A more famous Patton (George S. Patton) once stated, “Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.”
Coming off a season-ending broken arm last season, senior wide receiver Solomon Patton has one final opportunity in a Florida Gator uniform.
The 5-foot-9, 171 pound Patton has been asked to do a lot in the past three years, whether it was punt or kick return, running jet sweeps, or simply playing on special teams, Patton has been a Jack of all trades for the Gators and they will rely on the senior in his final season.
With the loss of starting kick returner Andre Debose, Patton has an opportunity to step back into his kick returner role. In 2010 and 2011, Patton returned 17 total kicks for the Gators for a total of 437 yards, or 25.7 yards per kick. After watching film of his kick returning from 2010 and 2011, Patton showed great acceleration, good vision and quick cuts. At only 5-foot-9, Patton hides well behind his initial few blocking lines and can make fast cuts without being visible to special team gunners. Patton can be a suitable, if not prolific, kick returner for the Gators. If Patton can consistently perform like he did against Appalachian State and Penn State in his freshman year, or Alabama of his sophomore year, the Gators could be close to not skipping a beat at the kick returner position.
A more intriguing look, however, is Patton’s return back into the Gators’ starting offensive lineup. In 2012, Patton was used in a pretty specific way – end-arounds. (An end-around, is when a wide receiver runs across backfield to grab a hand-off from the quarterback.) In 2012, Patton had 14 such carries for 140 total yards, including a long run of 54 yards against Vanderbilt. During his seven games that he played, Patton was third on the team in rushing – something not usual for a wide receiver in a Pro-Style offense. Patton was extremely efficient in his end-arounds because his quick acceleration and ability to split through seams opened by blockers. Although Patton sits behind quite a few on the wide receiver depth chart, Patton will be relied upon to use his speed and shiftiness in end-around situations and slot formations in 2013. Once again, Patton will be expected to average more than 10 yards per touch. The Gators are looking for players to make big plays (greater than 10 yards) and Patton is the only returning player, besides Quinton Dunbar, to average more than 10 yards per touch last season.
With the loss of starting kick returner Andre Debose and the need for playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, Patton should expect to hear his number called often. While Patton has been a part of the Gators’ offense and special teams for the past three years, I see this year, his final year, as his best opportunity to make an impact.