After Joker Phillips Departure, Pressure Is on Chris Leak at Florida

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After Joker Phillips Departure, Pressure Is on Chris Leak at Florida
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All most of us know at the moment is that Joker Phillips is no longer Florida's wide receivers coach, and Chris Leak is. 

On Wednesday, Phillips abruptly stepped down from his position after one-and-a-half years in Gainesville, citing "personal reasons.

However, ESPN's Brett McMurphy later reported that Phillips resigned because of possible recruiting violations. Footballscoop.com tweeted that the possible violation was a bump, which is nothing more than impermissible contact between a coach and a player during non-contact periods. It is considered a relatively minor violation. 

None of this really adds up. The only thing that can be said definitively is that Leak, the former Gators quarterback who won a national championship in 2006-07, is taking over an important position for Florida. In way, he's almost as important as first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. 

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Florida is not void of talent at wide receiver, but it is one of the weaker links for the offense transitioning into the 2014 season. The Gators finished 12th in the SEC in passing offense and their receivers hauled in just 11 touchdowns. That's not entirely on the receivers—the quarterback position was a revolving door—but there wasn't much help on the outside, either. 

Quinton Dunbar returns after catching 39 passes a year ago, but he didn't have a single touchdown. Andre Debose has had a lengthy career derailed by injuries and he's never quite fit in with previous offensive schemes. Demarcus Robinson was a 4-star receiver coming out of high school and saw the field as a freshman—but caught just six passes. 

On one hand, Leak has plenty to work with. On the other, he has a lot to work on. Until Florida gets inside the 5-yard line, that is.

Jokes aside, ESPN's Edward Aschoff thinks Leak is up to the challenge, citing former quarterbacks Tee Martin (Tennessee) Dameyune Craig (Auburn) who have successfully transitioned to wide receiver coaches. 

Leak's work will be on full display as more receivers should see the field this season in Roper's up-tempo offense. That places more importance on their development this offseason, as Roper explained to Bruce Feldman, previously of CBSSports.com, in April: 

We're talented at receiver. We 've got some guys that can run and make plays. We've just got to keep throwing and catching. For so long here they were in two-backs and a tight end, and all they would play was two wide receivers. We just need a ton of throwing and catching together. They haven't played in these formations as much as we're using them.  

When head coach Will Muschamp hired Roper away from Duke, it showed he was committed to turning the offense around in a hurry. After all, his job may depend on it.

The Gators ranked at or near the bottom of the SEC in major offensive categories. Injuries were a major issue for the entire team, but if the offense had been so much as serviceable, Florida likely would have been bowling instead of sitting with a 4-8 record. 

Clearly, Roper has a big job a head of him. But so does Leak, who has only served as a graduate assistant to this point. 

Like the rest of the Gators coaching staff, Leak will have to produce results quickly.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com

 

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