- Jeff Barlis, College Football
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- When doling out blame for Florida's four-year streak of bad offense, there's always a bit of a puzzle in assessing the passing game.
Has the biggest problem been the offensive line's inability to pass block or the quarterbacks' problems with decision-making and accuracy, or is it the wide receivers' fault for not getting open and making the big catch?
The answer is yes.
It's probably all of the above, but no position has been in more of a funk at Florida than wide receiver. There's no doubting the talent wearing orange and blue. There's also no doubting the lack of production.
Position coach Joker Phillips brought credibility when he arrived last year and brings some stability going in his second season. Now it's crucial that he bring improvement in 2014.
Our series looking at the Gators' top positions with room to improve turns to the wide receivers.
Battling for No. 1: After two starters graduated, rising senior Quinton Dunbar remains as Florida's only certainty. He's a starter who has developed into a solid possession receiver and even has a school-record 28 consecutive games with a catch. The next most experienced receiver on the roster is senior Andre Debose, who is seeking a medical redshirt so he can come back for a sixth season after missing last year with a torn ACL. Debose was a terrific kickoff returner and has some history as a deep threat, but his list of injuries and lack of production at receiver make him a mighty big question mark.
Strength in numbers: Florida played three true freshmen in 2013 and redshirted two. Ahmad Fulwood played in all 12 games and led the way with 17 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown. Where Fulwood was consistent, Demarcus Robinson was the opposite, as he struggled in practice and missed a few games due to suspension. Both Fulwood and Robinson are important pieces for their talent, but also because they are the only two pass-catchers on the roster with good size, measuring 6-foot-5 and 6-2, respectively. Speedster Chris Thompson was the other freshman who played last season and was the only one who earned a start. The two redshirt freshmen, Alvin Bailey and Marqui Hawkins, are long on talent and obviously short on experience. They'll need to improve rapidly during their first spring football practices and then make their mark this fall.
New on the scene: With a new offensive coordinator bringing some new schemes, the Gators hit the recruiting trail looking for slot receivers. Although the state was loaded at wide receiver in the Class of 2014, UF didn't land any elite talents. What the Gators did find were two very good athletes who fit the bill as playmakers over the middle and on the outside. Four-star Ryan Sousa and three-star C.J. Worton won't be the biggest or the fastest wideouts on the team, but they're both supreme competitors who are expected to fight for roles in fall practice.