GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Even if Florida's wide receivers aren't more productive than they have been the past two seasons, they should be a lot happier in 2012.
Offensive coordinator Brent Pease said Wednesday that the receivers are much more prominent in the offense the Gators are running now than the spread-option offense that former coach Urban Meyer ran and the attack that Charlie Weis used last season. They'll have chances for more receptions and to be a bigger part of the offense.
"If they don't see the fact that, 'Hey, I get to touch the touch the ball rather than go block DBs every play,' if they can't get hungry with that ...," Pease said. "I think it's a little bit more fun to do what we're doing than probably having to block every play and maybe catch a pass or something here and there."
In order to get on the field in Meyer's offense, a receiver had to first prove they were a reliable blocker. The Gators ran a lot of edge plays with quick, speedy backs, so receivers blocking on the edge was a critical component to the success of those plays. And while the Gators did have several receivers who flourished under Meyer -- Percy Harvin, Riley Cooper, Louis Murphy and Andre Caldwell -- Meyer's last few recruiting classes did not produce anyone close to that caliber.
Pease and UF coach Will Muschamp have praised redshirt senior Frankie Hammond Jr. as the Gators' most consistent receiver throughout preseason practices. Quinton Dunbar, Solomon Patton and Andre Debose are still trying to become consistent players. The star of the spring -- early enrollee Latroy Pittman -- has leveled off a bit.
One player who Pease praised on Wednesday was walk-on Mike McNeely, but the 5-foot-8, 176-pound sophomore is out for about five more weeks after suffering a broken bone in his foot.
"I think every day they've gotten better," Pease said. "Consistency is starting to show up. It really hurt when Mike McNeely [was injured] because he was having a good camp. That kid was going to help us. I feel bad for him having to get his foot fixed. I think the guys are understanding their role. Like I've told them, 'If you want more, you better show consistency and create it.'
"I'm going to tell you this: We're not just sticking anybody out there that looks pretty and can run. They'd better go out there and perform. They'd better catch balls and block. You go out there and you make plays. That's the bottom line at that position."
The scrimmage Florida was supposed to have on Tuesday was canceled because of bad weather. The Gators won't make it up but will incorporate some of the things they wanted to do during the scrimmage during practice on Thursday and Friday. The players were off Wednesday.
Reed should play
Pease said he expects tight end Jordan Reed to play in the Sept. 1 season opener against Bowling Green. Reed has missed more than a week with a sprained MCL.
"Somebody like Jordan, who’s got really wide receiver ability but in a body like his, he’s a nightmare for defensive coordinators," Pease said.
Reed, who has 34 career catches, is just in his second season as a full-time tight end. If he can't play or is limited, the Gators' next option might be sophomore Tevin Westbrook, who moved to the spot from defensive end after spring practice ended. Pease said Westbrook has had a great camp.
"He has been a complete bonus to get him," Pease said. "He’s gotten better. The kid’s got a great attitude. I mean, I probably can’t say enough good things about him. He’s done a great job, can catch and block, so very excited to get him. He’s built our depth. He’s made our packages better."