Next Percy, Maybe Not

It has been one of those things that has permeated throughout the first week of fall practice. Andre Debose was recruited to replace one of the greatest Gator football players ever in Percy Harvin. The media doesn't want to let the comparisons go between the two. But the fact is, Andre Debose has a hard time explaining just how different he is than the guy he is supposed to replace.

Replacing everything Percy Harvin did on offense is the single biggest thing the Florida Gators are looking to accomplish for the 2009 year. They will no doubt utilize a bevy of other weapons to achieve this feat, but getting that special slot player to play the same role will be vital somewhere down the line.

Insert Andre Debose and his impressive speed, agility, and eye popping football ability.

However, Debose has been pretty adamant about folks understanding that he isn't a guy that is following in Percy's footsteps. He is planning on being a guy making his own name at Florida. Yet, curiously enough, Debose really has a hard time distinguishing his skills from that of Harvin.

"Differences?" Debose replied back at media day to a question he was asked regarding his thoughts on how he and Harvin were different. "Well, I think I have a little more....ummmm, well, I really couldn't tell you any differences. I am trying to think, but I really couldn't tell you."

So,forgive the media for this particular line of questions at the moment, but Gator fans have to happy about that response.

Debose is a lot like Percy. There are subtle differences, but his ability on the field will remind a lot of last year's No. 1. The pressure is there for Debose, but he is actually shrugging it off. Besides, Debose has been a highly coveted athlete for at least a couple of years now.

"There is a bit of pressure but I have thick skin," Debose said. I would say there is pressure, but I am used to it."

Like Percy, Debose will eventually earn the trust and respect of his teammates. Debose understands he will have to prove himself first, but he relishes that role as someone his teammates can put a lot of stock in.

"I would say I can be a Tim Tebow (like) character on the team," he said. "I feel like I can be a leader on the team, contribute, and be productive. I will do it more by example than vocally."

Right now Debose is learning from the older receivers on the team. Sophomore Deonte Thompson and senior David Nelson have both kind of taken him under their wing. Debose believes he resembles Thompson's style of play more than any other receiver on the team.

"I am more like Deonte," Debose said. "He is very quick and has a lot of top end speed. I stay close to him and David Nelson picking up the routes. 'D' Nelson is more of the one that pulls me to the side and tells me I need to do this or that. He is more like a coach than a teammate. I need all of that I can get."

Billy Gonzales has earned the reputation as one of the country's best receiver coaches at either the college or pro level. Gonzales turned down job offers from two NFL teams and two of the Gators big rivals to remain at Florida. Debose is trying to be sponge and soak up everything his newest coaching mentor is trying to teach him.

"The first four days I can see Coach G is very intense," Debose said about the first four days of practice. "He knows his craft. He pounds it into your head until you get it and you will get it. The toughest thing is picking up some of the plays and some of the terms they use. I have been doing a lot of studying picking that up."

Debose knows he is getting better everyday simply by playing against the best defense he has ever seen on a football field. He really never thought he would be working against something this tough every day.

"Every day it is compete, compete, compete," Debose said about going up against the defense. "I have never seen that much speed on one side of the ball and being able to practice against that...there is nothing like that. It is way more than I thought, not overwhelming, but it shows I need to do a lot more work."

He is slowed a little by a hamstring injury, but knows he is getting the best treatment possible. Debose was treated well at Seminole High in Sanford, but when he has aches and pains at Florida the treatment is at a new level.

"It is nothing like the training staff they have here," he said about what he got in high school. "They have everything they need times ten here. I do a lot of icing, heat, and massage for my hammy."

When his hamstring is healed, one of the first things he is going to set out to do is settle a debate that has been raging ever since Debose arrived on campus. Deonte Thompson came out last week and proclaimed that he is the fastest player on the football team. Chris Rainey will tell you that nobody can beat him. Debose respects them both, but he thinks he can also take them.

"He is one of the fastest guys...," Debose said of Thompson. "When I get my hamstring set, yes sir, I will be in those races. I will issue a challenge right now...when I am healthy I got to have both of them."

Confidence, swagger, and a great deal of respect for others around him. Those are the things that define Andre Debose right now. In a few months, the guy that Gators want to see emulate Percy, might be the guy that makes people not worry about losing Harvin. I would take that bet.


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