Camp preview: Wide receivers

The Gators enter fall camp without a star at the wide receiver position, but Will Muschamp said it’s the most talented the position has been since he took the job at Florida before the 2011 season.

The bar for that comment hasn’t been set very high by the position over the three previous seasons. Combining the experienced group with the expectations of an explosive offense under Kurt Roper, and the Gators should have a deep group of playmakers at receiver this fall.

Quinton Dunbar is the leader of the group. He was second on the team last year with 548 receiving yards but didn’t catch a touchdown pass. He averaged 45.7 yards per game through the air. He’s a solid receiver, knows his role in the offense and is viewed as the leader of the position by his younger teammates. He hasn’t had the massive breakout season that was once expected of him, but Dunbar still provides plenty of value to the Florida roster.

Andre Debose heads into his sixth year at Florida as the ultimate wildcard. Before tearing his ACL in fall camp last year, Debose had proven his ability to catch the deep ball and make plays in the kicking game. He’ll now have a chance to make more plays with the ball in his hands. As Kurt Roper aims to get playmakers the ball in one-on-one situations, Debose will have an opportunity to make plays.

There’s a trio of sophomores that will have a big say in how productive the position is. Ahmad Fulwood, Demarcus Robinson and Chris Thompson all played last season and could be poised to make a leap heading into their second seasons in Gainesville.

Robinson has the star potential of the group. Defensive backs couldn’t cover him during open practices last fall, but he battled off field issues last season and dealt with two suspensions that covered three games. Robinson now has a chance to break out this season with his head on straight. He can make plays after the catch and is elusive in the open field.

Fulwood was fifth on the team last year with 17 catches and fourth on the team with 127 yards. He doesn’t have elite speed but makes up for it in other areas. The sophomore should be a solid possession receiver for the Gators this fall.

Thompson bulked up in the offseason and is now 6-0, 170 pounds. The Gainesville High School product has the speed to be a difference maker on the Florida offense and could play in the slot or outside. After catching two passes last season, he had a strong spring and will make a bigger impact this fall. He needs a strong camp to get into the rotation but should be an important piece of the offense this fall.

Valdez Showers and Latroy Pittman will be two other important players in the slot. Showers will work exclusively at receiver after working at running back and defensive back in previous years. The move seems like a natural fit for his skill set. Pittman worked with the first team offense in the spring and heads into the fall as the starter at the position.

Alvin Bailey redshirted last season but will also work in the slot this fall. He played quarterback at Armwood High School but used the year to polish his abilities. He has a skill set to make plays in the open field. Raphael Andrades has dealt with injuries during his time at Florida and needs a big spring to find a spot in the rotation.

The Gators signed two freshmen receivers. Ryan Sousa and C.J. Worton both enrolled during the summer. Missing out on spring practice could put them behind the other returners, especially in a brand new offense, but the depth chart is open enough for either player to make a run at playing time.

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