(Andy: Edited, promoted. A good read with some good ideas. Thanks for writing it, JDUVAL911.)
I can't ever remember another Florida football team that didn't have at least one established wide receiver.
I grew up watching great Gator receivers like Willie Jackson, Ike Hilliard, Reidel Anthony and Chris Doering tear defenses apart. Florida always seemed to have somebody great at the position, from the Caldwell brothers to Dallas Baker, touchdown maker, to Riley Cooper in his last years with Tim Tebow. The Gators always had somebody the opposing defenses had to worry about.
That's why this year's team and even last year's team have been such an anomaly compared to the Gator teams of old. I mean, don't get me wrong: I'm excited about this year's team, and I think we are strides better than we were last year, but lack of depth at that position, I think, will be our undoing against the higher echelon defenses like Alabama and LSU if no one steps up.
With Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, we haven't really needed to stretch the field that much. It was kind of incredible: for the first three games or so, it was almost as if defenses were willing to let them catch the ball out of the backfield at will, instead trying to avoid giving up anything deep. I think they realized that wasn't a good idea; Demps and Rainey will turn a game into a track meet if you give up those flat patterns. Kentucky finally seemed to be the first defense that actually watched some film and they immediately took away those screeen passes. It really seemed to stifle Florida's offense for the first couple of drives. But this is where I'm a little more hopeful than I was last year: Play-calling!
Steve Addazio was an abomination as an offensive play caller, probably the worst I've ever seen, and Charlie Weis is a genius compared to Addazio. When Florida got stuffed those two drives, instead of doing the same thing over and over and hoping something would give, as was Addazio's game plan, Weis actually mixed it up, had some faith in John Brantley and dialed up an awesome play-action pass to Gerald Christian for a TD that ultimately broke the game open.
After that, UK eventually wore down, and our superior athletes began breaking away and took over the game. Against Alabama, unfortunately, we won't have that big advantage in athletic talent we enjoy against Tennessee and Kentucky. One look at Alabama's defense, and I swear they might all get drafted to the NFL after this season. They are ridiculously stout, and you can't really find a weak link.
The way South Carolina beat 'Bama last year was with a good mix of running with Marcus Lattimore and pitch and catch from Stephen Garcia to Alshon Jeffery. We don't have that established threat at WR. That's why I'm guessing for the Gators to pull this one off we're gonna need somebody, anybody to step it up. I almost lost faith in Brantley until last week when I saw him finally throw that clutch TD strike to Christian, so I know he's got it in him. And I know Weiss isnt scared to dial up a pass play.
The problem is finding a WR to throw it to: Somebody's got to step up.
To be honest, I don't even know how Deonte Thompson is allowed on the field after all the balls he's dropped in his career at Florida. I would be willing to bet if you add up all his drops, he would be the all-time leader in dropped balls at Florida. He must be a good blocker, because he's got hands like a snake.
It's not like there aren't options. Thompson, Frankie Hammond, Omarius Hines ... I mean, try throwing Andre Debose in there and letting him run some routes. (Ed.: Quinton Dunbar!) I've seen Weis dial up good passing plays this year only for Brantley to fail to deliver or a receiver to fail to get separation or catch the ball, but I'm keeping the faith. If Brantley can connect just a few times on downfield throws and keep 'Bama's defense honest, it will at least give the Gators a chance.
I definitely think having Rainey this year as opposed to only having Demps last year is going to make a difference as well. Rainey has seperated himself as the elite playmaker of the two. He will make some big plays against 'Bama, win or lose, but he's gonna need help if Florida wants to pull the upset. Watching Hines play, I really thought he was a mismatch on defense, and hopefully they can start getting him the ball a little more.
But, man: If Florida just had somebody establish himself as the go-to guy at wideout? Look out, because these Gators would be really dangerous from that point forward.