Florida Gators: Reidel Anthony

Demarcus RobinsonKim Klement/USA TODAY SportsDemarcus Robinson, who got a jump on the competition by participating in spring practice, has a steep hill to climb to make an impact as a freshman receiver at Florida.

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.

Sophomores Latroy Pittman and Raphael Andrades each caught two passes last season and were used more as blockers than receivers.

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.

Top 2013 DB enjoys visit to The Swamp 

November, 27, 2011
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- William Likely III, one of the top 2013 defensive backs in the state, visited Saturday to watch Florida State defeat Florida 21-7.

For Likely, the visit wasn’t just to watch a rivalry game, it was a chance to assess two teams that he is considering early on in the recruiting process.

“It was cool to see both teams play this rivalry game,” Likely said. “Most the guys played against each other in high school, so it was cool to see the passion from both teams.”
The Florida-Florida State game used to be one of the premier matchups in the nation - - for fans and NFL scouts.

When the in-state rivals met back in the mid 1990s, it was a showcase of NFL talent. Both teams were populated with players who would go on to be drafted. In addition to playing a role in the national championship race, the game was essentially an all-star game.

“The amount of talent on both sides of the field [was amazing],” said former Florida receiver Jacquez Green. “Any time out you could see 20, 30 guys that played in the NFL. Not just on rosters, but guys who actually played.”

Take the 1996 games, for example. FSU won the meeting in Tallahassee 24-21. Florida won the rematch - - and the national title - - in the Sugar Bowl 52-20. Forty-nine of the players on the team’s rosters in 1996 would go on to be drafted, including 14 in the first round.

Florida State had 29 players on its 1996 roster drafted, including nine in the first round. Florida had 20 drafted, including five in the first round.

Green played in those 1996 games. So did another former UF receiver, Reidel Anthony. Green was a second-round pick by Tampa Bay in 1998. The Bucs took Anthony in the first round in 1997.

“It’s hard to remember all of them [players he played with or against in the series that were drafted],” Anthony said. “There’s so many guys that played that went on to have NFL careers.

“Guys knew if they had a good game in that rivalry they were headed for the next level.”

FSU had players taken in the next five NFL Drafts (1997-2001) while Florida had players taken in the next four (1997-2000).

This year’s meeting doesn’t have the same kind of star power. According to a survey of several NFL Draft rankings and projections, there are nine players who could be drafted in the 2012 draft. None of those, however, are first-round projections.

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