For a team desperately in need of offensive playmakers, redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. and junior do-everything Trey Burton could fill a major void for the Florida Gators in 2012.
The duo combined for just 455 yards of offense and four touchdowns (all from Burton) in 2011 but have both been singled out by head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease for the positives they respectively bring to the table.
Hammond has made great strides with consistency in his performances, something Muschamp in particular has noticed as of late.
“Everyone looks at vertical plays down the field – and that’s great – but you got to be able to block. You got to be able to make the tough catches across the middle. You got to know your assignments and understand the timing and the different things in the throwing game,” he said Monday, noting that Hammond does all of those things.
“He’s a guy that’s an experienced player. He’s a guy that brings that to the table as well. I think he has really tried to step up as far as in that [wide receiver] room is concerned for some of the younger players. I think it has been really good for him and them.”
Hammond was pleased to hear that the coaching staff has noticed the one area of his game in which he worked so hard to improve in the offseason.
“It’s very good, just knowing that that’s one of the things I try to focus on, just being consistent. I don’t want to be one of those guys that is up-and-down, make a good play, make a bad play,” he said. “As a receiver you want to be consistent because you develop the trust in the quarterbacks, knowing that when they throw the ball most of the time you’re going to come down with it.”
With four months remaining in his college football career, Hammond realizes that now is the time for him to take that next step and translate his talents to the field.
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“It’s a great opportunity because I haven’t gotten those big opportunities,” he said. “This being my last shot, I definitely want to make it a good one. I’m just working hard, trying to be consistent so when the ball is thrown my way I will be able to make that play.”
Burton has another year to go after the 2012 season but is not looking to waste any time, just like he didn’t in 2010 when he was offered an opportunity to see the field as a freshman even if not as a quarterback, the position he grew up playing.
“I didn’t want to sit. I didn’t want to sit. That was the main reason. Didn’t want to sit on the bench. That is the main reason why Urban and I had that talk. I’m really happy with what I’m doing now, and I love it. I’ll just continue to do it,” he said.
What Burton is doing now is being arguably the most versatile player on offense for the Gators. He is technically listed as a running back but lines up in the backfield, on the line as a tight end, off to the side as a slot receiver and even behind center as a quarterback or in the Wildcat position.
“I’m just trying to get on the field,” he said of wearing so many hats. “I told Coach Pease, I told Urban whatever they wanted to do, just let me know and I’ll do it. It’s not really that I’m trying to find a role. I’m just trying to get on the field.”
One of the characteristics that enables Burton to succeed to this end is his intelligence, which Muschamp lauded on Monday as being a major part of what he brings to the table.
“Trey is very smart. He’s very intelligent. Football comes very easy to him. It comes easier to him than maybe others as far as just understanding concepts in the run game, concepts in the pass game, protections,” he explained. “He sees the big picture; he understands that part of it. You can verbalize an awful lot with him that maybe you can’t with other guys. He just takes to the game very well, so you’re able to put him in a lot of difference spots.”
Burton attributes having that ability to growing up playing quarterback in high school and how that position requires players to understand complete plays rather than individual running patterns or route concepts.
“I love the game. I love Xs and Os and stuff like that, so I think that’s helped me out a lot,” he said. “I got good coaching in high school when I played quarterback. My quarterback coach in high school played at Auburn, so he pretty much taught me how it was in college. He was pretty hard on me, so it helped me out a lot.
“It’s not a hassle. You might think it’s a hassle or it’s hard – I enjoy it. I don’t have to do too much extra studying because basically whenever they install a play I’m looking at it as a quarterback, going over what everybody has to do. So I learn it from the start.”
And if fans think that playing four positions is enough for Burton, they should probably think again.
“I’m trying to get on all special teams,” he said. “I really love special teams.”
Hammond and Burton are both hoping to show they are much improved from a year ago, albeit in vastly different ways. Should they succeed in their missions, Florida may be able to find the offense they have been missing and improve on consecutive rough seasons including a 2011 campaign that no one on the team wants to remember.
“That’s definitely not what we came here for, last year, to be 7-6,” Hammond said. “We want to get back on top and [we] came here to win. That’s the bottom line and that’s what we came here to do – win, win championships, get rings. That’s the standard here at the university. We definitely have a chip on our shoulder; definitely want to get those wins back under our belt like we should.”
Photo Credits: John Raoux/Associated Press, Phil Sandlin/Associated Press