Debose Injury was a 'Blessing in Disguise'

Andre Debose felt the pressure before he even stepped on campus last summer. He was supposed to be the playmaker that took over for the production lost when Percy Harvin went to the NFL. Instead, Debose spent a frustrating freshman year on the sidelines. It was the last thing he wanted before the season started, but it may have been the best thing that could have happened to Debose.

"It was a blessing in disguise because coming in as a freshman with a lot of hype, it calmed everything down," Andre Debose said. "I'm enjoying how things are now without all the hype."

Debose maintains the same expectations for himself, but the outside forces expecting an all-American season right off the bat are no longer there. It's not easy to replace Percy Harvin. It's even more difficult for one young player to do it with that weight on his shoulders.

"It wasn't getting to me, but coming in as a freshman, that's a lot to deal with," Debose said.

He's now in his comfort zone. Debose has a highlight film out of high school that drops jaws, but he isn't the player who wants to be the center of attention.

"I really like the anonymous Andre Debose," he said. "I'm not too much of the guy always in the spotlight."

He is now participating fully in fall practices, claiming he is "back to 100 percent." It's the first time he can run without pain since his senior year at Seminole High School.

"I can actually run as fast as I can (without pain)," Debose said. "Before, I couldn't do that."

Debose hopes he has seen the last of his hamstring issues. He has to stay stretched out and hydrated in order to keep them away. However, the injury isn't on his mind when he takes the field.

He hasn't wasted time becoming the talk of the wide receiver position at camp. He will split the hybrid position with Chris Rainey, allowing both players to line up as the slot receiver or in the backfield at running back. They have to work on catching the football and taking handoffs.

Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni has seen Debose do things in the early days of camp that could take years to teach some wide receivers.

"He is doing a heck of a job," Azzanni said. "He is an explosive athlete. He made some catches today that there just aren't drills for. You're born with that. We've got to work on the details of his game. As far as jumping and back footing balls, he does that in his sleep. (He makes) catches that guys like me couldn't make. He has a knack for body position."

Debose can already see the attention to detail that Azzanni focuses on. Billy Gonzales recruited the wide receiver out of high school and served as the Gators wide receivers coach last year, but Debose now feels more focused on the little things that can help him excel.

"Billy was a great coach," Debose said. "But Coach Azzanni is way more into details. He's more into the little stuff."

Debose won't take any playing time for granted. He has still only participated in a few practices during his Florida career, so he is trying not to get ahead of himself. He knows improvements still need to be made.

"It's just the mental part of the game," Debose said. "Catching is natural to me. I'm just focused on learning to play again. I need to get better at my routes. I've got to get in football shape and learn the offense."

Being the natural football player that he is, learning the offense shouldn't take long.
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