Muschamp Notebook: Reed A Trusted Playmaker

The inexperience at tight end for Jordan Reed showed during the 2011 season. His athleticism always made him a factor in the Florida offense, but there were times when the tight end didn't know where he was on the field or unnecessarily left his feet to make a catch. Two games into the 2012 season, the redshirt junior is the leading receiver for Florida and has been important to the passing game.

"If you get a linebacker matched up on him in coverage, you're always going to be aware of those situations you don't want," Will Muschamp said. "You want a safety matchup on him. Then, you throw Omarius (Hines) and Trey Burton into the equation and it presents some matchup issues concerning the inside.

"How do you count (Reed)? Do you count him as a receiver? Because he will line up at tight end and create a three-man blocking service, which for pressure and gap control defensively, that's an issue. That's where it's tough."

Despite the inconsistencies in 2011, Muschamp was still happy with the season Reed put together. It was his first year playing only at tight end after seeing time at quarterback when he signed with the Gators. Reed originally expected to be running Urban Meyer's spread offense in Gainesville.

That changed when Reed struggled to run the offense. His athleticism gave him another option at tight end.

While his 2011 season was viewed as shaky, Reed was second on the team in receiving yards with 307. He caught also caught two touchdown passes, but there was always questions about what he could do at tight end if he put it all together and focused on the position through a full offseason.

That happened before the start of 2012. Reed spent the offseason working on his blocking technique, which he still openly admits that he doesn't like to do. Reed put that behind him and focused on it to make himself a better player. The coaches noticed that he got physically and mentally tougher in the offseason, and it has paid off through two games in 2012.

"He developed more toughness in the offseason," Muschamp said of Jordan Reed. "He got stronger, so he's better at the point of attack as far as blocking is concerned. He's always been a good athlete and he's always been good in the throwing game.

Muschamp was patient with Reed during the 2011 season, and he turned into a trusted player for a Florida offense still searching for playmakers. Since the 2011 season was his first year at tight end, the 2012 season is serving as the second year that always produces more consistency.

"The natural process is your first year, you do however you do and then you improve a little bit or a lot based on your dedication in the offseason," Muschamp said. "He worked extremely hard and had a great offseason for us. Again, this is his second year of playing. (It's) experience."

With that added experience comes extra confidence. Reed knows his role in the offense. He knows where to line up before the snap and his responsibility after the ball is snapped. He's no longer a liability when the Gators run the ball.

That progression has added a downfield weapon to a passing game without many. He also serves as a comforting weapon for a young quarterback like Jeff Driskel. It took time for the next step, but Reed is showing signs of being a playmaker this year.

"Last year was his first year playing tight end ever, and we all wanted him to be (former NFL tight end Mark) Bavaro running around out there," Muschamp said before joking that some of the media didn't know who Bavaro was. "Jordan is a fantastic athlete. He's got really good ball skills. It's not ‘add water, instant player.'

"I know we all think that because (recruiting services) put 48 stars by their name that they're supposed to just be an outstanding football player the moment they walk on campus. It takes a process to become a good player, and just because you're a great athlete doesn't mean you're going to be a really good football player. Sometimes it takes time."

EXPERIENCE MAKES THE DIFFERENCE: Just as more time on the field in practice and games has made Reed and important part of the defense, Muschamp was clear to point out that it also works for the rest of the team. Many players saw their first significant action during the 2011 season and are improved in 2012 because of it.

"We got a bunch of guys playing for the first time last year. You look at our sophomore class from last year, you know I can't tell you the exact number of snaps they played their freshman year, but it wasn't many. So for the first time a lot of these guys were in those situations and playing for the first time."

Going through the team inconsistencies in 2011 forced the Florida team to get closer. That increased during an offseason workout plan that focused on adding weight, strength and team chemistry. Muschamp has seen his team carry that chemistry through the early part of the 2012 season, and it has played a part in the team's 2-0 start.

"This is a pretty close team," Muschamp said. "You didn't see any finger pointing at halftime. You didn't have any of that where the offense and defense divided in what they want to do. Matter of fact, (offensive line coach) Tim Davis said in the staff meeting yesterday how good it was the defense came off the field telling the offense 'Let's go! Let's keep it going.'

"When you start to see things like that, guys pulling for each other and understanding that it's bigger than what's on the back of their jersey. That it's about playing for each other. And I think that this team has shown that they're willing and able to do that."

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