If the Florida Gators are going to improve on last year’s efforts, somebody is bound to be the X-factor. One guy is going to come out of nowhere and provide a bigger impact than anybody expected.
That guy is likely to be wide receiver Andre Debose. Gosh, I feel like I’ve been saying that for the last decade. It wasn’t last season, or the year before, or the year before that. This will be the season one of the Gators' most highly recruited players finally lives up to his potential.
It just wouldn’t be the storybook ending that the sports world loves if it wasn’t.
While Debose has been a consistent special teams player and holds a school record with four touchdown returns, he has just 29 receptions, 543 yards and four receiving touchdowns in his career.
Debose has gone two of his three seasons with less than 100 receiving yards and zero touchdowns. That’s right, remove that 2011 season, and Debose has found the end zone as many times as you and myself.
But his sophomore season provides hope for this year, as Charlie Weis was calling the shots that season. While everybody has their own opinion on the coach who has been with five different teams since 2000, there’s no denying that he is a creative play-caller and knows how to put his players in position to succeed.
Florida had the fifth-best passing offense in the SEC in 2011, a mark that has gone downhill ever since he left.
Certainly, there are a lot more factors for why the Gators struggle mightily on the offensive end, but a lot of these issues can be fixed with an innovative coach who can take advantage of the strengths of his team.
While Brent Pease clearly wasn’t that guy, current offensive coordinator Kurt Roper appears to be—you average more than 425 yards of offense with Duke athletes, you have something pretty special going on.
Besides Jamison Crowder, who caught 108 passes last season for Duke, Florida has better all-around players with better skill sets. The scary part is that Crowder plays a similar game to Debose. He's not the biggest player in the world, but he's extremely fast and a nightmare in space.
Maybe you folks forgot:
Debose can not only strike at a moment’s notice, but he can turn a short pass into a long play if the defense isn’t careful. In 2011, six of Debose’s 16 receptions produced 25 or more yards. That's one more than Solomon Patton, and he led the Gators last season with 44 receptions.
Assuming he’s healthy from last season’s ACL injury, Debose can be the difference-maker on the offensive end that the Gators lacked a year ago.
Debose is one of the most experienced receivers on the roster, and you’d be wise to put your money on him being the fastest. He can stretch the field, draw the high safety’s attention on every play and help create for others. So, even when he isn’t making plays himself, he’s helping the offense.
Florida fans have waited years for Debose to have a breakout season. The time has finally come.