The pieces are in place for the Gators to put big numbers on the scoreboard this fall, keyed around a quarterback in John Brantley that is known for throwing the football. With multiple playmakers that excel at making defenders miss after the catch, there is one wide receiver that could be the key to the Florida offense.
Deonte Thompson is unique to the Florida wide receivers this season. He provides the best deep threat on the team. He's only listed at 5-11, but his ability to stretch the field with his speed is what could determine the overall success of the Florida offense this season.
The redshirt junior has underachieved since he got to campus. He was ranked as the No. 3 wide receiver in the country as a senior at Glades Central High School. He took a redshirt during his first season in Gainesville, despite multiple receivers struggling with nagging injuries in season.
In 2008, Thompson caught 18 passes for 269 yards. 2009 was supposed to be his breakout season, but Riley Cooper turned into the go-to receiver, and Thompson finished the year with 24 catches for 343 yards.
Thompson will need to be Brantley's deep threat this season for the Florida offense to reach its potential. The two came in as a part of the same recruiting class and developed chemistry on the scout team.
But their connection will never be as important as this year. With as loaded as Florida is with skill players at running back and slot receiver, the temptation of opposing defenses will be to play closer to the line of scrimmage.
That's where Thompson comes in. His ability to step up as a deep threat won't allow safeties to cheat closer to the line of scrimmage. It will keep one extra defender deep, allowing the Florida playmakers to do their job.
The running game has the names to be successful this year. Jeff Demps, Mike Gillislee and Emmanuel Moody all return, while Under Armour All-American Mack Brown joins the group. Chris Rainey, Andre Debose and Solomon Patton will man the slot receiver positions.
Rainey and Debose will most likely play a hybrid position similar to what Percy Harvin did in Gainesville. This role will have them taking handoffs from the backfield and catching passes.
The two slot receivers should be where the Florida offense sees the reemergence of the drag routes and end-arounds that Harvin used. For them to be as successful as possible, the defense must be forced to respect a deep threat at the wide receiver position for Florida.
Thompson has shown flashes of being the wide receiver he needs to be in 2010. He has averaged 14.6 yards per catch in his career. Four of his seven career touchdown catches have been for over 30 yards, with the most notable coming on a career high 77-yard touchdown reception against Arkansas last year.
The most encouraging sign for Thompson's 2010 season may have come in the Sugar Bowl. He had a career high five catches for 63 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown reception. The numbers aren't eye popping, but them combined with his performance in spring practice makes it look like he is ready for a breakout season under new wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni.
And the Florida offense could sure use it.
Thompson Will Determine Florida's Success
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