Andre Davis, WR (2011-14)
When we’ve been choosing the players in the 20 For 20 group, we’ve been fanatical about judging them based strictly on what they did in a USF uniform. We haven’t discussed potential, or what would have happened if they’d played longer, or if they hadn’t been injured, or any of that.
For Andre Davis, though, we made our first and only exception. Wide receivers depend on their teammates more than any other position. If you don’t have a good quarterback, or a good offensive line, or a good running game, or an offensive system that gets the ball in your hands, your production suffers. Davis had to put up with all four of those things during his USF career and still managed to shine, even though he didn’t shine as brightly as he could have.
It all started auspiciously for the Jefferson High School product. In his first significant action for USF, he caught three passes in a row against Florida A&M, taking the third one in for a touchdown. Later he blocked a punt and returned it for another score. Against Cincinnati a month later, Davis caught four passes for 60 yards and scored what should have been the game-winning touchdown before USF’s defense quickly gave it away. Despite only starting three games, Andre finished his true freshman year with 22 catches for 273 yards.
Davis’s potential continued to grow in his sophomore year, when he had the greatest individual game by a wide receiver in school history at Nevada. He caught 12 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns, capping it off with a game-winning 56-yarder in the final minute while being interfered with.
Later in 2012, Andre had two more TDs against Louisville, including another should-have-been game-winner, and another score against Syracuse.
Then B.J. Daniels got hurt. For the rest of his USF career, Davis would never again play with more than an average quarterback. His numbers suffered for most of the 2013 season, as Willie Taggart quickly banished Matt Floyd from the lineup and shuffled between Bobby Eveld and Steven Bench at quarterback, to very little effect. Taggart’s preferred offense didn’t take root at all. The running game couldn’t move consistently, and the Bulls completed less than half their passes.
It was frustrating to watch Davis not get service. He had enough moves to get open, enough speed to run past defenders, good hands, and good strength. His skill set was as complete as any receiver in USF history. But Taggart’s original offense didn’t cater to him, and even if it had, no one could get him the ball consistently.
When Mike White took over as starting quarterback, things got better for Davis. White’s first three games as starter led to three 100-yard receiving games for Andre. But the whole passing game blew hot and cold. Davis missed 4 1/2 games with an injury his senior year. Then in the middle of 2014, Taggart started messing with his quarterbacks again, replacing White with Bench for no apparent reason and even giving Quinton Flowers a start before he was really ready to play. Mixed in all that upheaval, however, was another all-time performance by Davis at Tulsa. The Bulls came back from a 27-7 halftime deficit to win 38-30, and Andre caught six passes for 154 yards and three consecutive second-half touchdowns, including an 85-yarder for the winning points.
Andre had one more moment of glory at SMU, when White replaced a grieving and ineffective Flowers and rescued a 14-13 win for the Bulls. With the clock running and USF facing a fourth and goal, Davis caught the winning touchdown with four seconds left to complete a 21-play drive, the longest in school history.
Davis finished his USF career with 153 catches, 2136 yards, and 17 touchdowns. He never got to play in a bowl game, and when the Gulf Coast Offense sprung to life in the middle of last season and Rodney Adams quickly claimed Davis’s single-season receiving yardage record, it had to burn a little bit. What could Davis have done in a system like that? Or what could he have done with a first-rate quarterback throwing him the ball? He had a good career as it was — certainly good enough to be included on our 20 For 20 list. Still, some better timing or better teammates could have made it so much better.
Andre went to training camp with the Buffalo Bills last summer. He spent the second half of 2015 on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad and is currently in camp with his hometown team, trying to make an active NFL roster for the first time.
(Click on the “20 For 20” box at the top of this story to see all previous inductees. Five new players are being added to the original group of 15 this year, and they are being announced in alphabetical order. The first new player was B.J. Daniels.)