- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- One of the main reasons Florida's passing offense has struggled since 2009 is the lack of production -- or a playmaker -- at receiver.
If the Gators' 2013 passing offense is going to be better than the unit that ranked 114th nationally last season, the receivers must be significantly better. Redshirt junior Quinton Dunbar, redshirt senior Andre Debose, and senior Trey Burton are the most experienced receivers and should be UF's go-to playmakers, but each have limitations.
Dunbar has 50 career catches, but he hasn't developed into the downfield threat the Gators have needed. Debose (29 career catches) has been that at times, but his career has been marred by inconsistency and work-ethic issues. Burton (69 career catches) has so many roles that it's hard for him to excel at one, and he's more of a short-yardage, possession receiver.
That means UF will be depending on two or more of the five signees to make a substantial impact. Demarcus Robinson is the most likely, as he enrolled in January and participated in spring practice. But either Ahmad Fulwood, Alvin Bailey, Marqui Hawkins or Chris Thompson will have to produce, too.
But even having only one of those freshmen become a reliable and productive part of the offense might be asking too much. It's hard for true freshman receivers to make an impact -- as the past 23 years have shown.
Florida hasn't had much luck with freshman receivers, especially when it comes to being anything more than someone who gets mop-up work.
The Gators have signed 61 receivers from 1990-2012, but only 20 played as true freshmen -- and only 19 caught passes. Of those 19, only four caught more than seven passes: Reidel Anthony, Ike Hilliard, Andre Caldwell and Percy Harvin. Anthony, Hilliard and Harvin all became first-round NFL draft picks and Caldwell was a third-round pick.
Here's more proof that it takes an especially gifted player to make an impact as a freshman: Twelve the 16 receivers who played as true freshmen from 1990-2009 went on to become draft picks.
Is there an incoming receiver who can make an impact in 2013? There's no way to know right now until September, but based on the last two-plus decades, it's unlikely.