Spring Preview: Receivers and Tight Ends

Year two in the Brent Pease offense should see a significant increase in the evolution of play at the receiver position. A couple of steady but unspectacular seniors are gone from the group, and this spring is time for someone to make a name for themselves. At tight end, the gators are replacing a mainstay of the offense and have some numbers to do more things at the position.

The passing game at Florida was horrid at times in 2012. You could chalk it up to a new coordinator, a new quarterback, or even a lack of real game breaking talent at receiver… or maybe a bit of all three. Whatever the case, things should be better in the passing game this year and it needs to start this spring.


If you want to know a huge reason the Gators signed five receivers in the 2013 class and were looking to sign more. Look at the list below and see that there are only six scholarship receivers on campus and one of those enrolled early from that very same class. As a comparison, Florida has four scholarship tight ends on campus in the spring.

The Gators need to find some play making from this group and this group is also going to have to try to take some heat off of the running game which will be breaking in a new starter. A few receivers are going to have to step up from this list.

Andre Debose (SR, 5-11, 189), Solomon Patton (SR, 5-9, 169), Quinton Dunbar (JR, 6-1, 189), Raph Andrades (SO, 6-0, 191), Latroy Pittman (SO, 5-11, 209), Demarcus Robinson (FR, 6-2, 195)

The frustration with the receiver group has to start with Debose. Three years removed from a serious injury, Debose has shown more than a few flashes of being spectacular. As a sophomore in 2011, in a miserable offense, he had a career high 16 completions. That is nothing to bark about until you see that one in every four passes caught went for touchdowns and all four over 50 yards. Not only that, but Debose has four kickoff returns for touchdowns, already tied for the most in SEC history.

The problem is from his sophomore to junior year his production dropped significantly. His 16 catches went to three and those were in the last three games of the season. He still managed to return a kickoff for a touchdown that being in the bowl game against Louisville.

It should be a crime to not figure out a way to get this guy the ball. I completely understand that there may be other issues involved here, but if he is good enough to be on the squad, he needs to be used. He is the only guy proven any kind of game breaking ability in this unit.

The only other senior in the group is Patton. The smallest of the group, Patton is also the fastest. He only caught one pass in his injury shortened season, but they got value out of him in the eight games he did play from running the ball from the slot or even outside receiver position. Pease was big on the reverse game and Patton's quicks were ideal and he averaged 10 yards per carry on 14 attempts.

Dunbar became the Gators most reliable receiver as the season went on. He has shown to be a good to even better number two guy in this offense. He did catch 36 passes on the year for a total of 383 yards and four touchdowns. The yards per catch needs to come up, but maybe that will happen if the passing game really opens up any.

I like Dunbar's game. He has shown to make the difficult catch from time to time, he just needs to show a little more play making ability after the catch.

Dunbar can be a good one and is reliable

Andrades and Pittman kind of surprised a year ago… not in the numbers they had or any particular play, but the fact they played a lot and in key situations and even early in the year. The pair netted just four catches for a total of 11 yards, but they were inserted early in games much more thanexpected. Florida was down by 10 at halftime to Tennessee and both freshmen trotted onto the field to start the second half. The Gators went right down the field to score.

You have to expect more from both guys who are physical and both have shown in practice that they can make plays. They wil get on the field with their blocking ability alone, but in year two, it is time to take it to at least another level, even though there should be more to come down the road.

The wildcard this spring is the freshman Robinson. A late ‘get' on the recruiting front, he enrolled early and is expected to make an immediate impact. Of the five freshman receivers that will be here in the fall, Robinson has to be the favorite to see the field early and often because he is here in the spring. He brings a couple of things to the table. He is a precise route runner, a necessity in the Pease offense. He is also the biggest receiver in spring camp who plays physical as well, and was a real play maker in high school. They pretty much need Robinson to do some big things and get it going early.

Tight End

A year ago at this time it was Jordan Reed and whatever they could piece together until the freshmen arrived in the fall. Now, Reed is gone and the two guys that played more than anyone else in the spring moved over from other positions a year ago. The returning group has a total four catches for 17 yards and one touchdown. There is a lot of work to do. Here is the current list.

Clay Burton (JR, 6-4, 253), Tevin Westbrook (JR, 6-5, 265), Kent Taylor (SO, 6-5, 223), and Colin Thompson (R-FR,6-4, 256)

Burton had two catches for 12 yards on the season and is a guy mainly used for blocking so far. His role as a pass catcher could increase, but it is doubtful he would be the play making type they want from a real pass catching threat at the position.

Westbrook was a target a couple of times, but the ball never got to him. Used as a pass catcher mainly at the goal line, he saw his best time on the field as a blocker as well. Like Burton, they will have to show something in passing routes this spring to get more involved in that aspect of the offense here at Florida.

Burton leads all returning TE's in receptions and yards.

Taylor caught his lone touchdown in the bowl game against Louisville and notched just two receptions for five yards as a freshman. I am sure he envisioned quite a bit more from himself and the offense and I would expect his role to increase and him to be a bigger target in 2013, especially if he is able to put on some much needed strength and muscle. He should / could be a huge target at the goal line with his athletic ability and length to go up and get the ball. But, he also has the ability to run and stretch the defense. That is something we saw they tried to hit once last season.

The one I am most anxious to see and could be one of the biggest difference makers for the entire offense is Thompson, who missed last season with a foot injury and should be fine for the spring. Ballyhooed as a big time blocker and pass catcher in high school, he brings the two-dimensional game to the position that the other three don't bring. To be able to line him up and the defense has to worry about him going out for a pass or protecting the quarterback / blocking for a runner, is something Florida could not threaten with a year ago. It would give ease one more weapon that was just not at his disposal. That could be huge for this offense.

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