The search for 1,000 yards

The wide receiver position at Florida has struggled while the offense slumped over the past four years, but the statistics at the position have been down for even longer than that.

Lighting up the scoreboard the way Steve Spurrier did at Florida reset the expectations for an offense in Gainesville. His receivers produced in a way the Florida program hasn't seen since he left and may never seen again.

In Spurrier's last season, Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney both went over 1,000 yards receiving. In the 12 seasons since Spurrier left, the Gators have produced only one 1,000-yard receiver. That one time occurred the year after Spurrier left when Taylor Jacobs totaled 1,088 yards in Ron Zook's first year as coach.

Since Spurrier left, only four Florida receivers have put up at least 900 receiving yards in one season -- Dallas Baker (920 yards in 2006), Riley Cooper (961 yards in 2009), Chad Jackson (900 yards in 2005) and Jacobs.

A once proud offensive program now searches for when it will happen again.

That doesn't mean there haven't been special players at the receiver position since Spurrier left. Percy Harvin totaled 1,929 receiving yards during his three years on campus, but his production and impact on offense was much bigger than that. Harvin carried the ball from the running back position and totaled 1,852 rushing yards in his three years. If he worked solely at receiver, there's a good chance Harvin would've hit the 1,000-yard receiving mark.

In the last four seasons, the Gators haven't had a receiver total more than 570 yards in one season. Deonte Thompson posted 570 yards under Urban Meyer in 2010. The largest total in the three seasons under Will Muschamp was the 559 yards totaled by tight end Jordan Reed in 559. The most receiving yards in a season for a receiver under Muschamp is the 556 yards Solomon Patton posted last season. The Gators have had multiple receivers over 500 yards just once in the last four years when Quinton Dunbar totaled 548 yards to join Patton last season.

If the 1,000-yard receiving mark is to be broken any time soon, it will likely happen because of first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. Last season at Duke, his offense produced a 1,360-yard receiving season for Jamison Crowder, an undersized 5-9, 175-pound receiver for the Blue Devils.

The Duke coaching staff was able to develop recruits that didn't have offers from the elite programs out of high school and make them productive players. Roper will now be able to work with players that did have those offers.

But who is the choice to be the one, if there is one, to break the 1,000-yard receiving mark at Florida for the first time since 2002? There are a few options.

Quinton Dunbar heads into his fifth season after totaling 548 receiving yards last season. A jump of 452 yards seems unlikely, but with Patton graduating, the top receiver spot is still open.

If he can stay healthy and reach the potential he showed coming out of high school, Andre Debose could have a chance. His skillset as a deep threat, leading the 2011 team with 432 receiving yards, helps, too. However, a jump of 568 yards in his last season on campus also seems unlikely.

Demarcus Robinson is the wildcard. He got open at will in open practices before the 2013 season but couldn't stay out of trouble off the field to make enough of an impact. If he corrects those issues, it's not a stretch to see him as the most talented receiver on the team in 2014.

The players won't be able to hit the 1,000 mark on their own. It takes multiple other factors. Jeff Driskel has to stay healthy and play quarterback all season, and Roper's scheme has to be effective right away. Those factors weren't in place last season -- Driskel got hurt and the offense unraveled.

Even if everything goes right, it's still unlikely that it happens this year, but the Gators have the talent at receiver for one to step up and potentially challenge the 1,000-yard mark.


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