Spring Preview: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

The Florida roster isn't packed with playmakers. The ones on the roster didn't produce in 2011, and while the lack of production at quarterback didn't help, big ways were almost non-existent. This spring, the Gators will search for playmakers at the wide receiver position that can make an impact this fall. The tight ends will provide stability for a first-year quarterback starter.

The only issue is that there aren't many new ones to choose from. The Gators lost only Deonte Thompson from last season's roster, but freshman Latroy Pittman (FR, 6-1, 185) will be the only new wide receiver on the team this season. Will Muschamp said at his National Signing Day press conference that there is a chance Pittman could even end up on the defensive side of the ball.

Debose burnt Alabama

There isn't much debate which receiver will provide the deep threat. Andre Debose (RJR, 5-11, 191) developed into that last season. Debose caught four touchdowns of at least 64 yards last season, coming against Alabama, LSU and Furman (twice).

The issue for Debose has always been consistency, with most of that coming on the practice field. He caught just 16 passes in 12 games played last season. If he can put together some solid spring practices, Debose could mold into a complete receiver that isn't just trusted with deep routes. With his speed, Florida could use him more often on shorter routes to get the ball in his hands and let him make plays.

Frankie Hammond (RSR, 6-1, 184) is what he is going into his final year of eligibility. He's a safe, possession receiver that gives the Gators some stability this spring. Hammond can surprise opponents with his shiftiness, but he isn't going to burn the opposing secondary deep. Still, he is important. Hammond brings versatility and the knowledge to play any of the receiver positions on the field.

Dunbar needs to step up

This is an important spring for Quinton Dunbar (RSO, 6-1, 184). The hype around the redshirt sophomore receiver has been building since he came to campus with story after story of him dominating in closed practices. Dunbar's has height and leaping ability to catch the ball in the air but multiple defensive backs spoke last fall about being surprised by Dunbar's speed.

Once he gets separation from a defensive back, none of them said they could catch him. Once the season started, Dunbar didn't showcase that skill. He finished eighth on the team with 14 catches last season going for 216 yards (15.4 yards per catch) and two touchdowns.

The most excitement in the Florida fan base is around Ja'Juan Story (RFR, 6-3, 206). When you're drawing up a wide receiver, Story might have the best physique of any on campus. He took a redshirt last season to learn the nuances of the position after playing mostly quarterback in high school.

Story has the most to gain this spring. The players listed above him have already had their chance on the field to show what they can do. Story, who is still learning the position, has plenty of upside to become a go-to target.

Patton has a clear run at the slot position

The explosive playmaker could come from an older Solomon Patton (JR, 5-9, 169). He showed flashes while running kickoff duties last year, averaging 24.1 yards on ten kick returns last season. However, Patton caught just three passes for 35 yards last year.

His speed and athleticism makes him a perfect candidate to have a bigger role in the offense as the slot receiver.

Stephen Alli (RJR, 6-6, 222) has been dubbed with the "potential" tag since he made it to Gainesville. It's still yet to materialize. Alli has found his way onto special teams units, but he has only caught three passes for 17 yards in his career.

The tight end position has some questions, but there seems to be a clear sense of what is happening. For a first-year starter at quarterback, regardless of who wins the job, the importance of a go-to tight end can't be overstated.

Reed and Leonard can be a dynamic duo

The athleticism of Jordan Reed (RJR, 6-3, 239) makes him a difficult matchup downfield. The Gators weren't able to take advantage of that much last season because of some health issues, but Reed still managed to catch 28 passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns.

If he can stay healthy, Reed is athletic enough to become one of Florida's most dynamic playmakers. He already was one during an injury plagued 2011 season. He also needs to improve his blocking, but the junior is strong enough to improve with improved technique.

When Reed was hurt, A.C. Leonard (SO, 6-4, 244) stepped in. He caught eight passes for 99 yards, but his biggest game came against Florida State when Leonard was the team's top receiver at three catches for 65 yards. His athleticism found him being recruited by some schools as an outside linebacker. If Leonard can harness his potential, he could exit spring practice as the top tight end on the depth chart.

The hurdle for Leonard is that he was arrested on February 16 and is suspended indefinitely.

The Gators will also add depth at the position in the summer when freshmen Kent Taylor and Colin Thompson come to Gainesville.

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