It's not that this was a bad group of receivers, they just didn't stand out. There has to be some change in 2013 as Florida looks to rely a great deal more on its offense and passing game after a season where they really squeezed everything out of their defense and special teams to win 11 regular season games.
Here is a look ahead at what to expect at receiver and tight end.
Gone are a couple of guys that finished third and fourth on the squad in receptions and yards this season. Seniors Frankie Hammond and Omarius Hines were dependable in 2012 save for a few drops from Hammond and a couple of fumbles from Hines.
Hammond had a few big plays that made a difference in 2012, while Hines showed more of a bitg play capability than most of the receivers on the squad. Still, there weren't a whole lot of opportunities to take advantage of and Hines was never able to catch the ball for a touchdown although he finished fifth on the team in rushing and scored twice on the ground.
Everyone else has the opportunity to be back and we will talk about that here and they are listed by class for the 2013 season.
Returning Receivers: Stephen Alli (6-6, 221, SR); Solomon Patton (5-9, 169, SR); Andre Debose (5-11, 189, SR); Quinton Dunbar (6-1, 189, JR); Latroy Pittman (5-11, 209, SO); Raphael Andrades (6-0, 191, SO).
The leading returning receiver will be Dunbar. The junior to be showed great improvement over last year and was prone to making the tough catch. He finished seconds on the team in 2012 with 31 catches for 306 yards and a team high four touchdown catches. He had a couple of drops, but I would consider him a very reliable receiver. What he isn't in my opinion is a number one guy, but a very solid number two guy for the quarterback to throw to. Dunbar just needs to stay focused on his job and stay team oriented and he can continue to improve.
Patton is really the only other one that showed much in 2012. The scary part is he caught just one pass for 17 yards. He did most of his damage running the ball, carrying it 14 times for 143 yards (10.2 yard average) but will most likely have to be utilized a great deal more in 2013.
The enigma among receivers remains to be Debose. He caught all of two passes for 11 yards this year after catching 16 passes for 432 yards and four touchdowns as a sophomore in 2011. He also has three special teams touchdowns in his career and had a few highlights on special teams again as a junior. Getting Debose untracked somehow could prove to be a monumental move in the direction of the passing game in 2013.
After that small group it is a lot more of the unknown. Pittman and Andrades had a total of four catches for 11 yards and Alli is likely going to graduate early and not return. He played in nine of the first 10 games (all on special teams) and never tallied a stat. Pittman and Andrades showed promise in that they were trusted to get on the field really early in their careers and in tough situations. However, the Gators need play makers and time will tell if these guys can do that.
Committed: Alvin Bailey (5-11, 175) of Seffner (Armwood); Ahmad Fulwood (6-4, 200) of Jacksonville (Bishop Kenny); Marqui Hawkins (6-1, 185) of Columbus, GA (Carver); Chris Thompson (6-0, 170) of Gainesville, FL.
Needs:The Gators want to get one more and are looking at primo types. They want speed and size and have a handful of guys that they are zeroing in on.
Possibilities: James Clark (5-11, 170) of New Smyrna Beach, FL; Stacy Coley (6-1, 175) of Oakland Park (Northeast); Laquon Treadwell (6-3, 190) of Crete , IL; Marquez North (6-3, 210) of Charlotte, NC; Demarcus Robinson (6-2, 195) of Ft. Valley, GA.
Clark is the speedster of the group and while he isn't big, he is plenty big enough to take with this class. Coley is maybe the best receiver in the state and a true play maker. If things get a little more squared away with him personally, they would make a big move for his services. Treadwell, North, and Robinson are all national guys and five-star types that Florida is back in on because of new receiver's coach Joker Phillips.
Junior Jordan Reed will likely jump to the next level of football, probably prematurely, but that is the most likely scenario for him. It is a loss in terms of a known quantity. In just his second full year at the position, Reed led the team In receptions (44) and receiving yards (552) and also scored three touchdowns. Quite frankly, the offense would have been in deep despair without him on the field as he provided a big mismatch for defenses and whoever they lined up against him.
Everyone else is back and then some.
With the probability of reed being gone, the remaining group has just three catches for 12 yards among them. However, the strength of the unit is likely going to be its diversity and the better ability to block at the point of attack.
I believe that this group can be even more effective than reed was, just maybe not as a receiving bunch. Burton and Westbrook spent this year as their first on the offensive side of the ball;. Another year of seasoning and they will become much better blockers up front and better targets for the quarterback as well.
Like Reed, Taylor is more of a pass catching threat and due to a mid-season injury was hampered enough to really limit his chances at getting the ball. He is a true deep threat like Reed, but needs to add some weight and strength in order to be a mismatch problem for good coverage safeties at this level. That bulk will also help him with his blocking which is not a strength yet.
The real possible missing link here is Thompson. He was injured before his arrival on campus and had to sit out the entire year with a foot problem. The nation's number two tight end prospect coming out of high school, Thompson has the ability to catch the ball and is a seasoned blocker which is a real strength of his.
The Gators have no tight ends committed and would like one, but the board is scarce a this time and they may have to hold off this recruiting session unless someone they covet opens things back up.