Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Quinton Dunbar is finally starting to catch on with the Gators. After two years as little more than a spring-practice standout, Dunbar is second on the team with 10 receptions so far in 2012.
He caught a 19-yard touchdown in double coverage against Kentucky on Saturday and has become a more complete receiver this season.
“He’s smiling (and) having fun,” Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. “He’s making plays on third down (and) makes blocks. He’s out there to compete. He caught a touchdown pass. Any time you catch a touchdown pass, I’m sure you’re happy about that.”
Dunbar entered his redshirt freshman season with coaches and teammates raving about his ability. Unfortunately for the Gators, Dunbar’s size and speed didn’t translate into success on the field.
Dunbar had more than two receptions only once in 2011 — against Florida State on Nov. 26. He made his two touchdown catches in the final two games of the regular season.
In four straight games against Kentucky, Alabama, LSU and Auburn, he failed to record a catch.
At 6 feet, 1 inch and 189 pounds, Dunbar is Florida’s tallest wide receiver to record a catch this season.
He has three catches in three of Florida’s four games and has 26 more yards than he had at this point last season.
“He’s getting a good feel,” Pease said. “And the thing about it is when that happens, with guys as young as they are, their personalities start to [come out]. When they have fun, but they’re still competing, you can see that that stuff carries over. When you’re not having fun and it’s not working, you’re probably not going to be doing it on Saturdays.”
Man down, man up: For linebacker Mike Taylor, more playing time means greater responsibility.
Taylor, a sophomore, has played more snaps since Jelani Jenkins suffered a broken right thumb against Texas A&M on Sept. 8. He recorded Florida’s lone interception by a linebacker this season against Kentucky with less than a minute remaining in the first half.
Against the Aggies, Taylor sacked quarterback Johnny Manziel on the Gators’ 41 for a loss of nine yards, pushing Texas A&M out of field goal position with 20 seconds remaining before halftime. Florida won the game 20-17.
Taylor, along with sophomore cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy, has impressed Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn with his ability to handle increased snaps.
“That’s an important thing that can’t be overlooked,” Quinn said. “I’m not going to let my other guys down here. I’m going to do it right and be on top of things.”
Two backs are better than one: When UF faces LSU on Oct. 6, the Tigers will do something the Gators haven’t seen much of this season.
Florida’s previous four opponents ran either a spread offense or used mostly a one-back system.
The Tigers’ offense typically has a fullback accompanying a running back.
Quinn said that the Gators expect to see a two-back backfield substantially more against LSU than they have this season.
“(They are) certainly more traditional in the approach in the way they run the ball at LSU,” he said. “It has been unusual in the first couple ball games in SEC play of not seeing as much two-back, downhill run that this conference is certainly known for.”
Kenny Hilliard, Alfred Blue, Michael Ford and Spencer Ware help make up the Southeastern Conference’s second-ranked rushing offense. The four have gained a combined 889 rushing yards in 2012.
With a two-back system, Florida can play more of its base defensive package instead of worrying about four-wide-receiver sets and a scrambling quarterback.
“It gives you an opportunity to go back and play some more of our traditional three-linebacker, four-down fronts,” Quinn said. “It’s been a higher percentage of practice snaps in our nickel and dime packages.”
Contact Adam Pincus at [email protected].