GatorZone.com Senior Writer
Muschamp had obviously studied the scouting report on the Gators.
While an injury to fifth-year senior quarterback John Brantley midseason didn’t help the cause, the Gators never found a consistent rhythm in the passing game in Charlie Weis’ only season as offensive coordinator.
Running back Chris Rainey (31 catches) and tight end Jordan Reed (28 receptions) offered the closest resemblance to a go-to receiver for the Gators. However, they needed more to seriously challenge teams downfield in the passing game.
For perspective on the lack of production among the receivers in 2011, consider these factoids: Rainey’s team-leading 31 receptions were the fewest for Florida’s leader since Emmitt Smith led the team with just 21 catches on the pass-challenged Gators team of 1989. In addition, Andre Debose’s team-high 432 receiving yards were the fewest for a team leader since Ernie Mills led those same ’89 Gators with 404 yards.
Muschamp hopes new offensive coordinator Brent Pease’s variations of a pro-style offense – Pease uses a lot of shifts and motion to keep defenses guessing – will open up lanes for receivers.
The Gators had eight players who had 10 or more catches a year ago, and three of those – Rainey, Deonte Thompson and Jeff Demps – are gone. You have probably guessed that there are plenty of opportunities to go around in the passing game.
“We need to get more production from the receivers,’’ Muschamp said. “There’s no question about that.”
With fall camp set to start on Friday, GatorZone.com is taking a look at each position group this week. Here is a look at the receivers:
No. 4 Andre Debose (RS Jr., 5-11, 186)
At a glance: Debose has established himself as one of the top kickoff return men in school history, but the Gators could use more from him in the passing game. Debose has the speed to stretch the field and he showed his big-play ability on the opening play of last season’s game against Alabama.
He has averaged 20.3 yards per catch on 26 career receptions. The Gator Bowl MVP, if Debose could haul in 35 to 40 catches this season that would be a huge step in the right direction. To do so Debose would have to get open more in the middle of the field instead of mostly on the edges.
No. 1 Quinton Dunbar (RS Soph., 6-1, 183)
At a glance: Dunbar started five games a year ago, hauling in 14 receptions for 216 yards and two touchdowns. Like Debose, Dunbar has excellent speed to get open on the outside and if he can become more of a threat in the middle of the field, he can become more of a weapon.
No. 85 Frankie Hammond Jr. (RS Sr., 6-1, 185)
At a glance: Hammond is a solid possession receiver who caught 15 passes for 181 yards last season, a drop off from 22 and 276 yards the previous season. Hammond is the veteran of the group and will be looked upon for leadership and stability.
Hammond’s most productive day for the Gators came against Mississippi State in 2010 when he had a career-high five catches for 65 yards.
No. 83 Solomon Patton (Jr., 5-9, 169)
At a glance: Used mostly as a return man/punt-block specialist during his career, Patton has seven catches for 62 yards. Patton’s greatest threat in the passing game is likely as an underneath receiver coming out of the slot.
No. 11 Jordan Reed (RS Jr., 6-3, 239)
At a glance: Reed’s role was already an important one before the recent departure of fellow tight end A.C. Leonard. Reed has excellent athleticism for a player his size and good hands.
Reed had 28 catches for 311 yards and two touchdowns last season. Look for Reed to have ample opportunity to surpass his previous career highs in Pease’s offense.
No. 20 Omarius Hines (RS Sr., 6-2, 223)
At a glance: Hines moved to running back during spring practice. Muschamp told reporters at SEC Media Days that Hines will still get some looks at tight end as well as the backfield.
Hines has eight career starts, his best season coming in 2010 when he caught 20 passes for 281 yards and rushed for 152 yards and two touchdowns.
No. 80 Ja’Juan Story (RS Fr., 6-3, 206)
At a glance: The coaching staff is optimistic about Story’s potential based on his nice blend of size and speed. He was redshirted a year ago. Story played quarterback, receiver and running back in high school at Nature Coast Technical.
No. 13 Latroy Pittman (Fr., 6-0, 201)
At a glance: An early enrollee in January, Pittman drew rave reviews from coaches for his receiving ability and toughness in spring practice. Pittman has the skills to be an effective underneath receiver and the speed to get open on the outside. He also showed a knack for picking up yards after the catch.
No. 89 Stephen Alli (RS Jr., 6-6, 217)
At a glance: Alli remains somewhat of an unknown in the passing game. He has played mostly on special teams. He suffered a stress fracture in his tibia in the off-season and has yet to fully recover. He had three catches for 17 yards in 2010.
No. 88 Clay Burton (Soph., 6-4, 242)
At a glance: Moved from defensive end to tight end to provide depth at the position. He dressed for six games as a freshman and did not have a catch. Burton had three catches for 53 yards in the spring game.
No. 97 Tevin Westbrook (Soph., 6-5, 268)
At a glance: Another defensive player who moved to tight end to add depth. Westbrook has the size to be a formidable receiver in the middle of the field but will need a good camp to prove he can be effective in the passing game.
No. 86 Raphael Andrades (Fr., 6-0, 190)
At a glance: A late addition to the 2012 signing class out of Tallahassee’s Lincoln High, Andrades was coached by former Gator receiver Jacquez Green in high school.
No. 84 Colin Thompson (Fr., 6-4, 252)
At a glance: Rated the No. 2 tight end prospect in the nation by ESPN, Thompson moves well for a player his size and could become a factor as a true freshman depending on how well Burton, Westbrook and Hines perform at tight end.
No. 18 Kent Taylor (Fr., 6-5, 225)
At a glance: Taylor was ranked the No. 1 tight end prospect in the country by Rivals.com and Scout.com. He played at Land O’ Lakes High. He isn’t as bulky as Thompson, but Taylor is faster and could also become a factor as a true freshman if Burton and Westbrook don’t emerge behind Reed at tight end.