GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp has given his receivers a warning.
There are four weeks and one game to make a first impression on new receivers coach Joker Phillips. With an unimpressive stretch of bowl practices, they'll find themselves buried on the depth chart in the spring regardless of what they did in 2012.
"I told the receivers, you've got a month audition," Muschamp said Monday afternoon. "You have 15 practices to go play really well and get a great first impression for your future position coach."
They certainly haven't made much of one on the field this season. Florida's receivers – not including tight ends -- have combined for 58 catches this season, led by Quinton Dunbar's 31 catches for 306 yards and four touchdowns. The biggest element missing from the position, aside from the ability to consistently separate and get open, is the lack of a downfield threat. Frankie Hammond had TD catches of 55 and 75 yards, but those came after he caught short passes and broke tackles. No other receiver has a reception of longer than 23 yards.
Muschamp hired Phillips two weeks ago to improve the production. He replaces Bush Hamdan, a graduate assistant who coached the receivers this season after Aubrey Hill resigned in August. Muschamp said Hamdan, who will remain at UF as a graduate assistant, will coach the receivers in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. But Phillips will be watching closely and taking notes.
Phillips, who went 13-24 as Kentucky's head coach from 2010-12, has coached receivers for 18 seasons at Kentucky (1991-96 and 2003-2009), Cincinnati (1997), Minnesota (1999-2000), Notre Dame (2001) and South Carolina (2002). The former Kentucky receiver (1981-84) also served as the recruiting coordinator and offensive coordinator for several seasons before replacing Rich Brooks as the Wildcats' head coach in 2010.
NFL players Steve Johnson (Buffalo) and Randall Cobb (Green Bay) are among the receivers Phillips worked with during his tenure at Kentucky. He also coached Craig Yeast, Keenan Burton, Dicky Lyons Jr. and Derek Abney, all of whom rank in the top five in school history in career receptions or career receiving yardage.
Muschamp is hoping Phillips can have similar success with Florida's receivers. Dunbar, Solomon Patton, Latroy Pittman and Raphael Andrades return in 2013, although Pittman and Andrades were used mainly as blockers this season. Pittman was the star of spring practice (he enrolled early) and Andrades was impressive in summer workouts. But they caught just two passes apiece, and Phillips has to turn them into reliable targets next season. Patton was used mainly as a ball carrier on the jet sweep until he suffered a season-ending broken arm against Georgia.
Robinson was thought to be able to contribute immediately. Now the best option appears to be Fulwood.
"We just need to play better," Muschamp said. "I think Bush did an outstanding job this year. You continue to evolve in the second year [of coordinator Brent Pease's system], and you ought to take steps forward in the second year of an offense and the terminology and the different things we've asked our guys to do. They certainly will be more familiar next year."