By all accounts, redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose was in the midst of turning his college career around, becoming a more dedicated and harder working member of the Florida Gators football program throughout the offseason.
Unfortunately for Debose, he will not be able to showcase that newfound intensity this season as the school announced Wednesday afternoon that a knee injury he suffered in practice on Tuesday has been diagnosed as a torn anterior cruciate ligament, an impairment that will sideline him for the entire 2013 campaign.
“I know that Andre is disappointed,” said Florida head coach Will Muschamp in a school release. “He had been doing very well in camp and we were more than pleased with his effort and attitude. Andre was hurt in a non-contact situation. He just planted his foot and there was a tear.
“He will have surgery after the swelling goes down. It is unfortunate and you feel bad anytime that someone is injured, and the coaching staff and our team will be very supportive in assisting Andre during his recovery.”
When Debose goes under the knife, it will be his second time doing so while wearing orange and blue. As a freshman in 2009, he had season-ending surgery in the form of a graft on his biceps femoris, a muscle that connects the knee and hamstring. The procedure was required after an injury he suffered in high school failed to heal before the start of his college career.
Expected to be a dominant play-making receiver for the Gators, Debose has only hauled in 29 balls and totaled 543 yards of offense in three years. He struggled to get on the field as a redshirt freshman in 2010 but stepped up and made a dent for Florida with a pair of 75-yard touchdown receptions in 2011. Debose finished the campaign with career-highs of 432 yards and four touchdowns.
Entering his redshirt junior season in 2012, Debose once again fell out of the coaching staff’s good graces due to his questionable work ethic and barely saw the field on offense, catching just three passes for 15 yards on the year.
“I really don’t want to talk about last year,” he said last Thursday at UF’s media day before noting that he has finally turned the corner on his career.
“I could have done a lot more stuff outside of the building rather than just doing it inside the stadium. It took me a while to realize you’ve got to do more than what the coaches expect you to be,” he added.
Where Debose has made his greatest impact for the Gators is on special teams. He’s averaged 27.4 yards per kickoff return over the last three seasons, racking up 1,592 total yards and a school-record four touchdown returns. His return average is a school record high and second-best in Southeastern Conference history, while the four return touchdowns tie him with three others for an SEC record.
He was expected to retain to his role as starting kick returner in 2013, but his coaches and teammates also had high hopes for him at wide receiver where his routes had become crisper and his attention to detail much greater.
Muschamp noted Monday that Debose was competing to be a starter at wideout.
“I think Andre, based on the offseason, he had a really good spring. He didn’t miss a practice in the spring,” he said before fall practice began. “I’m excited about him going into his senior year and understanding what he has at stake. He’s a senior, and some of us mature quicker than others at times. Again, I’m excited about his senior year.”
Added junior starting quarterback Jeff Driskel: “He knows this is his last go-round. He knows that. I’ve talked to him about that. I’m really excited for him. He has put in a lot of work. I think his attitude’s really changed. He’s having a better outlook on everything. He realizes this is his last chance, so he’s gotta make it count. I definitely see some improvement on that end.”
Redshirt junior WR Quinton Dunbar said Tuesday that Debose was “having an outstanding camp,” and offensive coordinator Brent Pease added Wednesday that Debose has “done a great job” in practice up to this point.
Junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy also noted Tuesday that Debose has stepped up to the challenge presented to him by the coaches this year.
Where Debose goes from here remains to be seen.
Should he wish to continue playing college football, he would likely have to request a second medical redshirt and sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA. But for a former five-star prospect who thought 2013 was his last chance to prove that he could play professionally, there are more questions than answers at this point.
Photo Credit: The Gainesville Sun