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April 16, 2014
Spring Recap: The Pass Catchers
SPRING BALL: O&B Debut: Breakdown II | O&B Debut: Breakdown I | Take 5 | Spring Practice Central
With spring camp over, Inside the Gators is taking an all-encompassing look at the Gators after 15 practices by breaking down each position. Today, we take an in-depth look at the wide receivers and tight ends.
OVERVIEW: It's not just a spring talking point. This is the most loaded Florida has been at wide receiver in years, easily the most loaded it has been since the "Will Muschamp Era" began in 2011. The Gators have nine wide receivers on scholarship, seven - if you include Andre Debose - that Muschamp and Kurt Roper believe they can trust to hold significant roles going into the fall.
Of those seven, five we're at least four-star prospects and members of the Rivals250 coming out of high school. Substantial talent has been compiled at the position and it is now time for that gathering to turn into production.
Florida's six active wide receivers who got regular repetitions showed the kind of balance the Gators have at the position. Quinton Dunbar is a reliable target who spent the spring finding ways to work one of the best cornerbacks in the Southeastern Conference in Vernon Hargreaves III. Ahmad Fulwood is incredibly similar to Dunbar, except with better upside. Demarcus Robinson is the best athlete on Florida's offense and showed the ability to be a big-play type throughout spring.
There are multiple options in the slot and a slew of targets for Jeff Driskel. In addition, Florida has essentially gotten rid of the traditional tight end position with the implementation of Roper's offense. Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook are still plenty involved in the offense but in a much different capacity as part of the hybrid "B" position that has merged fullbacks, tight ends and larger running backs.
Driskel called the tight ends a pleasant surprise of the spring. They're hardly a finished product, but it wouldn't take much to improve upon 2013 at the position.
THE STANDOUT: Florida's new offense is all about getting the ball in space to receivers and letting them do the rest. No one showed a better ability to make things happen with the ball in his hands throughout spring than Robinson. His 31-yard touchdown catch and run in the spring game was just a sampling of the kind of plays he made all spring. Robinson did not leave spring as a starting lineup guy but that has more to do with the reliability of Dunbar and Fulwood than anything else. The twice-suspended sophomore still has to prove he has grown up.
THE SURPRISE: Latroy Pittman seemed lost in more way than one less than a year ago. He was a non-factor at his position and his season started with a multi-game suspension. When a new offensive coordinator comes into play, there is usually at least one player who gets a much-welcomed fresh start. That has been Pittman under Roper. The junior has found a role working at slot receiver and appears to be the starter at the position coming out of spring. He has the combination of moves and toughness over the middle to be a fit.
DISAPPOINTING: There was certainly progress at tight end, but the Gators left spring still searching for someone who can truly embrace the "B" position and create a unique matchup advantage. Freshman DeAndre Goolsby has the ceiling to do that at some point during his UF career, but it is highly unlikely he will be ready for such a role in 2014. Burton and Westbrook have come along but there's only so much room for them to grow from failed defensive ends to capable pass-catchers. The interesting dynamic will be whether or not Matt Jones can fit into the role once he returns this summer and in fall camp.