GAINESVILLE -- For one reason or another, Frankie Hammond Jr.’s production has never matched his potential in four years at Florida.
A four-star prospect out of Hollywood Hallandale, the redshirt senior has never caught more than 22 balls in a season for the Gators and has just 41 receptions in his career. But as the oldest member of a unit that struggled last year, Hammond has taken on a new role, one some might have never expected.
UF coach Will Muschamp has repeatedly called Hammond the team’s most consistent receiver, praising how the 22-year-old has mentored the younger receivers. For his effort, Hammond is listed as a starter at wide receiver for the team’s opener Saturday against Bowling Green.
“I think he’s a great example for our young receivers to understand the way you do it and the way you approach the game,” Muschamp said. “It’s not just about what you do on the practice field. It’s about the meeting room and living right off the field and doing things the right way.”
However, with Hammond, that wasn’t always the case.
In the summer of 2010, Hammond, 20 at the time, was arrested after UF police allegedly observed him swerving and speeding in his car on Gale Lemerand Drive, a road that intersects campus and takes you past the west side of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Police found open bottles of whiskey in his car. Hammond’s blood alcohol content was more than double the legal limit of .08, and he was charged with DUI and possession of liquor by a minor.
He was suspended from the team, but ultimately returned and appeared in 11 games for the Gators in 2010, his most productive season.
Since arriving at Florida as a smaller, quicker receiver optimally suited to succeed in Urban Meyer’s spread offense, Hammond has had two different head coaches, three different offensive coordinators and three (maybe four) different quarterbacks.
But Muschamp and new offensive coordinator Brent Pease said they believe he has matured and is now ready to lead the wide receiving corps, which would greatly benefit sophomore quarterbacks Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett.
“Frankie’s been here for a while,” Driskel said. “He’s really polished on his routes. He understands his coverages and he understands the whole field. So he really understands how to get open. … He plays a lot faster [than younger receivers].”
The group has talent with redshirt junior speedster Andre Debose, sophomore Quinton Dunbar and freshman Latroy Pittman, but it’s Hammond who has received the most praise.
“I’m going to tell you this: We’re not just sticking anybody out there that looks pretty and can run,” Pease said. “They better go out there and perform. They better catch balls and block. … That’s the bottom line at that position. We don’t want any of these Terrell Owens guys.”
From all accounts, Hammond has been the model. The rest are trying to be like him; they look up to him. And that wasn’t always the case.
“He’s tried to affect people in a positive way off the field as well,” Muschamp said. “That’s something I’ve really seen him change.”