Deonte Thompson has been in line as "the next great Florida receiver" for three years since signing as one of the nation's top recruits in 2007, and still carries the prospective title after bringing in a grand total of 42 catches over the last two years, with seven touchdowns. Not bad, but bound to improve, from Deonte's perspective, what with a real quarterback in charge:
"Lot of things didn’t go the way as planned," Thompson said [after Monday's practice]. "Things are going to get better here in the future. Any receiver would be happy. You have a guy like [John] Brantley throwing the ball, spreading it around to everybody."
New quarterback John Brantley is what Thompson calls a "pure passer," which makes him happy. The two have connected on thousands of passes the last three years in practice, Thompson said.
"You never know with Tim [Tebow]," Thompson said. "You can bolt, you think he's running but he'll come up and pass it to you. You just have to be ready at all times. With Brantley, everything's with rhythm, time. You know what I mean, a real quarterback."
How freeing it must be for a talented young receiver to finally be liberated from the burden of a fake quarterback, one who merely ended last season as the most efficient passer in the country, completed more than two-thirds of his passes for his career, finished among the top four QBs nationally in both efficiency and yards per attempt three years running and led the top-ranked offense in the SEC all three years. (Along with, you know, the national championship and the whole Heisman thing.) It's about time things got real for the Gators at quarterback.
In Thompson's defense, we'll say he chose his words poorly, since -- as the NFL scouts have reminded us ad nauseum lately -- Tebow is hardly above reproach, and Thompson is the living emblem of Tebow's greatest failings at the position. Thompson may have been listening to a few too many of the daily hits on his former QB's prospects as a pro passer over the last few months. But his own indirect Todd McShay routine likely stems from his role as the third or fourth option in a system that rarely made it that far down the progression -- top targets Riley Cooper and Aaron Hernandez combined for 119 catches, almost half the total for the entire team -- and especially the eternal receiver's lament that he was wide open on a consistent basis. Florida fans will tell you this is true, as Thompson often made a point of waving wildly behind the secondary and demonstrably spinning around in frustration when the ball didn't come his way on deep routes. (It only did twice last year, for a 33-yard touchdown against Troy and a 77-yard streak against a badly busted coverage by Arkansas.) Brantley may be better than Tebow (at least senior Tebow, who seemed to significantly regress from his younger self in all forms against competent defenses) at hitting those downfield strikes, and making Thompson the star he was expected to be. We've been consistently told that's Brantley's strength.
But it's not a more real strength for a quarterback than the energy, creativity and force-of-nature athleticism Tebow brought to such wildly successful effect. It's just better for Deonte Thompson.
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Hat tip: SBN