Finally, it seems, Andre Debose is starting to build on the immense promise he showed as an Under Armour All-American coming out of Sanford (Fla.) Seminole High School back in 2009.
For the five-star prospect – hailed as the successor to Percy Harvin when he signed with Florida – it’s been a slow, painstaking process from “prototype prospect” to “electric playmaker.” However, after putting together a career day in a 54-32 win over the Furman Paladins at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, it appears things are finally coming together for the 5-foot-11, 190-pund receiver.
“He’s one of the fastest people on the team,” Florida senior quarterback John Brantley said of Debose following the victory. “As long as they give you the right coverage, he’s coming out with it more times than not.”
Debose notched three catches against the Paladins on Saturday for 151 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Both scores came at crucial points of the contest for Florida. An 80-yard touchdown from Brantley in the second quarter cut the Furman lead to 22-20, after the Gators had fallen behind by 15 points in the first quarter.
“Andre is a guy who can do some things vertically down the field,” Florida coach Will Muschamp noted in the post-game press conference. “He made two very nice plays on the ball, in my opinion.”
Even after getting loose for a long touchdown pass in the first half, Debose was able to capitalize on the deep ball again against the coverage scheme employed by the Paladins. A 64-yard touchdown pass from Brantley to Debose with 52 seconds to play in the third quarter gave the Gators their first two-score lead of the game.
“I was very surprised,” Debose observed of the way Furman decided to defend him. “Usually teams play a safety on top – we took advantage of it. It was a great throw by John Brantley.”
The redshirt sophomore now leads the team in receiving yards (423) and touchdowns (4) on just 15 receptions this season. So why hasn’t he been more of a factor in the Florida offense before now? According to the head ball coach, it’s all about the approach Debose has used on the practice fields.
“It’s got to be an everyday thing, that’s Andre’s biggest challenge right now,” Muschamp explained. “To go out play hard, concentrate and focus on being a really good player. He’s extremely talented, but if you don’t bring the other part, it doesn’t always happen for you.”
Heading into a showdown against Florida State next week, the Gators may need to count on a big performance from Debose if they want to secure in-state supremacy and some momentum for the UF coaching staff on the recruiting trail heading into the off-season. Debose, for his part, says he’s up to the task.
“I look at [the Furman contest] as a good game for me,” Debose said. “I had two good catches. I just want to continue to get better. To be a great wide receiver, I still have a lot of stuff to learn.”
For now, the Gators will take that 28.2 yard-per-catch average on the season (through 11 games). Especially if Debose can keep that pace heading into that ever-important season finale in the Swamp a week from now.