Quinton Dunbar's Emergence at WR Is Huge for Florida

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterMarch 25, 2013

Florida WR Quinton Dunbar
Florida WR Quinton DunbarSam Greenwood/Getty Images

To say that Florida's passing offense was a dud last season would be a slight understatement.

It was more like an entire Fourth of July fireworks display canceled due to rain—full of potential with no payoff.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel shoulders some of the blame for Florida's anemic 2012 passing offense, which finished last in the SEC with an average 146.3 yards per game.

But it wasn't just Driskel's fault. Florida had a noticeable lack of playmakers last season, which is one of the primary issues facing the Gators this spring.

Quinton Dunbar is doing his best to answer that question this spring for head coach Will Muschamp.

The rising junior finished last season with 36 catches for 383 yards and a team-high four touchdowns, closing out on a high note with 77 receiving yards in the Sugar Bowl.

According to the Gainesville (Fla.) Sun, he's emerged as the leader of the Gator wide receiver corps so far this spring. Said offensive coordinator Brent Pease:

I'm really proud of that kid. He has come along so far attitude-wise, accountability, his work ethic on the field, and it's really starting to show up. He just does things right. He can play a bunch of positions now. So I'm proud of him and I think it's going to carry over to reach the goals that he's setting for himself.

What exactly does that mean? 

Considering the bar isn't really that high, and Florida only has four healthy scholarship wide receivers this spring (five if you count CB/WR Loucheiz Purifoy), it's certainly subjective.

If Dunbar is able to emerge as a legitimate downfield weapon, he could be the missing piece of Florida's passing-game puzzle. The 6'1", 190-pounder from Miami has the size and speed to be a legitimate weapon in the SEC, and recognizes that he has to step up and be a leader.

“They (coaches) want me to be that guy,” Dunbar told the Gainesville Sun. “They want me to be the leader of the group and they want me to lead by example. So I'm looking forward to taking on that role.”

The Gators finished last season last in the SEC with just 72 passing plays of 10 or more yards—39 percent of their passing attempts. With that absence of a downfield threat, it's a wonder that former running back Mike Gillislee topped the 1,000-yard mark—much less rushed for 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Driskel is going to improve this offseason—his first as the unquestioned starter at quarterback. During the regular season, practices are more focused on game-planning than anything else. But in the spring it's all about improvement, and developing that chemistry with his playmakers at wide receiver is key.

Dunbar appears to be that guy for now, and if he can step up and act like a No. 1 wide receiver, it will go a long way toward Florida taking that next step and winning the SEC East for the first time since 2009.