Quinton Dunbar was singled out by players and coaches barely a week into spring practice for making an impact. At 6-1, he provides height at receiver that isn’t plentiful on the Florida roster. He knows how to get open and provides a deep threat to the offense.
He showed those skills last fall during practice, but he was redshirted and didn’t see the field. Now the new coaching staff has even expressed their surprise with his move up the depth chart.
“Weis is always messing with me because when I first started (this spring), I was probably seventh on the depth chart,” Dunbar said. “Each and every day I just got better.”
Dunbar wasn’t the only receiver to improve throughout the spring. He feels like the entire position did. They played slow at the beginning of practice as the players tried to learn the new offense and get used to a new position coach in Aubrey Hill.
As the spring continued, the wide receivers played faster and weren’t think too much. The offense became second nature, allowing the wide receivers to play without being weighed down and afraid to make mistakes.
“We came out every day and worked hard every day,” Dunbar said. “We’ve gotten a lot better at our routes and a lot better at catching. At first, there were a lot of balls dropped, but as we gradually went through the spring, it got better.”
The coaches tried to single out Dunbar’s progress by calling a deep ball to him on the first play of the spring game. Quarterback John Brantley threw a catchable ball that both Dunbar and Muschamp agreed should have been caught, but cornerback Cody Riggs was also close by.
“He called the play and I was excited about it,” Dunbar said. “Cody Riggs just made a great play on the ball.”
He was thrown to three more times during the game, ending with two catches for 21 yards. His longest catch came on a 16-yard reception from freshman Jeff Driskel that found Dunbar weaving his way through traffic and carrying defenders on his back for extra yardage.
“I feel like I played alright, but I can be better,” Dunbar said. “I showed my speed, length and ability to make plays and make tough catches.”
Despite a few standout plays, the offense struggled all day Saturday. It didn’t matter what quarterback, unit or play-call happened on the field, the offense looked out of sorts throughout the entire game.
The players didn’t look to be on the same page on the field, but after the game, all of their answers for what went wrong were along the same line. They agreed the offense looked much better during practice, and Saturday’s performance likely came from pressing and trying too hard to make a play.
“This was a down day,” Dunbar said. “I’ve seen our offense clicking real good during the spring, but this was a downfall. That’s why coach always talks about consistency. Everybody was just trying to make plays today, and we were a little anxious to show The Gator Nation what we have. That probably could’ve been a problem.”
Now the team heads into a period of time that Muschamp deemed as the most important. In the summer, the coaches can’t be on players’ backs to remind them to study their playbooks or to get on the field to work on timing. The coaches will be on the road recruiting, and the players will be on their own for more time.
This is where the team will decide how good it wants to be in the fall.
“It’s most definitely important,” Dunbar said. “We can’t have that happen during the season or we’ll lose. During the spring, we connected a lot on the deep balls. Some days you just have those off days, so we’ll just continue to get better.”
The game also served as Muschamp’s debut in The Swamp. Many players were admittedly nervous about a coaching transition, but Dunbar says it couldn’t have gone over better. The players have gravitated to Muschamp, and it’s not tough to see why he has been labeled in the past as a coach that players enjoy playing for.
“Will reminds me of Urbs so much,” Dunbar said. “It’s almost like Urbs never left. (Muschamp) is emotional. He does a lot of stuff with us. He works out with us sometimes, and that just makes us comfortable around him.”
When Muschamp and Dunbar are doing the same workout, there’s no question who lifts more. It’s the head coach.
“Oh yeah,” Dunbar said, shaking his head without hesitation.