A final chance

This isn't the way Andre Debose imagined it happening when he signed with Florida out of Seminole High School. He had bigger dreams -- Freshman All-American, a national championship or two, and an early departure from college. Debose thought he'd be going into his second season in the NFL by now. Instead, he starts camp on Friday as a redshirt senior after coming to campus in the summer of 2009.

He was the All-American wide receiver out of high school, a five-star ranked as the third best receiver prospect in the country. Every scouting report showed the name of former Florida receiver Percy Harvin because of the explosiveness Debose showed on film in high school.

He was sold on Florida because of that same position in Urban Meyer's offense, expecting it to get him to the next level in no more than three years. But to still be in Gainesville for a fifth year? He never saw that coming.

"I would've told you that was nonsense, and I'm not looking forward to that at all," Andre Debose said with a grin.

But ask him why that has been the case, the fifth-year senior knows the real reason. Through coaching changes, his effort on the practice field has been called into question by now two coaching staffs. The talent is undeniable, proven by Debose rewriting the record books on special teams.

He has four kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career, tied with three other players for most all-time in the SEC. He also holds the Florida record for kickoff return average with 27.4 yards per return. He's second in SEC history in career kickoff return average.

His speed and elusiveness are always on display when he touches the ball, but getting the ball to him is often the problem. The trust issues have surfaced because of his route running. His work ethic off the field has been called into question in the past, and Debose was the first to take responsibility for it on Thursday.

"I could've done a lot more stuff outside of the building in football rather than just doing it inside the stadium," Debose said. "It took me a while to realize that you've got to do more than what the coaches expect you to be.

"Every position I was put in was because of me. It wasn't because of anybody else. I want let that be clear. I'm in this position because of me."

The mindset has changed this offseason. Debose credited the availability of the Florida coaching staff to watch film as the reason he has spent more time watching film. He also mentioned a new application players have on their phones to watch practice film from previous days. He was also present at most of the player run practices this summer. While they aren't mandatory, it's a positive sign for the Florida offense after Debose didn't always value them in the past.

"He knows this is his last go-round," Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel said. "He knows that. I've talked to him about that. I'm really excited for him. He has put in a lot of work.

"I think his attitude has really changed. He's having a better outlook on everything. He realizes this is his last chance, so he's got to make it count."

The adversity in the previous four years hasn't been all Debose's fault. The passing game hasn't developed, and in a transition from a spread offense to a pro-style offense, Debose didn't pick up on the offense as fast as some others. Coaching and scheme changes slowed down his development, too.

"It's a lot of adversity with coaching changes and things like that," Debose said. "It's just the way my cards were dealt. I'm just dealing with it. I've taken out of it that football is a business. Coaches tell you it's a family and they love you, but I know now from the time that I've been here that this is a business. It's about money and winning."

And that's a big reason why he has clicked with first-year wide receivers coach Joker Phillips. After taking over a position devoid of talent, Phillips first wanted to earn the trust of the players. He knew they were frustrated after the 2012 season. He spent time after getting to Gainesville trying to convince them that he had their best interest on his mind.

The players soon bought in, and it's easy to hear their approval.

"I love Joker," Debose said. "He came in and let us know that he was for us and we could trust him. He was a head coach. I know that he knows what he's doing. He has a voice in the meeting room with the coaches. He's actually being listened to, rather than our coaches in the past. That's something I'm looking forward to."


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