“It’s not, ‘Add water, instant player,’” is one of Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp’s favorite lines, something he often says when discussing how far most freshmen normally need to come from a development perspective before being capable of stepping onto a college football field.
Florida’s five-player freshman wide receiver class is apparently no exception to Muschamp’s slogan. At least not this season.
Despite the Gators being in desperate need of serious playmaking talent along the outside, the team has gotten very little out of some of its youngest wideouts.
Only three of the five have played this season with those that have totaling 18 receptions, 128 yards and one touchdown through 10 games.
“Everybody hears about how these kids are graded out in recruiting and everything is pretty at that time. But when you get in the game going against corners that are experienced in this league and defenses that are big and fast, you get lost sometimes in coverage,” explained offensive coordinator Brent Pease on Tuesday.
“You just got to compete. You’ve got to play faster … until you really have the strength to dominate somebody.”
Ahmad Fulwood, a four-star prospect out of Jacksonville, FL, is leading the charge with 11 receptions for 92 yards and the score, an impressive grab that came to Saturdays ago in Florida’s loss to Vanderbilt.
“Ahmad has come on and put himself into the rotation and done a good job,” Pease said. “What I see from him is he’s finally catching up to the speed of the game and gotten more consistent catching.”
Not having seen the field until that Vanderbilt game, Gainesville, FL native Chris Thompson, a three-star recruit offered late in the cycle, has only played sparingly but is nevertheless earning some praise of his own.
“I think Chris Thompson, you know, he’s not on the field as much but what he’s doing in practice and how he’s playing the game now is good,” Pease said. “He’s improved, and it’s hard to kind of replace Solo in there at times, but [I’m] happy with what Chris is doing. He’s catching the ball well. He’s running well, playing fast and you can see some explosiveness.”
Unfortunately for the Gators, Demarcus Robinson, a highly-regarded four-star prospect from Fort Valley, GA who was termed by many to be Florida’s most important 2013 recruit, has underwhelmed in a major way.
He has only held onto five balls for 23 total yards on the season, and Pease did not mince words when providing his evaluation of Robinson.
“Demarcus is inconsistent,” he said. “It’s just a situation where he’s got to continue to improve and get comfortable and understand what he’s being taught fundamentally.”
Alvin Bailey and Marqui Hawkins are both developmental players heading for redshrits, guys that Pease hopes can contribute for the Gators as soon as next season. Also still trying to figure things out is redshirt freshman Latroy Pittman, a member of the Class of 2012 who was suspended the first three games of the season and only has one reception on the year.
“When he’s been in there he’s done a good, consistent job. He’s starting to play the game faster. I think he’s just playing with more confidence, so it’s a matter of getting him in in those situations,” said Pease of Pittman. “I think he’s got a higher ceiling. I don’t think he’s reached it by any means. I think he’s got a long ways to go with consistency and being able to play.”
Where Pease said the younger players have helped the most is in pushing some of the upperclassmen to be more consistent and hold onto their jobs. But he also echoed Muschamp in that freshmen wideouts are often developmental players and most of them simply do not contribute as much as one would hope early in their careers.
“You know, as a receiver, it’s easy to understand what you have to do. Then the part where you got to become better is if coverages are changing on you,” he explained.
“It’s just not run this route, because sometimes you run through zones, you’re going to get nailed. You need to know if it’s man, how you stem your routes, how you break your routes, where the windows are, who you’re beating. So you’ve got to understand the other side of the game as much as what your assignment is.”