There are few wide receivers on Florida’s roster who arrived in Gainesville with expectations as lofty as redshirt sophomore Andre Debose.
One of Florida’s top offensive commits in the latter end of the Urban Meyer era, Debose drew comparisons to Percy Harvin as a recruit.
However, a handful of injuries derailed Debose’s first two years at Florida.
He missed all of the 2009 season after undergoing a knee biceps femoris graft to repair a high school track injury, and a right ankle sprain midway through 2010 limited him.
Entering fall camp, the 5-foot-11, 191-pound receiver was confident those problems are behind him.
“I’m feeling great coming into this season,” Debose said at Florida’s media day. “This is the healthiest I’ve been since coming into college. This is the healthiest I’ve been coming into fall camp.”
With Florida implementing a new pro-style offense, Debose has a chance to start over from scratch.
He’s worked hard in the offseason to learn the playbook, but he also spent a lot of time in the weight room to make sure he was as fit as possible to avoid injuries.
“I gained a little weight,” he said. “I gained about five, six, seven pounds of muscle. I feel like it’s there to protect my body this season.”
Now, a healthier, heavier Debose is looking to work his way up the depth chart against some receivers that did a good job establishing themselves in the rotation in spring practice.
Debose, who made some explosive plays as a kick returner last year, is looking to bring that type of explosive play-making ability to the offense.
“I feel like I can build on that a lot,” he said. “Knowing that I have that explosiveness, I feel that I can carry that over to the offense and be an explosive guy on the offense.”
For a Florida receiving corps that doesn’t feature a single receiver who caught 40 passes in 2010, Debose could be a big part of the offense if he can learn quickly.
His athletic potential is off the charts, and his teammates know it.
“He definitely helped us out in the special teams part of the game,” junior Frankie Hammond, Jr. said. “Him as a receiver, he can do what I’ve seen him do. He needs to just get repetitions and go out there competing for a job.”
Getting repetitions is one thing Debose said he expects to happen more in the new offense.
“I feel like this year I’ll be given more opportunities to make plays,” he said. “That’s one of the things I didn’t get last year, just the opportunities to make plays.”
One of the things former head coach Urban Meyer said limited Debose on offense was his knowledge of the playbook.
The Gators tried to draw up a set package for Debose to get him involved in the game on the plays he did know how to run.
But because he struggled learning the entire playbook, the Gators didn’t look his way much on offense in 2010.
Adjusting to the pro-style offense has been a little easier, Debose said.
“There hasn’t been anything tough,” he said. “I feel like this pro-style is a lot easier to learn than the spread.”
While the spread offense was a more pass-heavy offense, according to Debose, he feels his chance to make an impact in the pro-style offense is better.
“I feel like the difference between the spread and the pro-style is the pro-style is really run oriented,” he said. “Run first and then pass second, and when you pass you pass for big plays. And the spread, it’s pretty much you’re throwing it one way or the other.”
The big pass plays Debose talked about could definitely make him a stronger candidate to see the field. His ability to get downfield in a hurry is one of his biggest strengths.
Charlie Weis’ offense requires his receivers to run good intermediate routes, too. That’s one thing the coaching staff has worked with Debose the most on.
“My route-running,” he said. “The coaches feel like I should work on my routes a lot more, so that’s what I’m definitely diving into coming into camp.”
While the Gators have been practicing for less than a week, Debose has turned some heads already in practice.
On Wednesday, he caught the head coach’s eye with a nice touchdown grab in the morning practice session.
“Andre Debose made a very nice play in the back of the end zone today,” Will Muschamp said. “We had a red zone period, and he really went up and got the ball. Well-thrown ball, and he went up and caught it.”
Debose has already seemingly made some personal strides under the new coaching staff and the new scheme.
He feels like he’s not the only one who will benefit from the changes, though.
“All of it takes working and timing,” he said. “We all have to work together to work on our timing, but I feel like this’ll be better for all of us.”