Dre Massey is Florida’s most versatile player, capable of lining up at receiver, running back, quarterback, returner and punter. Yes, punter.
The 25th-ranked Gators probably won’t ask Massey to kick, but they do expect the junior college transfer to be a huge help on offense this season.
“He’s one of those guys that you can use in a lot of different situations,” coach Jim McElwain said.
Massey did it all at Holmes (Mississippi) Community College last year. He caught 21 passes for 548 yards and six touchdowns, and carried 59 times for 452 yards and three scores. He also punted three times (averaged 22.3 yards) and threw three passes (all incomplete).
Florida isn’t trying to pass Massey off as a modern-day Paul Hornung, but considering the Gators’ lack of offensive playmakers since Percy Harvin left school in 2009, it’s easy to understand their excitement.
At the very least, Massey should give the Gators another viable receiving option alongside Antonio Callaway, Brandon Powell and C.J. Worton. But Massey also could end up in the starting lineup because Callaway hasn’t been cleared to play following a university-imposed suspension and Worton is dealing with a high-ankle sprain.
And if Massey’s performance matches his confidence, he’ll be tough to take off the field.
“It will give (defenses) a headache trying to figure out what they can do to stop me,” Massey said. “Then we’ll switch it up and do something different. It’s what we do.”
Florida has been searching for more offense for years, ever since quarterback Tim Tebow’s tenure ended after the 2009 season with two national championships and about 20 school records.
The Gators ranked 100th in the nation in scoring in 2015, averaging 23.2 points a game, and were 112th in total offense. They managed to win the SEC’s watered-down Eastern Division thanks mostly to a dynamic defense.
McElwain vowed the offense will be “dramatically better” this year. His scheme is predicated on shifts and movements that are designed to create mismatches. Massey seems to be a perfect fit. The Greenville, S.C., native — former Gamecocks coach and current Florida ambassador Steve Spurrier recruited him out of high school — plays mostly in the slot, but can slide outside or line up in the backfield. And if the Gators want to get trickier, Massey can take snaps.
McElwain even guaranteed that Massey would throw at least one pass this season.
“There’s the art of deception in having those guys being able to do so many different things,” McElwain said. “I think anytime you can do that, it really helps.”
McElwain wanted to use Powell in a similar role last season, but he was slowed by a foot injury. With Powell healthy and Massey in the mix, the Gators are planning to play them side by side.
“That’s some crazy matchup problems,” Massey said. “There’s really nothing you can do.”
The Gators hope that’s the case. If so, there would be even less need for Massey to punt.
“I’ve been pretty much versatile everywhere I’ve played,” said Massey, who once accounted for 11 touchdowns in a high school game. “I’ve always been able to do more than one thing and play more than one position. I take pride in that.”