One of the most mind-boggling stats involving the Florida Gators is that the program hasn’t produced a 1,000-yard receiver since Taylor Jacobs in 2002. That’s more than a decade ago. Just sit back and let that soak in for a few minutes.
To put that in a little better perspective, 2002 was the year Kelly Clarkson won the first season of American Idol. She’s now working on her seventh studio album, and the popular television series is still running strong. On a football scale, 44 receivers last season topped the 1,000-yard mark, and four of them were in the SEC.
Just think of all the great recruits to come through Florida over the years and all the solid pass-catchers. From Percy Harvin to Aaron Hernandez to Louis Murphy, none have come close to reaching the four digits. Riley Cooper has come the closet to reaching the mark, as he finished with 961 receiving yards in 2009. Heck, a Florida receiver hasn’t even cracked 600 receiving yards in the last five years.
Will this be the year Florida has an elite receiver who can take over games single-handedly?
It’s probably best to think baby steps after Florida finished last season ranked dead last in the SEC in total offense. Jeff Driskel remains a question mark at quarterback, and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is entering his first season with the club. It’s also nearly impossible to forget that the Gators have countless receivers jockeying for the position after nobody emerged as the go-to guy.
This looks like a recipe for another year added to such a bizarre streak. This has got to be a statistic that could stump the Schwab.
Ahmad Fulwood, a receiver who is fighting for a starting job this spring, recently addressed this issue to Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports:
I'm sure every team would like that (600-yard guy), but we're all right now just trying to contribute as much as possible, Fulwood said. If we have eight 300-yard receivers, that's just as good as having one 600-yard receiver.
Fullwood has got a point. After all, LSU's Jarvis Landry, Texas A&M's Mike Evans and Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews put up eye-popping receiving numbers last season, and none of those programs reached the SEC Championship Game. Meanwhile, the Missouri Tigers had three receivers with more than 600 receiving yards, and they ended up being the surprise team in the SEC.
So, maybe the 1,000-yard thing is overrated a little. Still, it’s an individual goal that’s cool to fulfil and has turned into a streak that has to be broken sooner or later, right? Florida brings in too much talent each season for such a drought.
If you’re somebody hoping this streak gets put to bed soon, you may be in luck with Roper calling the shots as offensive coordinator. Roper is a coach who works with what he has and harps on his players’ strengths over and over until the defense figures out a way to stop it.
Last season, Jamison Crowder, a Duke receiver who topped 1,000 yards, caught 108 of the team’s 298 receptions. That’s good for a little over 36 percent of the Blue Devils' passing game. In 2012, Duke had two receivers top 1,000 yards (amazing, right?), and those two guys combined for more than 45 percent of the team’s receptions.
In other words, if Florida can find that one receiver who can separate himself from the pack, there’s a good chance this statistic won’t pop up on Jeopardy.
While Andre Debose has a chance to finally thrive in his last season, the player with the best chance of becoming that true game-breaker is sophomore Demarcus Robinson. Forget last year's suspensions and the disappointment—Robinson has made the coaching staff proud during spring practice and has coach Will Muschamp bragging a little, according to a Goldkamp report:
I think he has done some fantastic things in the passing game, Muschamp said. He’s an explosive receiver. He’s a tough match one-on-one because of his size, his athleticism. He’s got really good ball skills down the field.
I think, again, sometimes (it takes) maturing a little bit. We mature at different times. I think we’ve seen some strides there.
Robinson has elite receiver written all over him. You know, the type of talent it would take to reach the 1,000-yard plateau. With his size, hands, speed and the fact he’s going up against a top tier cornerback in Vernon Hargreaves III in practice, there’s no excuse for Robinson not to blossom into an all-conference receiver.
So, when will this streak become a thing of the past? Who knows? What I do know is that Florida has easily its most talented receiver on campus since Harvin and an offensive coordinator who knows how to put guys in position to thrive.
Why not this season?