Receivers need improvement this spring

The wide receivers know more production is needed. It has been the emphasis on the offensive side of the ball early in practice. There are two new additions in cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy and early enrollee Demarcus Robinson, and while both are making an impact, the returning players are the ones that need to take the next step. The Florida offense is optimistic it will happen this spring.

"It's obvious that we needed better receiver play this year and they've done a great job so far," Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel said. "I'm really proud of those guys. We have a long way to go, but they've really stepped up in the first couple practices we've had."

The addition of Loucheiz Purifoy to the offense started last season as a desperate search for playmakers continued. The Gators needed something at wide receiver, and his explosiveness with the ball in his hands was tough to ignore. But it also signaled a weakness at wide receiver.

If the Gators were getting open down the field on offense and the passing game was booming, the move probably wouldn't have happened. But the Florida receivers don't take it personal. They see any opportunity to improve on that side of the ball.

"I feel like it's an opportunity to get better and an opportunity to push myself," Quinton Dunbar said. "I feel like I can beat out anyone. I take it as a challenge."

Dunbar had the most yards of any receiver on the team last year, totaling 383 yards and four touchdowns. Behind him, the leader of the true receivers that returns to the roster is Andre Debose with 15 yards. No other receiver on the roster reached double-digit yards throughout the 2012 season.

It's a position that needs improvement. Florida had two freshmen -- Raph Andrades and Latroy Pittman -- play last season, but both need to continue making strides this spring.

"Raphael needs to come on," Muschamp said. "He has been with baseball a lot, so I think mentally obviously that puts him behind a little bit on some things we've tweaked within what we're trying to do. He needs to pick up his mental intensity and continue to perform and produce better.

"Latroy has shown up and done some nice things for us. "

There aren't many new toys for first-year wide receivers coach Joker Phillips to coach. Debose is back, but Muschamp noted yet again on Tuesday that "his biggest battle is consistency," which has been noted about the redshirt senior since he stepped on campus.

Phillips has been a welcomed addition to the staff and is getting the attention of the players.

"He's a good guy," Trey Burton said. "He's been here for a long time, coaching wide receivers for a long time. He knows almost every trick, and he's taught us a lot of new things."

The addition of early enrollee Demarcus Robinson could be the biggest gain for the unit. He made plays during last week's two open practices, but as expected, the freshman wasn't always lined up correctly. His natural ability is undeniable and has Driskel excited.

"Demarcus Robinson, he's a new guy, he's came in and done a good job so far," Driskel said.


The Florida coaching staff felt like Antonio Morrison would be the best replacement to slide into middle linebacker this spring. He'll replace Jon Bostic, who started on the inside for the last three years. There's no denying Morrison's physicality at the position. He's up to 229 pounds this offseason and looks capable of handling the middle linebacker position.

He showed that in some of the open practices last week. Morrison threw tight end Kent Taylor to the ground during a drill that was supposed to be non-contact, causing Muschamp to yell at him and tell Morrison to get off the field. That aggressiveness can be a positive on the field during the fall.

"Antonio is a very passionate guy, plays the game hard," Muschamp said. "Very instinctive, tough player. Has certainly improved his short-area quickness. He's much, much stronger than he was a year ago. He's obviously a guy that truly benefited from being here midyear (last spring) and took advantage of it. He was here last spring. Here's a guy that really took all the reps and took advantage of all the situations that he's been in."

The challenge for Morrison this spring is to improve as a leader. Last season, he was the freshman that filled in at multiple positions and looked up to the upperclassmen on the field. This spring, Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins are gone. The leadership burden is on Morrison.

"He plays with great physicality and continues to improve as a communicator within the front seven," Muschamp said. "That's going to be a key deal for him -- handling a lot of the directing traffic. He had Jon and Jelani helping him last year, and now he's got to be that guy. And we put a lot on our linebackers as far as communication is concerned."

His physicality has the attention of his teammates. When cornerback Jeremy Brown was asked to describe Morrison, he wasn't shy.

"Mad man," Brown said. "Hard hitter. Crazy. Mean. Scary. Oh, I'm taking him to war every time we have a chance. He's a great player. He's going to be special."

Morrison is bigger this spring

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