A 5-star prospect out of Sanford, Fla. Andre Debose was the jewel of 2009 recruiting class. Debose was not only one of the most highly rated recruits in the entire country, but his future head coach had tagged him with the moniker “The Next Percy Harvin.”
Expectations couldn’t have been higher for Debose before he even stepped foot on campus.
His career got off to a rocky start, undergoing a knee biceps graft to address a lingering track injury in his back. Debose wouldn’t play a single game as a freshman, but that didn’t do anything to temper the fans’ expectations.
His redshirt freshman season showed flashes of the potential that made Debose a 5-star recruit and he gave glimpses of the player that everyone expected him to become. Debose hauled in 10 receptions for 96 yards and 28 yards per kick return while bringing two kickoffs back to the house.
Needless to say, Gator Nation was once again excited.
Then, a coaching switch changed everything. Will Muschamp was hired to replace Urban Meyer and Muschamp brought in his own staff to coach the team. For Debose, coaching changes were becoming a norm, but that doesn’t mean things were easy.
“I’ve had two head coaches, three offensive coordinators and five position coaches, so you tell me,” Debose said.
Debose has seen it all in five seasons at Florida. He saw Tebow-mania first hand, saw a coach retire, un-retire, only to retire again. He’s had coaches tell him things and make promises, only to go back on them later on. The experiences he has gone through in the past five years have left him with a jaded view of the college football machine.
“I’ve learned,” Debose paused while he gathered his thoughts. “The University of Florida has taught me that this is a business; it’s all about winning. All that family, we love you stuff, it’s nothing. I learned that coaches are pretty much about money. That’s what I’ve learned.”
The tipping point for Debose came before last season, when a coach he had become very close with, suddenly left the University of Florida. Aubrey Hill was caught up in the NCAA’s investigation of improper benefits given to players and recruits at Miami. While Hill was on staff at Miami, he recruited Debose and the two of them developed a very good relationship.
“I was very close with him throughout the recruiting process when he was at Miami,” Debose said of Hill. “We had a real good relationship and then for him to come to Florida and then leave, it was just real shocking to me.”
With the shock of losing the coach he was closest to, Debose struggled to build that kind of relationship – or any relationship – with his replacement, Bush Hamdan. Hamdan was elevated to the role of receivers’ coach in the absence of Hill and he and Debose never saw eye-to-eye.
“It was very tough, that’s kind of the reason I feel like I didn’t play last year, it was just a shock. I’ve grown to have a great relationship with Aubrey Hill and to have him just leave and to have an assistant come in and coach me,” Debose stopped himself and thought about what he was about to say before changing pace. “It was just a big shock to me.”
Debose expanded on just how much he and Hamdan struggled to get along in Hamdan’s first and only season with Florida. Debose believes that his inability to get along with, and to see eye-to-eye with his position coach, led to his limited role in 2012.
“I was just dealing with my coaching problem. Me and the graduate assistant didn’t mesh very well, so that’s what it was all about,” Debose said. “There were a lot of times that we didn’t see eye-to-eye on things and it was pretty much just that.”
Debose is closer with his new position coach, Joker Phillips, but he is keeping that relationship strictly business. His time and experience at Florida have given Debose a unique point of view and he won’t allow himself to get as close to a coach, as he was to Aubrey Hill.
“It’s been cool,” Debose said of his relationship with Joker Phillips. “It’s not what I had with Coach Aubrey Hill. With Coach Phillips, it’s just business, that’s what it’s all about. I try not to get into that ‘family’ and ‘I love you’ and all that. I like to keep it business because that’s what I like it as.”
Even though it has been a long and trying five years in Gainesville, if given the opportunity to go back to high school knowing what he knows now, Debose wouldn’t change his decision to attend Florida.
“No I wouldn’t change anything,” Debose said. “I’ve enjoyed my years here at the University of Florida. I met a lot of great people here and I wouldn’t change anything.