Wide receivers not quite there yet

Frankie Hammond Jr. burst out of his stance and planted hard on his right foot, breaking to the left sideline on a quick, 5-yard out route that left Cody Riggs trailing him by a foot or two.

Jacoby Brissett rifled in a pass that hit Hammond Jr. right in the hands… and flew right through them.

It was the first of three drops for Hammond Jr. and one of nearly a dozen by Florida’s receivers in the two practices the Gators opened to the public over the weekend.

For a receiving corps that wasn’t very good a year ago, the display put on in front of the fans wasn’t exactly encouraging.

New offensive coordinator Brent Pease admitted Wednesday the receivers aren’t where he wants them to be.

“I’d say more work,” he said, when asked if the receivers had the fundamentals needed or if they needed work. “More work.”

Junior Andre Debose, who led all Florida receivers in receiving yards last year with 16 catches for 432 yards and four touchdowns, isn’t having the start to the spring the coaching staff had hoped for.

Pease sees the athletic potential the 5-foot-11, 186-pound receiver has, but Debose hasn’t made the type of jump necessary to convince the new offensive coordinator he can be a star.

“I haven’t seen that,” Pease said. “He’s working through some offseason injuries that he’s had.”

Other than Quinton Dunbar playing well, Florida’s offensive coordinator didn’t speak very glowingly about the rest of the receivers, though he was careful to mention as many as he could.

He described Hammond Jr. as a guy who “brings a lot to the table,” freshman Latroy Pittman playing “alright,” and Debose as being “fine.”

Certainly not the type of descriptions Gators fans were hoping for.

But Pease also promised he’d be very involved in coaching up the position group along with receivers coach Aubrey Hill. The former Boise State offensive coordinator had an extensive history coaching successful wide receivers for the Broncos.

“I’m probably a little – however you want to say it – picky or detailed or whatever with [the receivers] making the quarterback’s picture, his view, right,” he said. “Timing and rhythm on things, that’s important to me. When I was a receivers coach, I coached it that way so it’s as easy for [the quarterback] as it can be.”

Though Pease will have his hands full coaching up a trio of sophomore quarterbacks, he plans to do whatever it takes to improve Florida’s receiving corps.

When he met with the media on Wednesday evening, he reiterated several times he couldn’t comment on how the receivers performed last season. But it’s abundantly clear he’s well aware how much improvement is needed.

“Coach Hill knows what we’re getting after and that’s his job,” Pease said. “He’s going to get it done, too. I think the guys are kind of learning from me. Right now I probably go with more urgency than probably what they’ve been used to on an overall basis or pace or tempo. They’re learning that.”

Pease said Florida is doing everything it can this spring to put the receivers through everything they’ll need to do from a fundamental standpoint.

He said it takes 2,500 reps of doing something to achieve perfection but admitted it’s impossible to get that many reps of each skill in a limited amount of practice time.

So he has broken down each skill he wants the receivers to improve so they can focus on each one individually.

“There’s so much involved in being a receiver,” he said. “You’ve got stance, you’ve got catching skills, catching well, you’ve got blocking skills, releases, upper-body mechanics of it and lower-body mechanics of it, you’ve got to adjust to different coverages. You’ve got to break all of those down in phases as a coach, as a teacher, and develop those.”

With as much as the offensive coordinator is throwing at the receivers, they’ll have their hands full meeting his spring goals.

Pease has urged them to come out every day with an intense focus level, and he said they’ve done a good job with that so far.

“The kids know their assignments,” he said. “There’s so many variables. When all the moving parts start to move, the puzzle scrambles again. It’s tough on guys.”

After the production at receiver the past two seasons, a little toughness may be just what the doctor ordered.