From the dog house to top dogs

Sometimes you have to go through some learning experiences before things go right. That is what is expected of receivers Latroy Pittman and Demarcus Robinson in 2014. Both were expected to be big players for the Florida Gators in 2013 and some off-the-field issues set them back a bit. A new season is here and their teammates and coaches are behind them, Pittman and Robinson are ready to shine.

For Latroy Pittman, last season was a tough one. Listed as a starter coming out of spring ball, Pittman never really got off the mat after being suspended for the first three games in 2013. In the coaches’ dog house, Pittman saw action only late in the season and was basically a factor only when the season was beyond bleak.

In November Pittman started seeing the field and made a few plays for Florida, but it still seemed like a lost season for a guy that everyone expected more from. Pittman kind of had the reality of the situation smack him in the face and knock some sense in him last year.

“I wouldn’t say it is hard, it just hits you when it hits you,” he said about what all the trouble he got into meant. “It just depends on what kind of person you are and how long it takes you to grow up.”

“I did a lot of growing up and maturing.”

Sophomore Demarcus Robinson in some ways faced a similar situation as Pittman. Robinson came in as a guy expected to make an immediate impact in the receiving game in 2013. That didn’t materialize early in the season and he started to drift away from some things he was supposed to be doing.

By the end of the year, Robinson had few catches and wasn’t even getting on the field. He got himself in a little trouble as well and was forced to miss the last few games. His teammates and coaches went hard after him to help him in the offseason. He feels they have helped steer him in the right direction, mainly by caring for him.

“My freshman year wasn’t so good,” Robinson said. “It was great just to have my team behind my back and my coaches behind my back to keep me positive and focused, I feel like have built a close relationship with the team and my coaches.

“It helped me a lot coming in and after doing the wrong things. Just having my team and coaches here to help me out kept me positive.”

It was a tough year with a lot of tough love in 2013, but these guys feel they are better for it. It should make for a much better 2014.

“I feel like we have more chemistry and more bond,” Pittman said. “As a group we decided we want to be better than what we have shown.”

They have worked hard in the offseason making their bodies ready for an up-tempo style that may require them to run play after play after play and beat the defense repeatedly without coming off the field. Their new motto is, “We might get winded, but we don’t get tired”, according to Pittman. While Robinson adds, “every time we see someone looking like they want to stop, we push them.”

As stated Pittman was the starter at one of the two receiver spots when spring ended a year ago. This year the Gators have added a third receiver to the starting lineup and Pittman is a possible starter in the slot position. His big body and sure hands allow him to go over the middle against linebackers and big safeties and make the big catch.

“I bring physicality to the game, so me being physical and not worrying about linebackers or safeties and just going up against those guys is something I like to do,” Pittman said. “I think I bring something to the slot.

He has been relentless in trying to make himself better in the offseason and spends extra time doing so.

“I was working on footwork, a lot of jugs, I am studying game film and studying the game more,” Pittman said of the summer.

And the junior from Ocala says that Robinson is ready for a breakout season.

“Demarcus coming in is someone that will contribute to the team a good deal,” Pittman said. “He is the kind of player that will take a 5-yard hitch and take it 80. He can make a DB miss one on one and he has all the talent to take it a far as he wants.”

The staff has made no bones about the need to get Robinson the ball. In the spring we saw him get it in short and intermediate passing routes and then do something with the ball. Robinson says that he will be getting the ball in every which way this year.

“I am an every kind of threat guy,” he said. “We have some short and intermediate passes and sometimes the deep ball. I try and make a play with any type of ball I catch.”

However, Robinson has scaled back the thought of being THE only guy that matters in the offense.

“I definitely look forward to having the ball in my hands and the offense to be a lot better,” he said. “But, in a good game, I just want to come out and provide any kind of help for my team to win.”

In the dog house a year ago and a lot of it to do with attitudes, Latroy Pittman and Demarcus Robinson seem well on their way to making a lot of noise in 2014.

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