Scouting Report is a series that will run on Friday through the rest of the Florida football season, spotlighting players who could have major impacts on the Gators' games.
No player on Florida's roster did more against Alabama and LSU than Andre Debose. The sophomore wide receiver had a 65-yard touchdown catch in each game, making him the guy on the receiving end of two of the three plays of 60+ yards the two SEC titans have given up in 2011.
Will Debose help the Gators burn Furman on Saturday?
Debose stands 5'11" and weighs 191 pounds, and my I Have Stood Near This Player And He Is Actually This Tall Test might even put Debose at six feet flat. (I held the door for him at Little Express once.) That's not ideal size for a wide receiver in Charlie Weis' offense, but it's not bad, either.
Debose's size is far less important than his speed. He's listed at 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, but has been blazing fast for Florida on special teams since 2010, and used his speed to get behind the defense for his touchdown reception against Alabama. Though he's not as quick or as fluid as Percy Harvin, and might not be quite as fast, either, Debose has flashed enough dynamism to keep Gators fans' hopes of a "next Percy" year from him alive.
Oh, and there's this high school highlights video:
A hamstring injury scuttled Debose's chances to be a playmaker in his true freshman year in 2009, but didn't diminish his hype. And neither did his mere 10 catches for 96 yards in 2010, because of his proficiency as a kick returner: Debose averaged 27.95 yards per return as a redshirt freshman, and had massive return touchdowns against LSU and South Carolina in nationally televised night games. That's one way to make a lasting and positive impression on the Florida fan base.
This year, he's had less success as a returner (12 returns for 295 yards and no touchdowns), and just a bit more as a receiver: His 12 catches for 272 yards have him second on the team in receiving yardage, and his two touchdown catches ties him for the team lead in that category. (Florida's passing offense, everyone!) Debose also leads Gators with 10 or more catches in yards per reception, at 22.67 yards per catch. To put that in perspective, Debose would be second nationally in yards per catch if he qualified for the category.
Debose's inability to break into Florida's starting lineup has occasionally been linked to his inability to master the playbook; this is true of both his time under Urban Meyer and Steve Addazio and his time under Weis. But Debose likes being under the radar, so that's maybe not a bad thing?
Weird wrinkle: Florida is 0-4 in games in which Debose has scored a touchdown.
In Florida's Offense
Debose has been used primarily as a deep threat, and most effectively against Alabama and LSU on go routes that involved him using his speed to beat a defender and make a play. If that's all he's expected to do, it's a realistic expectation, but that's probably him not being fully utilized; Debose had a 14-yard catch against Georgia that was almost perfect execution of a hitch route.
Projection Vs. Furman
It's really hard to guess what a player will do against an overmatched foe, but I would be surprised if Debose didn't score a touchdown against Furman. He's going to have to be an integral part of the Florida offense next year, and this might be a good opportunity to give him some work with Jacoby Brissett and/or Jeff Driskel.