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Saturday, April 20, 2024

No. 5: How will UF compensate for the loss of Harvin's playmaking ability?

Percy Harvin was a one-of-a-kind player during his college career.

Whether coming out of the backfield or stretching the field as a receiver, Harvin was an electrifying playmaker and good for a touchdown per game.

With Harvin sporting the Minnesota Vikings' purple and gold instead of orange and blue this fall, UF must answer one of the only questions facing the offense this year: How will the Gators replace Harvin?

While no single player has shown the skill set Harvin possessed, UF has plenty of options to attempt to fill his production by committee. At running back, Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey will likely see expanded roles after last year, and freshman wideout Andre Debose will join returning receivers Deonte Thompson, David Nelson and Carl Moore.

Demps and Rainey averaged an identical 7.8 yards per carry in 2008 while rushing for more than 600 yards each. Much like Harvin, the two running backs share a quick running style and an ability to break open a play.

Despite playing in only 12 of 14 games in 2008 and getting fewer carries than either Demps or Rainey, Harvin finished the year first on the team in yards per carry (9.4) and second in rushing yards (660) and touchdowns (10) - Tim Tebow finished on top in both.

Harvin's numbers were outstanding, but his greatest strength was how difficult he made defensive coordinators' preparations each week. As dangerous as he was out of the backfield, he was just as much of a threat lined up as a receiver.

Unless Demps or Rainey develops that sort of versatility, the largely unproven group of receivers will be charged with compensating for the loss of Harvin and the graduated Louis Murphy.

Debose has been hyped as having the requisite skills to replace Harvin, but as a freshman those expectations may be unfairly high. In addition, he and the receiving corps will first have to prove themselves before even being considered as Harvin's heir apparents.

The Gators have the talent at both positions to at least replace Harvin's numbers, but the real issue will be replacing Harvin's versatility and playmaking ability.

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