Replacement by committee at tight end

The Florida offense is a work in progress still for year two offensive coordinator Brent Pease. One big spot the Gators are going to have to work hard on is the tight end position. Quarterback Jeff Driskel's ‘go to' guy Jordan Reed and his All-SEC season of a year ago is off to the NFL. In his place stand a lot of potential and a lot to learn.

Reed was the top pass catcher and one of the top two play makers on an offense that was missing its share of them. Landing 45 catches for 559 yards and three touchdowns, there were only four other receptions by other tight ends on the roster during the whole season.

The position is an issue at the current time and head coach Will Muschamp has made that a point to comment on during his speaking tour this spring and summer.

"The tight end position I am concerned about, we need to get better," he told a crowd in Lakeland earlier last month. "Jordan Reed was a mismatch for us and made some huge plays for us athletically."

"We will get some better things out of the running game with some of the guys we have, but we need to take a step forward."

The lineup features two juniors a sophomore and a red-shirt freshman. He didn't say much about him but junior Clay Burton is listed as the current starter mainly because of the all-around game he provides more than some of the others at this time.

"Clay Burton is probably the most productive guy we have had at the tight end position as far as run and pass," Muschamp said.

Fellow junior Tevin Westbrook is still learning the ropes at the position after moving over from defensive end two years ago. The former talented basketball player has some tools.

"Tevin Westbrook is a guy we signed here our first year," he said. "Athletically he gives you a lot of things. Last year was his first year playing tight end, so I really hope he takes that next step forward this year."

Sophomore Kent Taylor caught the lone touchdown of the group in the Sugar Bowl in January. Taylor is a good pass catcher, but has to work on strength and some weight.

"Kent Taylor has been a really good asset to us in the throwing game," Muschamp said of the sophomore's work in the spring. "He has to get better at the point of attack as far as blocking. We aren't going to ask him to do some of the things he can't do, but as far as the movement things he can get us some mismatch situations. He needs to be more consistent finishing plays downfield, but he gives us a vertical presence and we are excited about him."

Last but not least is red-shirt freshman Colin Thompson. He and Taylor were the top two tight ends in America coming out of high school a year ago, but Thompson suffered a broken foot that actually broke again during the season and he missed the entire year. Thompson is probably the guy that brings the best possibility of an all-around game to the table.

"Colin Thompson is a guy I am really excited about having back," Muschamp said. "He's a tough on the line blocker and can be a ‘move' guy. We just need to keep his foot healthy. He has been out of football for a year and a half. We kind of limited him because he had two breaks on his foot. I am very pleased with what we see. We just have to continue to take some steps forward."

The best of all worlds would be for a tight end to step up and be a great blocker and pass catcher. Inevitably this group will all be used for their varying skills.

We will also see a lot of two tight end sets with the crew and as Muschamp pointed out there should be a good deal of improvement in the run game in terms of blocking from the tight end in 2013.


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