alvin Bailey, Ahmad Fulwood, Chris Thompson, Marqui Hawkins will give the Gators more talent and depth at the position. Raphael Andrades should also rejoin the team when the baseball seasons ends.