- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter
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Editor’s note: Every Tuesday and Thursday through Jan. 31, GatorNation will break down each position. We’ll look at 2013, of course, but also try to peek beyond next season. Today is wide receiver. We will profile running backs Tuesday.
Two-deep: This is without question the Gators’ weakest position. The group has been below average for three seasons. Redshirt junior Quinton Dunbar, who has 50 career catches, and redshirt senior Andre Debose, a career underachiever with 29 career catches, are the two most experienced players and would likely be the starters if the season started today. Debose is supremely talented but has been hampered by work ethic, attitude and consistency issues throughout his career. Senior Solomon Patton (eight career catches) and sophomore Latroy Pittman (two catches in 2012) would be the backups.
Next up: Sophomore Raphael Andrades, who caught two passes last season, and freshman early enrollee Demarcus Robinson will have every chance to move up the depth chart in the spring. Next to Debose, Robinson is the most talented receiver on the roster.
High-profile commits: The Gators have commitments from four other receivers: Alvin Bailey (Seffner, Fla./Armwood), Ahmad Fulwood (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny), Marqui Hawkins (Columbus, Ga./Carver) and Chris Thompson (Gainesville, Fla./Gainesville). They’re all bigger receivers, too. All three are 5-foot-11 or taller and Fulwood is 6-4.
Additional targets: James Clark (New Smyrna Beach, Fla./New Smyrna Beach) is a four-star recruit scheduled to visit Florida the weekend before signing day.
Looking into 2013: The passing offense struggled in 2012 (114th nationally) and the development at this position will be the key factor in whether the Gators can contend for an SEC and/or national title in 2013. Because of his experience, Dunbar will likely remain a starter, but the other positions are wide open. Pittman and Andrades were used mainly as blockers last season, but the staff likes both of them. The hope is those three will make a jump in the second season in Brent Pease’s offense similar to what the defense did in its second season under Dan Quinn. Patton found a role running the jet sweep and did a nice job before he got injured (10.0 yards per carry). The key will be the development of Robinson, Fulwood and the rest of the freshmen. Those two are probably the most ready of all the freshmen to contribute early. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Robinson in the starting lineup when the season begins. It’s hard to count on Debose because he has been so inconsistent. Anything he were to give the offense would be an unexpected plus.
Editor’s note: Every Tuesday and Thursday through Jan. 31, GatorNation will break down each position. We’ll look at 2013, of course, but also try to peek beyond next season.