Chad Jackson caught 88 passes in this offense last season. Dallas Baker has caught 13 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns already this season. Bubba Caldwell knocked off some rust Saturday night and caught two touchdown passes against the UCF Golden Kights. But none of them exemplify what this offense is all about.
The magical touch that has been added to the Florida attack is from this point forward to be known as “The PH Factor.” Percy Harvin is already on his way to being an electrifying player in the category of Wes Chandler. In high school he was compared to Reggie Bush because he was equally dangerous as a runner or a receiver. Either comparison works for me. This kid has a long ways to go to approach the greatness of those two, but he has every tool to work with to make it happen.
Two games into his college career Percy Harvin has rushed for 69 yards on just six carries. That’s despite a 53-yard run being called back. Harvin has also caught seven passes for 132 yards and Saturday turned a mid-range pass into a 58-yard touchdown. So in two games Harvin has 13 “touches” and 201 total yards. That’s impressive. No, it didn’t come against SEC competition, but it did come against teams that earned bowl bids a year ago. And those teams combined to return 16 of 22 defensive starters.
Greatness Projected, Now Greatness Expected
Percy Harvin was rated the top receiving prospect in the country by Scout.com, and while I normally shrug off such ratings it is notable that people who do this for a living were almost unanimous that this guy was special. Harvin was considered so special that the top two national services ranked him either the first or second best prospect in the nation regardless of position. He totaled 1,817 yards rushing and receiving with 27 touchdowns and added six more scores on special teams and defense.
Harvin also set a Virginia state record with five gold medals in the track meet and would have been a top recruit in track and field had he chosen to be. And, prior to a disciplinary issue his senior season he was a legit division one basketball prospect as well.
To me, he ranks right up there with Ike Hilliard as the most impressive true freshman I’ve ever seen on day one of fall practice. But his ceiling is much higher than Ike’s. Harvin is an incredibly fluid athlete who learns things quickly and seems to love competition.
Among those as impressed or more so than I am is senior receiver Jemalle Cornelius who does not resent the instant stardom that seems to be destined for Harvin. That’s despite the fact that Cornelius had to pay his dues on the way to earning significant playing time in the Gators offense.
“It’s amazing to see that man,” Cornelius said. “The guy’s just got talent. You can’t deny that. So I don’t have a problem with that, we’re just trying to win.”
Cornelius says there’s a big reason why “The PH Factor” hasn’t affected his veteran teammates negatively.
“He’s a real good kid, too,” Cornelius added. “He works really hard and deserved everything he gets.”
The senior from Fort Meade says it was obvious from the first day of practice that Harvin would have an impact.
“The way he came out in practice during camp, everyone knew,” Cornelius said. “When he makes plays we’re not surprised because we’ve seen it every day.”
Plenty of Room for Improvement
While “The PH Factor” has put a charge into the Florida offense, Percy Harvin has a long way to go to be a truly great college player. We saw two examples of that in the UCF game. Harvin allowed himself to be stripped of the ball on the way down around midfield giving the Golden Lights the ball in UF territory. That was particularly bad because it was early in the contest with UF leading just seven-zip and could have sparked an overmatched opponent.
Two possessions later (early in the second quarter) on a second and ten he dropped a wide open pass from Chris Leak that could have been a substantial gain. Florida ended up punting and the game was still a one touchdown contest.
Those are the kinds of mistakes that don’t make a difference against UCF but can completely change the outcome against Tennessee or any other top flight opponent. But Harvin seems like the kind of kid who takes his mistakes to heart. We’ll find out if that’s the case in the weeks ahead. My guess is “The PH Factor” will be altering opposing defenses’ game plans for the next three years.