Thompson happy to help any way he can

The success of the Gators in 2012 was a welcome and surprising one for a lot of folks. They appeared to be an unselfish and hard-nosed bunch of players that used their will to win games at times. That would likely define the attitude of red-shirt freshman Colin Thompson as well, but Thompson had to sit the season out, much to his dismay. Back from a foot injury, he's pumped to help out the Gators.

Colin Thompson was rated the second best tight end in America coming out of high school after the 2011 football season. The Pennsylvania native has all the attributes of a true tight end. He can run, catch the ball and maybe his strongest suit, block at the line of scrimmage.

As the Gators have moved more to a downhill running offense, they would also like to throw the ball. Thompson's skill set is perfect for what they want to do.

Unfortunately, he couldn't bring those skills to the football field last year, it was tough on the freshman.

"It was frustrating to the point where it's hard," Thompson told the media on Tuesday. "Rehabbing every day, getting up early, being a part of the team when you can't help or contribute in any way, that's the toughest thing to grasp or handle. It was a very challenging season for me. It was tough to see us lose to Georgia and being at the game, and it was tough to see us lose to Louisville."

Thompson is an effort guy. The 6-3, 254 pounder likes to throw his weight around in the trenches. The injury had him a little hesitant at first the spring, but slowly the rust started coming off.

"I came into the spring pretty nervous. It's been a year and three months since I've played, but I still remember how to play a little bit. Just going out there and grinding every day is all I can do and all I can control."

For Thompson, he wants to work himself into a position to help this team any way he can.

"Being out there with the guys was the biggest thing for me," he said. "Whatever you did in high school doesn't matter. The quicker you get away from that, the better off you are at Florida. If you make plays in The Swamp, that's what really matters. I had to listen to everybody, take advice. Jordan Reed last year, he gave great advice. He had previous injuries and had to red-shirt as well."

Florida didn't get a lot of production in the are of blocking from their tight ends a year ago. Although he improved as the year went on, starter Jordan Reed was still mainly a slot receiver type of tight end. Backups Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook offered some ability, but they were playing their first seasons ever at the position. Thompson can bring that to the table, with also an ability to go out and catch the ball, but he is still finding his way in the rotation and working hard at it.

"Clay and Tevin, the juniors off the bench, have really stepped up," Thompson said of their practice habits. "I don't know what my role is yet. I have to keep working. Whatever the team needs me to do, I will do.

"I think with this group of guys this year, we have a little bit more overall… I guess, blocking would be our bio. What Jordan brought was just big-play ability. He brought toughness. He did give effort in the run game as well. He was good to learn off of. He was a great role model for us."

The Gators will open up Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday at 1:00 pm eastern in a controlled scrimmage. The lack of numbers in the offensive trenches has caused a change in the way they will present the spring practice finale. To a man, the players have been excited about what they can show on Saturday.

"I think it's gonna be a great day to go out and compete in front of people, have a little crowd noise, replicate what we're gonna have to deal with in the upcoming season," Thompson said. "People are battling for positions. It'll be competition.

"You've just gotta go out there like it's practice. Treat every rep like it's your last because we have four tight ends. It's a battle. I don't know where it is right now, but everyone's competing for the fall. It's a great group of tight ends and it's been a great spring for everybody."

Tallking up the defensive line

The clear leader along the line is senior Dominique Easley who will be asked to play end and tackle this year. Despite what we see on the field in the fall, Thompson says that Easley is pretty tame with his mouth at practice.

"They're all dangerous," he said of the group of defensive linemen that Florida will throw out there this year. "Every d-end is dangerous in every way. Easley is a veteran. Easley is the man. He's not to be messed with. None of them are. We have a great group of defensive linemen, which we've always had at Florida."

"Easley talk trash? No. Never. No. He doesn't say much, believe it or not. I just know he's quiet to me. He's a competitor and someone who goes out and works hard. He's a great leader. He's definitely stepped in as a leader this year."

Thompson also praised sophomore Dante Fowler. Rue to his competitive spirit, Thompson loves to battle with the freshman all-SEC defensive end from last season.

"I love blocking Dante," Thompson said. "Whether I win or not, I don't really know, but he's a great guy and he's fun to compete against. Dominique Easley, obviously, would be the biggest force to go against, but Dante is a close No. 2. He's very good, very athletic, so he's tough. I went against him in the Under Armor game. We're familiar and we like to have a little fun, so he's a great guy and a good friend… fun to go against."


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