GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Receiver Andre Debose has made little impact on the field through Florida’s first four games, and Florida coach Will Muschamp said he and offensive coordinator Brent Pease deserve some of the blame.
Neither has been able to figure out the way to motivate Debose to consistently work hard in practice. They can’t get him to realize that he could become one of the most dangerous players in the Southeastern Conference -- and possibly the nation -- if he would only put in the work.
"There’s a key to every kid, and we’ve got to find that key to motivate any young man, not just Andre (to) day in, day out, to consistently perform well, to consistently do it the right way," Muschamp said. "Generally your practice habits carry over to the game. I’m young but I’m old-fashioned. I believe that. Guys that don’t go out and consistently perform well in practice, it generally carries over to the game.
"As coaches, we want guys that consistently do it well and do it right. We promote that within our program. We’re going to practice what we preach around here to our football team."
Debose’s role has steadily decreased as the season has progressed. He touched the ball just twice against Kentucky, returning two punts for 8 yards. He wasn’t on the field for the opening kickoff (Solomon Patton replaced him) and he didn’t return punts in the first half (Marcus Roberson lined up there).
The 5-foot-11, 186-pound redshirt junior has touched the ball 15 times in UF’s first four games. He’s averaging 24.2 yards on six kickoff returns and 9.6 yards on seven punt returns. But he has touched the ball just twice on offense, and both came against Tennessee. Debose fumbled a handoff from Matt Jones on a reverse and lost 7 yards and also had an 8-yard run in the second quarter.
He hasn’t caught a pass. Last season he caught 16 passes for 432 yards and four touchdowns -- all of which were from 64 yards or longer.
Muschamp said Debose understands the offense and could be a bigger part if he would just give a consistent effort. He shouldn’t feel bad that he hasn’t been able to reach him. The quest to motivate Debose spans three-plus seasons and two coaching staffs. Urban Meyer, Steve Addazio and Zach Azzanni couldn’t reach him as a redshirt freshman in 2010. Aubrey Hill failed in 2011 and Bush Hamdan -- a GA who became the receivers coach when Hill resigned in early August -- obviously isn’t faring much better.
"When young guys come in, it’s very difficult," Muschamp said. "In most situations -- not all -- they have not been asked to work hard because they have not had to. They’ve been so much better. They’ve been the big fish in the little pond. Their raw athleticism was so much better than the other guy that it didn’t really matter. Well, now all of a sudden they’re swimming in a big lake. They have to figure out the other guy is running well, too. The little things matter. How you run the route. How you cover the guy, you hand placement, your pad level.
"All those things do matter, and working hard all the time (does) matter, and you can’t have a mental lapse as far as your work ethic, concentration and focus."