He was a game-breaker at Sanford Seminole High School, a highly-touted recruit, and the centerpiece of yet another stellar crop of freshman for the Florida Gators.
He has never been Percy Harvin, however. And with ESPN's Joe Schad reporting that he may have a torn hamstring, require surgery, and miss significant time this season, he might finally get a chance to prove it.
Debose is one of a slew of players trying to fill Harvin's shoes in the runner/receiver/chaos-bringer Swiss Army player role to Florida's spread offense. He was competing with quarkbacks Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, return whiz Brandon James, and Deonte Thompson, who, like Debose, is a wide receiver with background as a high school quarterback.
Because of his high profile as a true freshman, his Harvin-like 5'11", 176-pound build, and his competition's relative lack of splashy highlights at the collegiate level, Debose had stolen Gator Nation's hearts. Brief blips of his promise serve as leads in stories that see in Debose's highlights glimpses at the next Percy.
If I can disengage the hype machine for a moment: That is stupid.
Florida fans often forget that Harvin was the top national recruit in a class that has proved quite deep. (You'll have to scroll down to #22 to find some guy named Tebow there.) He was an orange and blue lightning bolt in his freshman year, and despite playing with a hairline fracture, the best player on the field in the BCS title game this January.
He is rightfully revered as a once-in-a-generation talent because his explosive physical skills translated to production over time. He looked the part, then played it.
Debose still has to do the latter, and, bizarrely, getting hurt might help.
Sustaining injuries is Harvinesque, of course, but Debose can one-up his predecessor and do something freshman year like what Harvin did in preparing for his junior campaign, developing a body capable of sustaining the roughness of the SEC. It will also help Debose to not be immediately judged against Harvin after dazzling against cupcake Charleston Southern; a big day next Saturday would have only added more fuel to the Harvin/Debose comparison, and made the inevitable struggles in conference play more painful.
A little breathing room may do Debose a world of good, especially as Gators fans hyperventilate over his injury. They would do well to remember that while Debose may not be the next Percy Harvin, he might not have to be.
Heck, with a defense stacked with returning standouts and NFL prospects, a surfeit of other speedsters, and that Tebow character under center, the 2009 version of the Gators may not even need the first Andre Debose.â†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.