It’s a new year, a new number and a new attitude for the Florida Gators’ high-octane wide receiver Percy Harvin. Harvin exploded onto the scene last fall, posting 855 all-purpose yards as a freshman and is even more optimistic about the offense this spring.
For Harvin, having a year under his belt in Urban Meyer’s system has him more comfortable and more confident than he was when he first arrived on the scene last summer. So comfortable and confident that when he learned that Reggie Nelson was leaving for the NFL Draft he went straight to Meyer asking for Nelson’s No. 1 jersey – a number that typically brings responsibility and a bulls-eye from opposing teams.
“We pretty much knew they were going to be gunning for me this year anyway,” Harvin said. “We had a couple of weeks off and I said something to coach. He always asks if you’re a bother or a problem on or off the field, but he said he had no problems giving me the number.”
The attention that Harvin will garner on and off the field should be intense. With a strong relationship with quarterback Tim Tebow, he could become the go-to-guy for the Gators, which may also bring speculation about SEC Player of the Year honors and even some Heisman talk. For those reasons, and many others, Harvin is especially happy that receiver Andre Caldwell decided to come back for his senior season.
“With Bubba back, now we have a 1-2 punch,” Harvin said. “Plus, we have CI (Cornelius Ingram) who is going to be unstoppable this year. We have (Jared) Fayson who is stepping his game up to another level. It’s just going to be real tough for defenses this year.”
Harvin’s relationship with Bubba Caldwell goes well beyond the playing field. Last fall, Caldwell served as Harvin’s big brother and has mentored him in almost every way possible.
“We play the same position and kind of look alike,” Harvin said. “He took me under his wing and told me how to do this and how to do that. He taught me how to run better routes – not to just run fast because there are a lot of fast people, but to stick to your routes.”
Caldwell’s return takes a lot of pressure off of Harvin because he can now concentrate on improving his play instead of trying to balance that with being the leader of the receiving corps.
“I couldn’t be more happy that he’s back,” Harvin said. “I think after the season last year, we’ve just tried to build a strong relationship. Dallas (Baker) and all of us became real close, and I just wanted to play with him for one more year. I wanted to share with him and play with him because we have such a great relationship off the field and on the field.”
With Meyer showing concerns about team chemistry this spring, Harvin said Caldwell’s return will keep the chemistry at least between the receiving corps strong.
“Me, Bubba, Fayson, Louis Murphy, we’ve all been like brothers,” Harvin said. “Pretty much everyday we’re together playing the game and just chilling on the weekends. It’s one of the reasons why I’m so excited about this team. We’ve built a great relationship, and I think that’s going to prepare us for on the field. It’s a great receiving corps.”
But in order for the receiving corps to be as good as Harvin thinks it can be, they have to get acquainted with two new quarterbacks and Tebow in charge instead of Chris Leak.
“It certainly feels good to get back out here,” Harvin said. “As for the quarterbacks and the receivers, we’re just trying to work on our timing. They have to work on the offense because they are used to working with different receivers and different timing. But right now, I think we are a little bit better than we were last year.”
Part of that improvement is because of Harvin’s increased comfort level on the field.
“I’m a lot more comfortable with the offense than I was last year,” he said. “When I first came in, I was kind of confused and didn’t go full speed at practice. I didn’t know the plays or the audibles. This year I know it, so I can just play relaxed.”
But there are still some things he says he needs to improve over the next three weeks.
“I need to work on my route running because sometimes I just go instead of locking my hips in and doing the things I need to do,” Harvin said. “I just need to get back to the fundamentals.”