- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
Instead, he's turning out to be the next Bo Carroll -- an average player on on offense but a very good kick returner.
The 5-foot-11, 189-pound Debose is perhaps the Gators' most electric player with the ball in his hands and he already holds the school record with three kickoff returns for touchdowns and it's only one game into his redshirt junior season. He has two 99-yard returns, including one against Ohio State in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl to earn game MVP honors.
As a receiver, however, Debose is hit-and-miss. He has just 26 catches for 528 yards and four touchdowns in 24 career games. All four of his touchdown catches last season were 64 yards or longer, including 65-yarders in back-to-back weeks against Alabama and LSU. However, he has only had more than two catches in a game three times: Florida Atlantic and Furman in 2011 and Kentucky in 2010. He had a career-high four catches against the Wildcats.
Debose's biggest problem remains his consistency in practice. It's what Meyer said held him back from being a bigger part of the offense in 2010 and Will Muschamp has been repeating that since he took over last season. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who was hired in January, has jumped on the consistency bandwagon, too.
"He's getting better," Pease said. "You've got to be able to trust him and make sure they're accountable. He's getting there. He's definitely got the abilities and we've got to incorporate him in some things.
"... Hey, there's competition out there. It's not so much what he isn't. He better stay up with the competition of everybody else."
To be fair, Debose isn't the only receiver on the roster who has underachieved. In fact, the whole group has been so inconsistent that the Gators are giving sophomore cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy reps at receiver. Both Muschamp and Pease said that's not an indictment of the receiving corps and that the move was made to take advantage of Purifoy's speed and athleticism, but there isn't a more athletic receiver or one better with the ball on the roster than Debose.
Debose, who was not made available to the media this week, didn't catch a pass against Bowling Green, but he did have a 32-yard punt return and a 38-yard kickoff return against the Falcons. He also committed a personal-foul penalty when he hit Bowling Green punter Brian Schmiedebusch out of bounds, but it's clear that Debose's biggest value to the Gators is as a returner.
"He did a great job on special teams for us," Muschamp said. "Needs to make better judgment on the tackle out of bounds, but other than that he played very well. He played hard, played physical, played fast. Did an outstanding job. Played with urgency, played with toughness.
"There’s a reason why we named him the special teams player of the week. He deserved that. He played well in that role. He’s got to continue to expand and we’ve got to continue to expand that role with him."
Debose's career path is similar to Carroll's, although Carroll made more of an impact on offense than Debose. Carroll ran for 1,010 yards and five touchdowns and caught 26 passes for 392 yards and four touchdowns in four seasons (1997-2000) as a running back. But his biggest impact was on special teams, where he averaged 25.2 yards on 47 kickoff returns and took two back for touchdowns.
Muschamp said he isn't giving up on Debose finally working hard enough to become a consistent player the Gators can rely upon offensively.
But if it hasn't happened during Debose's three previous seasons on campus, it seems unlikely it will now. Not impossible, though. There have been players who really didn't come into their own until late in their careers -- receiver Dallas Baker, for example -- but Debose is rapidly running out of time.