Receiver position best under Muschamp

Florida coach Will Muschamp repeated it multiple times this spring -- the receiver position at Florida is better than at any point during his time in Gainesville. It looked like it during practices and will be an important part of the 2014 offense.

To be clear, Muschamp’s claim didn’t set the bar too high. The Gators have thrown for 2,414, 1,902 and 2,051 yards, respectively, during his first three years at the helm.

Florida lacked a dominant receiver that struck fear into the defense. There are some that can become that type of player on this year’s roster, but none have stepped up and proven it at this point of their careers.

Even if the Gators don’t get an All-SEC performance from a receiver, there’s still enough talent and depth to improve the passing game and throw for the most yards under Muschamp. The plan is to use the depth, too. There were 18 different players that caught passes in the spring game and 13 of them were scholarship players.

The Florida coaches rotated through the receivers throughout fall practices, trying to build the depth, give every player an opportunity and help them get accustomed to the new offense under first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper.

The number of catches for Florida players in the spring game won’t be matched during a game this fall, but the design of the new offense is to get everyone involved.

“I think a lot of that has to do with how we’re set up schematically,” Will Muschamp said. “All in the run game, we have outlets in quick slants and hitches and take offs and different route combinations off the run game. Kurt’s offense has taken it to another level and creates a lot of run-pass conflicts for a defense when you call a play and can always be right as a play caller because if you don’t like the run blocks then you throw the quicks outside.

“You’ve got to be able to throw and catch, which the timing of those are critical. Those will improve as we move forward.”

There are breakout candidates at the position, too. After catching five passes for 23 yards last season, the Florida coaches are hoping for a year where Demarcus Robinson can stay out of trouble off the field. He has the skills to be an elite receiver and an immediate impact player this year, but he faced two separate suspensions last year and couldn’t get right off the field.

There are other players that could break out -- like Ahmad Fulwood or Chris Thompson -- but it’s Robinson that has the highest upside to make the receiver position even deeper than originally expected.

Among the high upside players, the Gators also need their consistent veterans to produce this year. Quinton Dunbar returns after totaling 548 receiving yards last season, putting him second on the team. Andre Debose is now healthy and able to make an impact after serving as the team’s deep ball specialist during the earlier years in his career.

Then there are the unknowns. It’s a long list with Raphael Andrades, Alvin Bailey, Latroy Pittman, and freshmen Ryan Sousa and C.J. Worton. Andrades has shown flashes while Bailey took a redshirt last season and could fit into the slot this fall. Pittman had a strong spring when he enrolled early before the 2012 season, but it didn’t translate into the season. He’s coming off a strong spring and could be a trusted part of the offense this year.

The x-factor is Valdez Showers. He’s now playing receiver after previous stints at safety and running back, but this looks to be the most natural fit. Roper now has to find creative ways to get the ball in his hands.

The pieces are there. It’s now up to Roper to put things together and make it work, showing improvement on the offensive side of the ball. Even with the best group of receivers since Muschamp took over, there are still questions and unproven parts that need to be fixed.


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