Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease met with the media 10 days before the team’s first game of the 2013 season on Aug. 31 against Toledo.
Outside of running backs and tight ends, the Gators have been searching for a set of reliable playmaking wide receivers for the last few seasons. Though he still wants to see what will happen when these players on the field, Pease said Wednesday that Florida should be able to spread the ball out more in 2013 thanks to the talent of the pass catchers on its roster.
“I feel pretty good [about them]. It’s really more centered [on] the kids that are playing wide receiver now,” he said. “Obviously we took a big loss when Jordan [Reed left for the NFL] – because he was our leading pass reception guy last year – so I think things got to become more balanced out in throwing to the wide receivers.”
Leading the pack, of course, is freshman Demarcus Robinson. Considered the most important commitment in the Gators’ 2013 recruiting class, Robinson (6-foot-2, 201 pounds) has the size, speed and athleticism to make a difference for Florida.
“I think he’s got great hands. Size-wise, he’s really what you want. And his strength that he’s got in his body. For a young kid to face as much man coverage and have to get off of that but have the body to do it, you don’t see that a lot,” Pease explained.
“Every repetition you can see him get better. The one thing he does have is, he can get knocked off at times on a reroute, but he has the ability to explode to go get a ball. So he’s got a lot of range. … I’m not pointing him out as the greatest thing on Earth yet, because he’s got to play a game, but he’s worked on his skill and understanding what his opportunity and job is on each play.”
Robinson, who Pease called “a phenomenal athlete,” is not the only wide receiver performing well during fall practice. Senior Solomon Patton, redshirt junior Quinton Dunbar and freshman Ahmad Fulwood are names that have been on the tips of the coaches’ tongues over the last two weeks.
In fact the emergence of Fulwood along with Robinson, combined with numerous injury concerns in the secondary, has kept junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy on defense and reduced the urgency to provide him with snaps on offense.
“I think he still gives us a body that’s an explosive threat. Any time you put the ball in his hands, he’s got potential to do great things with it. He’s a guy that we will still figure into the plans as we go along,” Pease said. “But now that we’ve got some kids built up with depth, built up their repetitions and shown their playmaking capability, [Purifoy is not needed as much on offense].”
In addition to the five aforementioned pass catchers, Pease also had some praise for senior Trey Burton, who has officially moved to wide receiver for his final season in orange and blue. Burton has been spending a lot of time in the slot and can be yet another reliable target for junior quarterback Jeff Driskel.
“Trey Burton is having a great camp,” he said. “We know what he can do. He’s a good athlete. He can play various roles. Just purely as a receiver, he’s gotten a lot better at understanding what his liabilities were. He’s running good routes, catching the ball, winning more in one-on-one coverage. He’s had a really good camp.”
STARTING JOB NOT IN JEOPARDY
When sophomore running back Matt Jones is cleared to play after fully recovering from his serious viral infection, he will return to his starting role with the Gators, Pease confirmed on Wednesday.
“When Matt Jones is back and ready, Matt Jones will be ready to go,” he said. “Going into this whole deal, he was a kid that we were going to lean on. I’ve always told Matt, ‘Be prepared to carry the ball a lot and do that in the fourth quarter, 24-25 or plus carries a game. And I hope you’re doing that 6-8 times in the fourth quarter or more.’ … Physically, we just got to get him into that shape.”
In the meantime, a committee of rushers led by redshirt junior Mack Brown and sophomore Mark Herndon have been filling in admirably.
“We’re preparing that if he’s not there. You deal with Mack Brown, who is an experienced guy. Probably not enough game reps, but he’s going to have to be a guy that steps in. Mark Herndon has been a kid that’s stepped in to show that he’s going to get some playing time. He’s very capable and he’s smart, I think he runs the ball well and fits into some of the things we do,” Pease said.
Also contributing is redshirt sophomore Valdez Showers, who began his career at Florida as a defensive back but was moved to the X position – also known as the “Omarius Hines role” – this fall. Pease thinks Showers will play a big role for the Gators’ offense this season.
“He played [running back] in high school and is a natural. He’s got great speed, kind of brings in that scat-back type of runner where all of a sudden you have the pounding back running it downhill, all of a sudden you spread them out and this guy is hitting creases and seams because he’s got enough foot speed,” he said.
With four veterans already set to get carries in Florida’s offense – not to mention junior fullback Hunter Joyer, who could poach some touches – Pease admitted that one of the two freshman ball carriers would likely be redshirted while the other sees relatively inconsistent action on offense.
“It’s tough to rep all those guys, but the young guys have got to continue to show their improvement in practice and consistency,” he said of Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane. “We’ve got to find a spot at least with one of them, whichever one we decide to play, which I don’t know the answer to that yet. We’re going to get them some repetitions in the game.”
» On if his play calling will change without the benefit of the reliable Caleb Sturgis: “Now you got to say to yourself, ‘I got to get one more first down.’ … Now we’re trying to get the ball down to the 25-yard line or whatever they’re comfortable with. You just got to kind of keep that in mind, not just myself as a play caller but receivers and quarterbacks, they all got to know where we need to get the ball to.”