Taylor hoping to earn starting role

Florida tight end Kent Taylor has heard Will Muschamp's message this offseason. The Florida head coach used any opportunity he could to talk about the question marks at tight end. It's the only position Muschamp feels like won't improve on the offense this fall. Taylor has added 20 pounds in the offseason, and now up to 240 pounds, the sophomore thinks he can win the job.

The message from Will Muschamp has been echoed everywhere this offseason -- all of his Gator Club stops, SEC Media Days and finally at last week's Florida media day. He needs more production from the tight end position, especially while replacing Jordan Reed.

"The tight end position is not enough of what I would call combo guys that can play on the line of scrimmage and dent the edge and stretch the field vertically," Muschamp said. "We don't really have that mix of guys right now."

Inside the tight end meeting room, the players talk about it. They don't ignore it and pretend that Muschamp didn't say it. Instead, they're using it as fuel heading into fall camp.

"Anytime you're a competitor and someone says you need to improve, you're going to put it on yourself to do that," Kent Taylor said." I think he's right. Our tight end last year left, so somebody has to step up and take it."

In order to put himself in best position to earn it, Taylor hit the weights hard in the offseason. He knew coming to college that he needed to add weight, but it was hard to do last fall while going through the grind of the season. He went through his first full offseason in a college workout program, and the results were exactly what he wanted.

Taylor heads into this fall weighing 240 pounds after playing at 220 last season. The difference was more eating, and with the workout plan under strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman, Taylor didn't have much trouble adding the weight.

"The second year in a strength program, that'll do it," Taylor said.. Being here and being around other strong people -- that helps, too. Coming out of high school, I was just so small.

"I've made a lot of strides. I put on 20 pounds, I'm starting to grasp the playbook a lot more and I'm working a lot on my blocking. It has been a big summer for me."

Taylor didn't have the freshman year he wanted, catching just two passes for five yards and one touchdown. He capped his season with a five-yard touchdown reception in garbage time of Florida's Sugar Bowl loss to Louisville. He sat behind Reed during the season, giving him a chance to watch and learn from Florida's top pass-catching threat.

"He taught me a lot about running routes and how you have to work in the SEC," Taylor said. "That's one thing -- his work ethic. You just have to focus in and learn those plays."

Taylor is the best bet to replace the athleticism Reed gave the Gators at the tight end position last year. Reed became the go-to target for quarterback Jeff Driskel last year, and the junior quarterback is hoping to find a similarly trusted threat at the position this fall.

"It's a big competition there, and someone's really going to have to step up and emerge at the tight end position," Driskel said.


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