Replacing Patton: Gators have upgraded receiving targets
It’s always an annual challenge trying to replace an impact player, but in the SEC, coaches are paid to recruit and develop the next standout athlete in fear of the impending hot seat should seasons turn sour.
Over a two-week period, we’ll take a look at a key player loss for each program in the conference and break down that position’s potential replacements. Rest assured, a few of these guys will be household names by season’s end.
- SOUTH CAROLINA
- OLE MISS
- TEXAS A&M
- TODAY: Florida
- Friday: Missouri
- Aug. 16: Mississippi St.
- Aug. 17: Tennessee
- Aug. 18: LSU
Solomon Patton caught eight passes in three seasons at Florida prior to last season.
Amid a tumultuous 4-8 campaign, Patton was one of the Gators’ only constants as a senior and despite defieciencies at the quarterback position, hauled in a team-best 44 receptions for 556 yards and six touchdowns.
How does Will Muschamp replace that production?
A healthy Jeff Driskel, new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and tight end transfer Jake McGee should do the trick for a passing game that’s ranked 12th and 13th in the SEC the last two years.
Early results are positive according to Florida’s best defensive player and the SEC’s top corner Vernon Hargreaves. His perspective’s intuitive since he battles back and forth daily with several projected impact wideouts including Quinton Dunbar and Ahmad Fullwood.
“Our offense is tough to defend,” Hargreaves said. “It’s fast. They’re going to take their shots down the field and you usually don’t substitute on defense so you’re coming back on defense and getting ready for the next play and they have a fresh receiver in there.”
Riley Cooper was the Gators’ last standout receiver in 2009. Before him, Percy Harvin made plays in a Tim Tebow-driven attack.
Florida’s wide receivers have been disappointing since.
“We don’t take it personally,” said sixth-year senior Andre Debose. “It’s not something we think about.”
It’ll certainly be on the position group’s minds when the Gators travel to Tuscaloosa for a Week 4 showdown with the Crimson Tide. That’s the first spotlight game during Muschamp’s fourth season where college football world will see if the offense has actually improved.
Florida’s 1-5 in its last six games against ranked teams from the SEC West and is averaging just 12.6 points per contest.