Rated as a five-star recruit by various recruiting services coming out of Seminole High School, Debose was expected to be the next great weapon in then head coach Urban Meyer’s spread offense. There were times when he was hailed as the next Percy Harvin, giving Gator fans glimpses of his potential playmaking ability.
For instance, in a game against South Carolina in 2010 he returned four kickoffs for 159 yards and a touchdown. Then in back-to-back games in 2011 against No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 LSU he combined for three catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns. However, he has never been able to put it together over a complete season, disappearing for long stretches at a time to the point where some may not have even known he was still on the team in 2012, when he had a career-low three receptions for just 15 yards.
So the question now becomes, as a fifth-year senior, will this finally be the year Debose can put it all together and become the playmaking threat he was envisioned to be when he committed to UF?
There is no question that the Gators are desperate for someone with the ability to make plays, especially at the receiver position. Last season’s leading receiver, tight end Jordan Reed, has gone on to the NFL. Senior Quinton Dunbar returns as the team’s No. 1 wideout, but he has always been more of a possession receiver. After Dunbar, things are a bit uncertain, with almost any receiver on the roster having a chance to emerge, including Debose.
Sophomore Latroy Pittman won the job opposite Dunbar following spring practice, with Debose listed as his backup. The Gators also added four wide receivers in the 2013 recruiting class, so the competition for playing time will intensify in the fall.
Another factor in Debose’s ability to emerge or not could be that there finally seems to be some stability at the quarterback position for the Gators. Think about it. Since Debose took his redshirt season in 2009, when Tim Tebow was in his final year, the Gators have played a mix of John Brantley, Trey Burton, Jordan Reed, Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. It would be hard for any receiver to be successful when they don’t know who was going to be throwing them the ball week in and week out. Entering the 2013 season, Driskel is clearly the starting quarterback, and with expected improvement in his play, the play of the receivers should improve as well.
With the added competition and the lack of consistent play throughout his career, the best case scenario for Debose appears to be as the team’s third or fourth receiver, as well as serving as the team’s primary kick returner, where he has thrived throughout his career.
Debose may never live up to the Percy Harvin comparisons that followed him coming out of high school, but if he can provide the Gator’s passing game with any semblance of the big-play jolt it desperately needs and continue to impress as a kick returner, where he is one of the best in the history of the SEC, then his career may be considered a success.
As always, Debose certainly has the potential to breakout this fall, but whether he actually does; well we’ll just have to wait and see.