Receivers need to live up to potential

Potential, potential, potential.

Having it gets you recognized, analyzed and given a shot. Failing to build on it breeds frustration, anxiety and in college football, losses.

“Potential is a bad word,” Will Muschamp said at Thursday’s Florida football media day. “It means that you haven’t done it.”

So far, potential is just about all the Florida receiving core has to its name. The potential to be something special has engulfed it the past two years, but for the most part, failed to pan out.

Sure, Andre Debose flashed a bit of brilliance with his captivating pair of 65-yard touchdowns against LSU and Alabama last season, but even he failed to reach the 20-catch plateau.

The only Florida wide receiver to eclipse 20 catches in 2011 was Deonte Thompson (he only had 21), and he currently resides in Baltimore with the Ravens (for the time being).

Muschamp’s decision on which quarterback to entrust his team with as it heads into the season is certainly the most pressing, however, without more production from Florida’s wide receivers, neither Jeff Driskel nor Jacoby Brissett will see much success.

With Thompson gone, the most experienced Florida receiver is Frankie Hammond, Jr. Hammond, who also competes as a high jumper with the UF track team, has just 41 catches for 514 yards and three touchdowns in his career at Florida.

Still, the Gators will be counting on him and Debose to be leaders at an otherwise youth-filled position.

Thursday, Debose spoke about why he thought 2012 would be different than 2011.

“We figured out that last year, whatever we did during the summer, it didn’t work,” he said. “It got us to 7-6. If you want change, you have to change yourself, and we changed ourselves”

That change meant more work in the offseason, as well as closer relationships off the field.

“This summer has been something very special for me,” Debose continued. “I have yet to experience a group of the whole team coming together and having player-ran practices. That’s just us out there doing our thing, going through plays as a group. I had yet to experience anything like that at Florida.”

The commitment to maturity should certainly benefit guys like Debose and Hammond who have rarely taken center stage during their time in college.

As should the push they will be feeling from freshman wide receivers Latroy Pittman and Raphael Andrades who are waiting in the wings.

The pair of freshman receivers have drawn the praise of teammates during summer drills.

Trey Burton summed up his impression of Pittman in just one word — freak.

“He’s a freak. He’s really, really good,” he said. “He’s really good. He’s talented.”

Hammond offered a bit more analysis on Pittman, saying he gave the team a “reality check.”

“If he comes in, and he has been here six months, and he’s making plays, you have to put him on the field,” Hammond said. “That keeps us on our toes knowing we can’t slip up because he is right there behind us.”

Hammond also spoke highly of Andrades, though he admitted there is still work to do for both freshman as they prepare for the grind that is facing the toughest defenses in the country.

“Raphael is good. Just running routes and stuff he looks pretty polished,” he said. “We’ll see, but so far he has done a heck of a job. We’re just trying to get him prepared for SEC football.”

The wide receiving core is sure to be a work-in-progress throughout the season, but its development is paramount in Florida’s offense regaining the fire power it had just three short seasons ago.

As of late, the offense has been boring — almost a chore to watch. Opposing defenses have rarely seemed surprised by anything thrown at it by the Gators.

New offensive coordinator Brent Pease is sure to offer some surprises for opposing defenses. Success rests on the shoulders of the Florida wide outs and whether or not they can turn potential into production.

“This year, we all have a chip on our shoulder,” Debose said. “None of us came to the University of Florida to go 7-6, so we are using it as motivation coming into this season. We want to show the world that Gator football isn’t going anywhere.”