Filling needs: Wide receiver

The 2012 season made it clear that the Gators needed to upgrade the talent at wide receiver. Florida head coach Will Muschamp and his staff didn't waste time making it happen. They took five wide receivers in this recruiting class to add some talent and numbers at the position. The receivers each have a different skillset and will impact the Florida offense in different ways in 2013.

It's not common to add five players at one position in a recruiting class. It's usually hard to keep that together when the big numbers of players get close to coming to campus. Opposing teams will talk to committed players about how big the numbers are and offer a way onto the field faster.

Even with that happening, the five wide receiver signees didn't budge.

"Five wide receivers — you've got to have guys who are willing to compete," Will Muschamp said on Wednesday afternoon.

That was the selling point in the living room of prospects during the recruiting process. It wasn't hard for recruits to realize that the Gators needed help at the position. Ahmad Fulwood started it when he committed in early April and didn't waiver throughout the process. Marqui Hawkins went from an unfamiliar name to Florida fans to committed to the Gators in mid-May.

Gainesville High School product Chris Thompson earned an offer after a strong performance at camp and committed to Florida in late July. Alvin Bailey committed in early September, and the Gators had their four receivers committed to make an impact.

But they continued to hold out hope for one more. Demarcus Robinson was scheduled to visit throughout the year multiple times but never made it to Gainesville. He eventually flipped his commitment from Clemson to Florida during an in home visit before switching back. As his recruitment continued, Robinson committed to Florida on January 7, the day before he enrolled in Gainesville.

Regardless of the other commitments, none of the five had serious thoughts about going anywhere else because of playing time.

"I always tell them we're going to promise you an opportunity," Muschamp said. "I'm not going to promise you anything past that. We're going to recruit real good again next year, so we're going to have a bunch of good players coming behind you, so you better understand you're going to compete at Florida."

The Gators threw for just 1,902 yards last season and were in desperate need for game changers at the position. Florida also lost three of its top four players in receiving yards — Jordan Reed, Omarius Hines and Frankie Hammond — from last year's team. They needed to bring in talent to replenish the position.

"You've got to improve," Muschamp said. "When you say filling needs, you talk in terms of depth and talent. Those are the two things you've got to be able to address. I think we've taken a step forward in both situations. We've improved our depth and I think we've improved our talent, some guys that can come in and compete."

Robinson is ready to contribute

There wasn't an elaborate signing day experience for Robinson, the lone wide receiver signee that's already on campus for the Gators. He'll have a chance to compete this spring during practice to earn a role in the offense for the fall.

The early returns on the 6-2, 195-pound receiver since coming to campus have been impressive.

"Demarcus Robinson is a young man that's on campus right now and has done a really nice job in the weight room," Muschamp said. "Chad Campbell, the coach there at Peach County, is a good friend of mine. He thought a lot of Demarcus coming out as far as where he was as a football player."

Fulwood brings some much-needed height to the Florida receiver group. The 6-4, 200-pound target can change the game in multiple ways.

"It's always a matchup issue when you have bigger receivers that can run vertically down the field and he certainly can," Muschamp said. "He's got tremendous ball skills down the field. He's a guy that's got great toughness, played through some injuries this season, really showed great toughness throughout his senior year.

Fulwood presents mismatches with his size

"A guy that's got great ball skills and can really stretch the field and a bigger target, hard guy to cover down the field with smaller DBs. The lengthier DBs are really difficult to find that can match speed down the field."

Thompson is the lowest rated receiver in the Florida class, but he has a story behind him that earned a spot in the class. Thompson, like what Muschamp estimates to be almost 95-percent of Florida's class, came to Florida's camp over the summer to try earning an offer. It didn't come immediately.

He waited patiently while the Florida coaches knew where he wanted to be. Muschamp eventually called the Gainesville High School product to his office in late July and offered him a scholarship. Thompson committed on the spot.

"Chris came to camp and competed," Muschamp said. "He's a vertical, stretch-the-field guy. He has really developed himself as a receiver. He's got good ball skills down the field, and he's continued to develop that. You've just got to build some more girth on his body as far as his frame is concerned. When guys can run like that, you certainly can work with it."

Bailey is elusive

Bailey is a perfect fit for the slot receiver position in Gainesville, where he drew rave reviews from his time at the Under Armour Game in early January. He's elusive and has the ability to change directions in a hurry. He can also get involved in special teams as a kick or punt returner.

"He's a guy you can stick in the slot and he can stick his foot in the ground and change direction," Muschamp said.

Bailey doesn't have the eye-popping statistics that other players do because he has spent time at quarterback during his final two high school seasons. He'll need to be polished some as a wide receiver under first-year assistant coach Joker Phillips, but Muschamp sees his time spent at quarterback as a positive.

"I really like to coach guys that played quarterback, whether you play defensive back or receiver, because when you play quarterback you've got to command the huddle, communicate with your teammates and have some sort of leadership abilities if you're playing the position," Muschamp said. "You see the leadership ability. I've always like (former quarterbacks).

"Corey Webster was a corner that played for us at LSU and is still playing for the Giants and won two Super Bowl rings. He was a quarterback in high school. So a lot of times in high school you put your best athlete at quarterback because they touch the ball every snap, so they've got an opportunity to make something good happen for your team. And Alvin's a guy that's got a lot of play-making ability. But I also look at all the intangibles that Alvin brings."

Marqui Hawkins was listed at 6-1, 179 and is built to contribute immediately. The Carver (Ga.) High School product is physical enough to be able to block immediately, but he can also help in the passing game.

Hawkins has an impressive build

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