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Tuesday October 8, 2013 Gators wideouts catching more passes than grief this season

Updated: 8:43pm, October 8

Trey Burton GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Just in case the Florida wide receivers didn’t hear enough about their lack of production the last few years and the uncertainty of their playmaking ability coming into the 2013 season, the Gators coaching staff left a few reminders around the south end zone football complex this summer.

Xerox copies of ESPN.com’s rankings of SEC units were taped to walls and windows in the locker room, training room and SEZ hallways. Dozens of them.

The Gators checked in at No. 11 on the list of best receiving corps (ahead of only Mississippi State, Kentucky and Tennessee), with no UF wideouts ranked among the site’s top 10 individuals. Given their numbers the last few years, the assessment was tough to argue.

That didn’t make the evaluation any less grating to Gators going out for passes.

“Since I’ve been here, that’s all I heard about,” senior wideout Solomon Patton said. “[That] we didn’t have any receivers who could catch and make the big plays that those guys used to make.”

Going strictly by the numbers, the Gators’ 201.4 yards passing per game is not going to wow anyone. It ranks 11th in the conference.

But since Tyler Murphy took over at quarterback for injured starter Jeff Driskel, the UF passing game has made strides, with 72.2 percent completions – and an efficiency rating of 181.5 -- and achieved enough of a balance to convert 22 of 41 (53.6 percent) third-down situations.

Meanwhile, utility man Trey Burton (23 catches, 282 yards, 1 TD) has found his niche as a full-time wideout. Patton (19-348-4) has gone from basically a slot running back to a major yards-after-catch threat in averaging 18.3 yards per reception. And junior Quinton Dunbar (18-274) has made several big plays (a couple acrobatic ones, too) in taking his game up a notch.

CATCHING ON

Through five games, UF's top three wide receivers -- Trey Burton, Solomon Patton and Quinton Dunbar -- have combined for 60 receptions. In 2012, the trio totaled 55 catches. At their current pace, check out their season's projections (receptions-yards) compared to their previous seasons.

UF Receiver

2010

2011

2012

2013 (projected)

Trey Burton

32-210

19-149

18-172

55-677

Solomon Patton

4-27

3-35

1-17

47-835

Quinton Dunbar

--------

14-216

36-383

43-657 

It’s a receiving corps that fits nicely with what the Gators want to do on offense.

And one determined to refute its preseason projections.

“I never directly talked to them about it,” UF offensive coordinator Brent Pease said Tuesday. “I think it’s just a matter of getting comfortable and playing the position in a throwing situation.”

When Pease took over the offense in the spring of 2012, the Gators were introduced to their third offensive scheme in as many years, with the former Boise State coordinator following Charlie Weis (2011) and Steve Addazio (2010).

Dunbar UF coach Will Muschamp used the phrase “instant coffee society” Monday, alluding to the need for people to see results immediately. In the case of the Gators, maybe it was some continuity (this is the first season since 2009 the Gators had the same offensive coordinator as the previous year) and a quarterback with the right mindset to manage the game and find his rapport with his receivers.

And don't forget the addition of receivers coach Joker Phillips, the former Kentucky head coach who joined the staff in the offseason.

“These kids are kind of now blossoming,” Pease said. “[Football] is a developmental sport. Look at Solomon Patton – performing. Quinton Dunbar – performing. Trey Burton, who has been around for four [years], playing pretty well. … That’s how you’ve got good teams; when you’ve got experience teams in the end.”

A chip on the shoulder – 11th best out of 14 – sometimes doesn’t hurt, either.

“We’ve taken advantage of our opportunities,” Patton said. “Everybody is buying in and we’re all on the same page. Basically, everybody is getting an opportunity to make a lot of plays.”

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