Deonte Thompson heads into the season with the pressure to be a go-to wide receiver. Last season, Riley Cooper stepped up to be the wide receiver the Gators threw to when they needed a big play. Thompson has shown signs of being that guy, but consistency will be his issue.
He struggled with catching the ball to start the 2009 season, and the passes weren't thrown his way as much throughout the second half of the season.
The redshirt junior finished the season with a five-catch, 63-yard performance in the Sugar Bowl. He carried the momentum from that game into the offseason, where he drew rave reviews about his performance and leadership. It's do or die time for Thompson this year. The talent has always been there, but it's time for the production to be as well.
Senior Carl Moore came to Gainesville from Sierra College and expected to be an immediate contributor in 2008. He finished the year seventh on the team in receptions, but did make a key touchdown reception to put Florida on the scoreboard in its first possession in the 2008 SEC Championship Game.
A back injury held Moore out from the entire 2009 season, allowing him to return this fall as a redshirt senior. After missing a few practices in the spring because of "personal issues," Moore dominated the last few practices and the spring game.
Thompson will provide the speedy deep threat for first-year quarterback John Brantley, and Moore can provide the steady, possession wide receiver. The only hesitation in counting on these two is their lack of production in the past.
The slot receivers will be explosive. Freshman Andre Debose is completely recovered from a hamstring injury that forced him to redshirt during his first year on campus. He saw the practice field late in the spring, and while the coaches limited contact on him, it was evident he could be the play maker the offense lacked last season. His long strides make it took like he is gliding across the field, just as he did in the spring game when he found the end zone.
Junior Chris Rainey moved from running back to wide receiver, although he could still get touches from both positions. He looked like a natural in the slot during the spring, running wide open on corner and out routes that had him sometimes matched up against linebackers.
Sophomore Omarius Hines made plays last year on shorter routes, and his role should expand this year. Aaron Hernandez was the safety valve last season for Tim Tebow, and Hines could mold into that player for Brantley.
Sophomore Frankie Hammond was in position to see consistent playing time this season, but an offseason DUI hurt his standing with the team. He will pay his own way and see a decrease in playing time. However, his biggest obstacle will be getting himself out of Urban Meyer's doghouse.
Justin Williams has been a contributor on special teams in his career. The redshirt senior has one more chance to make an impact on offense in the fall. He is a consistent wide receiver in most spring practice sessions, but he has one more chance to translate it to the fall. This will also be a key year for T.J. Lawrence.
Stephen Alli opened eyes during spring practices before an injury forced him to miss the second half of practices. For a player still new to football, he showed the potential to be a talented player. Alli may still be a year away, but a breakout year would be a welcomed sight from the Florida coaches.
The most likely freshman to see the field at wide receiver is Chris Dunkley. He came to campus last month and took the weight room seriously. He now sits around 190 pounds. Dunkley tore up camps while in high school because of his advanced route running, and that should get him consistent reps on the field this season.
Solomon Patton and Robert Clark will serve as backups in the slot. Both had solid springs, and could see the field in blowout games. Don't be surprised if both are given a chance to win the job as punt returner.
TIGHT ENDS: Jordan Reed made big strides during the spring. The Florida coaches always drooled over his potential at tight end last season when he worked as a scout team quarterback. His acrobatic catches in the spring wowed the crowd and gave little doubt that he would be able to play the position. The main concern about him playing tight end will come in blocking. He will also see time as the wildcat quarterback for the Gators this season.
Desmond Parks has a 6-6 frame that always makes him dangerous as a pass catcher, but he is also up to 245 pounds. The added weight will allow him to play attached or split wide.
Gerald Christian was physically the most impressive freshman that was on campus for the spring. He made nice plays catching the ball, but he will need to improve his blocking to see the field consistently.
The tight end position will have plenty of pass catchers this season, but the most consistent playing time could come to the player who is the best blocker in fall camp.
BREAKOUT PLAYER: At wide receiver, I'll take Chris Dunkley. He gives the Gators play making ability from an outside receiver, something no player on the roster has proven to offer. At tight end, give me Jordan Reed. He will have a very unique impact on the Florida offense this fall.
On Point with Bob Redman: It is very important that three or more receivers step up this season and become guys that John Brantley can trust. The logical choices are Deonte Thompson and senior Carl Moore, but those guys aren't really the game breaking receivers that the Gator offense relies on.
The slot position is so key and so Andre Debose is the guy that needs to be the breakout receiver for Urban Meyer and the Florida offense. While Chris Rainey brings the wiggle and the speed, Debose can do so many things with the ball in his hands including lining up at quarterback and running the ball.
Jordan Reed will be a mainstay in the offense at tight end, but watch out for Omarius Hines and his role in that split out tight end spot at times.
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