Florida’s wide receiving corps was arguably the weakest position on the entire Gator football team last season.
They finished 2013 ranked 116th in pass yards per completion — a statistic that can be attributed to the instability at quarterback — but a glaring number nonetheless. Pair that with a recent coaching staff change due to alleged recruiting violations committed by Joker Phillips, new wide receivers coach Chris Leak has some development to get out of his wideouts.
This season, Florida has a talented crop of receivers that can make plays in space — one of the core objectives of Kurt Roper’s new offense. AlligatorSports breaks down the position depth and projects the starters to find out who just might take everyone by surprise this year.
Redshirt senior Quinton Dunbar, barring injury, will start in 2014. Entering the year as a senior, he has started in 25 games and has seen action in 38.
You can check experience off the list for Dunbar, but his upside doesn’t stop there. Dunbar was the team leader in yards per reception last season, averaging 14 yards per catch. A lot of that yardage was gained after the catch — some of Dunbar’s greatest plays last year came on second efforts to gain yardage off of one-on-one match ups. Dunbar will have to take on the leadership role for the unit this season.
Two players who had pleasantly surprising springs were Latroy Pittman, Jr. and Valdez Showers. Combined, the two have seen action in just 41 games, but they have the skillset to be valuable options for quarterback Jeff Driskel. Showers, a versatile athlete, played corner and running back in high school.
He was on the running back depth chart last season, but moved to wideout this spring, where he performed well for his first time at the position. Showers showed good speed and emerged as a consistent target during practices.
Pittman saw a lot of action as a true freshman in 2012, where he played in all but one game, and earned a start on the road against Vanderbilt. His sophomore year he filled a backup receiver role, getting just nine games of playing time.
He has just four catches in his career but will see those numbers increase if he picks up where he left off from spring. Pittman and Showers are each expected to fight for the No. 2 receiver spot coming into fall camp.
Sophomore Demarcus Robinson should be able to secure the third receiver spot, and he will be the unit’s x-factor this season — if he can keep himself out of trouble.
Robinson was suspended twice during his true freshman season, and as a result saw action in just seven games.
The Gators are hoping the benchings helped give him some maturity, as he proved to be an explosive target throughout spring. Robinson caught a 31 yard touchdown pass in the Orange and Blue Debut as well.
If Robinson can keep himself on the field, he is primed for a breakout season in 2014.
Redshirt senior Andre Debose was granted a sixth year of eligibility in March, but did not participate in full contact this spring, as he was still rehabbing a torn ACL that kept him off the field entirely in 2013.
He has shown flashes of potential at wide receiver, but has yet to live up to his No. 2 overall ranking he was given in the 2009 recruiting class.
UF is hoping 2014 is the year Debose gets somewhere close to his admittedly lofty expectations.
Ahmad Fulwood, Chris Thompson and Raphael Andrades will likely get reps this season as well. With a unit as deep as Florida’s there are plenty of catches to go around.
Moral Stephens, C.J. Worton and Ryan Sousa round out the 2014 signees. Given the depth Florida has at receiver, all three could end up redshirting, but Sousa’s size (6-foot, 189 pounds) might give him the edge to see action early.
Follow Morgan Moriarty on Twitter @Morgan_Moriarty