Scott Carter’s Blog Carter’s Corner
Senior receiver Solomon Patton is healthy after a season-ending broken arm a season ago.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- They want to know if freshman Demarcus Robinson is the missing piece of the puzzle. They ask if Quinton Dunbar is the guy. Everyone wonders if this is finally the year Andre Debose turns potential into production.
What about the four freshmen receivers other than Robinson? Can they make an immediate impact?
As the Gators open fall practice today, much of the focus is aimed at Florida's receiving corps. Everyone wants to know if the Gators have enough playmakers to make the passing game go.
One guy under the radar is senior Solomon Patton, who emerged as a useful threat that offered Brent Pease's pro-style offense a different look last season until he suffered a season-ending broken arm in the loss to Georgia.
"It was tough, watching and not being able to help my team,'' Patton said. "I had finally gotten my chance and actually show what I could do. The coaches had a lot of confidence and they were giving me the ball a lot, and then, boom, that happened."
Using Patton primarily on jet sweeps, the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Patton -- he said Thursday he has added about 10 pounds of muscle since last season due to strenuous rehab in the weight room -- averaged 10 yards a rush (14 carries, 140 yards) prior to his injury.
His only catch was a 17-yard grab at Texas A&M, a game in which he also rushed for 31 yards as Florida opened SEC play with a comeback win over the Aggies.
Patton was forced to watch the final five games of last season from the sideline, his left arm restricted by a cast.
He revealed a big grin Thursday when asked about being healthy for his final season.
"I'm doing great. I will be right back out there. I've been waiting for this," Patton said. "I'm real excited to get back."
While Patton is not your prototypical go-to receiver, he can get open in the slot and is elusive in the open field.
"We continue to develop him in the passing game,'' Gators coach Will Muschamp said.
Quarterback Jeff Driskel wants to see Patton utilized more because of his versatility.
"I think he is going to have a great senior year,'' Driskel said. "He hit some big end-around stuff for us. I expect him to be more prevalent in the passing game this year.
"He is so quick and a lot of times he is matched up on linebackers since he plays inside, so he's a guy that can really get open and create big plays."
Patton arrived at UF and played as a freshman in 2010. Most of his production has come on the ground. Besides his rushing totals, Patton has averaged 25.7 yards on 17 kick returns in his career.
As a receiver, Patton has only eight catches for 79 yards, four of those grabs coming in a victory at Vanderbilt his freshman season.
With so many questions at receiver, Patton enters camp out to prove something.
"I feel pretty good with where I'm at,'' he said. "I'm going to work hard when camp starts and work my way as far as I can and make as many plays as I can. Hopefully when Aug. 31 comes I'll be out there a lot."
Driskel hopes so, too.