There’s no way to spin it, Florida’s receivers didn’t get the job done in 2012. They really haven’t been a major factor in the offense since guys like Percy Harvin, Louis Murphy and Riley Cooper were still in school.
This offseason, there will be a wide-open competition at receiver where anybody and everybody will get an opportunity to win playing time.
With a third of spring practice already in the books, one receiver is staring to stand out above the rest.
It’s becoming sort of a spring tradition for Quinton Dunbar to be singled out by the coaching staff for performing during practice. As a redshirt freshman, we heard how Dunbar had made great strides and was the most consistent receiver. Again last offseason, the coaching staff raved about Dunbar’s productivity and knowledge of the system.
This spring has been no different. While most fans wonder about the enigma that is Andre Debose, Loucheiz Purifoy’s progression at receiver or potential impact freshman, Demarcus Robinson, Dunbar has gone about his business as usual and that has caught the eye of his offensive coordinator. In his press conference today, Brent Pease singled out Dunbar as the receiver who is doing all the right things in practice.
“I’m really proud of that kid. He’s has come along so far attitude wise, accountability, his work ethic on the field and it’s really starting to show up,” Pease continued. “I mean he makes a big play yesterday, just does things right. He can play a bunch of positions now. Proud of him and I think it’s going to carry over to reach the goals that he’s setting for himself.”
Pease was so impressed with the receiver that he sent him a text message last night encouraging and praising Dunbar.
“I told him this and I actually sent him a text last night… I just said I’m proud of you, keep working hard. I enjoy being out there with you, your work ethic has been great and that’s why you’re being successful.”
Dunbar’s offseason success hasn’t carried over into the regular season but with a new opportunity, he is listed as the starting X receiver, this could be the breakout year everyone has expected from him.
Dunbar is also stepping into a leadership role among the other receivers. While he may not be the most vocal leader on the team, the example he has set in practice sets the mood and tempo for all the other receivers.
“Just come out, working hard each and every day, trying to be a leader of the group as they want me to be.” Dunbar said. “I try to come out and lead by example so these guys can follow me.”
Asked if he thought Dunbar could be Florida’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Taylor Jacobs in 2002, Pease was hesitant in his answer but didn’t completely rule out the possibility.
“I think he has that ability. Going into the second year here in this league, it’s probably tough, because we try to keep things somewhat balanced out.” Pease continued. “If he’s going to do that he’s going to have to be really productive with the ball once he catches it. I don’t know if we get it around enough to say ‘we’re going to throw you for that.’ You’re going to have to create a lot of those yards and average yards per catch on your own.”
At 6’1” 195 pounds, Dunbar possess a great mix of size and speed to be able to be an effective player with the ball in his hands. Dunbar is physical enough to break tackles and quick enough to make people miss.
It is now or never for Dunbar. This is the first time he will be working with the same offensive coordinator in back-to-back seasons and he should benefit from the familiarity with the coaching staff and playbook.
Having a player moved over from defense to offense has also given Dunbar a little more motivation.
“I don’t take it personally, I feel like it’s an opportunity to get better and an opportunity to push myself.” Dunbar continued. “I feel like I can beat out anyone. I take it as a challenge.”
Is this the year that Dunbar carries his spring success to the field on Saturday’s? That remains to be seen but his new approach is certainly impressing his coaches and his quarterback. Jeff Driskel had positive things to say about Dunbar on Tuesday; “Quinton Dunbar has been running great routes and really understanding where to get [on the field].”
With Jordan Reed off to the NFL, Driskel will be looking for a new go-to guy. Dunbar has all the tools and now the mindset to become that player and bring the position back to the prominence it was once at.