Big class, big expectations

Gators have signed five receivers before, but with mixed results

Updated: February 12, 2013, 9:55 AM ET
By Michael DiRocco | GatorNation

GAINESVILLE, Fla.  There's a lot of optimism that Florida's passing offense will be significantly better in 2013 because the Gators signed five wide receivers last week.

At least two of those freshmen -- Demarcus Robinson, Ahmad Fulwood, Marqui Hawkins, Alvin Bailey and Chris Thompson -- will need to make a significant impact for that to happen, though. But is that realistic?

The Gators have signed five receivers in one class twice since 1997. Neither time, however, did anyone make much of an impact as a freshman. And only three of the 10 developed into playmakers for the Gators.

Three others changed positions. Two others eventually transferred, one became a serviceable player, and another became more famous for an off-field incident.

Here's a look back at those 10 players:

Class of 2002

Dallas Baker
New Smyrna Beach, Fla./New Smyrna Beach

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesDallas Baker (81) celebrates during the Gators' national championship game victory over Ohio State with then-UF coach Urban Meyer.
Baker originally signed with UF in 2001 but didn't enroll and spent a season at Northfield Mt. Hermon School in Massachusetts, where he caught 32 passes for 916 yards and 13 touchdowns. Baker didn't do much early in his career at UF, pretty much earning his reputation as the "king of spring" because he flashed in spring practice but never followed it up in the fall. The 6-foot-3, 207-pound Baker finished his career strongly, though, catching 60 passes for 920 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2006 to help the Gators win the national title. Baker, who caught 151 passes for 2,236 yards and 21 touchdowns in his UF career, was a seventh-round draft pick by Pittsburgh in 2007.

Jemalle Cornelius
Fort Meade, Fla./Fort Meade

The 5-11, 185-pound Cornelius was a SuperPrep and PrepStar All-American after leading Fort Meade to the Class 1A state title game. He threw for more than 2,100 yards and 23 touchdowns, rushed for more than 500 yards and 13 TDs and intercepted seven passes on defense. Cornelius redshirted in 2002 and finished his UF career with 82 catches for 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns. His best season was 2006, when he caught 34 passes for 524 yards and three touchdowns.

Terrence Holmes
Glassboro, N.J./Glassboro

Holmes received all-region recognition from SuperPrep and PrepStar after catching 125 passes for 2,544 yards and 47 touchdowns in his four-year prep career. The 5-11, 200-pound Holmes redshirted in 2002 and was moved to cornerback the following season. He finished his career with 30 tackles and three interceptions.

Reggie Lewis
Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast

The 5-10, 196-pound Lewis was a PrepStar All-American after throwing for more than 1,750 yards and rushing for more than 800 yards as a high school senior quarterback. Lewis redshirted in 2002, then caught just five passes for 27 yards in the next two seasons before being moved to cornerback during spring practice in 2005. He recorded 38 tackles and five interceptions in his final two seasons, including picking off Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler in overtime to seal UF's victory in 2005. He also had an interception in the Gators' national championship victory over Ohio State.

Kenneth Tookes
Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast

The 6-2, 207-pound Tookes was a SuperPrep and PrepStar All-American who caught 53 passes for more than 800 yards as a senior. He redshirted in 2002 and finished his career with just 13 catches for 139 yards and was more known for an off-campus accidental shooting. Tookes fired a teammate's assault rifle into a nearby occupied apartment. No one was hurt, and no charges were filed in the incident.

Class of 1997

Mike Gibson
Oak Ridge, Tenn./Oak Ridge

The 5-11, 185-pound Gipson signed as one of the top 40 players on SuperPrep's All-Dixie Team (which is comprised of players from Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee) after catching 41 passes for 635 yards and 10 TDs, rushing for 578 yards and seven TDs and intercepting six passes on defense as a senior. He needed to receive a late grade from Santa Fe Community College before he could enroll. He redshirted in 1997 and was moved to cornerback. He left the team before the 1999 season.

Brian Haugabrook
Wildwood, Fla./Wildwood

The 6-1, 220-pound Haugabrook was a USA Today and Prep Star All-American after catching 45 passes for 845 yards and seven touchdowns as a high school senior. He also won a Class 3A state title in the 200-meter dash. Haugabrook ended up catching 34 passes for 414 yards and five TDs in 36 career games at Florida.

Darrell Jackson
Tampa, Fla./Tampa Catholic

Jackson was a SuperPrep All-American and a second-team USA Today All-American who caught 191 passes for 4,594 yards and 50 touchdowns in his prep career. The 6-foot, 192-pound Jackson applied for the NFL draft after catching 97 passes for 1,501 yards and 14 touchdowns in three seasons in Gainesville. Jackson was a third-round draft pick and went on to catch 499 passes for 7,132 yards and 51 touchdowns in a nine-year NFL career with Seattle, San Francisco and Denver.

Steve Shipp
Charlotte, N.C./West Charlotte

Shipp was a USA Today and Parade All-American who caught 166 passes for 3,035 yards and 28 touchdowns in his final three high school seasons. The 6-2, 190-pound Shipp redshirted in 1997, played in six games and caught one pass for minus-4 yards in 1998, and left the program just before the 1999 season began.

Travis Taylor
Jacksonville, Fla./Ribault

Taylor was a SuperPrep All-American who caught 46 passes for 811 yards and seven touchdowns as a high school senior. He caught 72 passes for 1,150 yards and 15 touchdowns in three seasons at UF before he declared for the NFL draft. Taylor had two huge bowl games, earning MVP honors in the 1999 Orange Bowl (7 catches, 159 yards, 3 TDs) and in the 2000 Citrus Bowl (11 catches, 156 yards, 3 TDs). Taylor was the 10th overall pick by Baltimore in the 2000 draft and caught 312 passes for 4,017 and 22 touchdowns in a nine-year NFL career with six teams.

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter

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