Camp preview: Tight ends

At the end of spring practice, the tight end position looked as dismal as it was last year. One post-graduate transfer changed that during the summer.

There’s no nice way to put it -- the tight end position for Florida was brutal last year. No one expected anyone in the position to challenge for All-SEC honors one season after Jordan Reed left early for the NFL, but they were still supposed to at least be average. Instead, Florida tight ends combined for four catches last season.

No one graduated from last year’s position group, but there didn’t look to be any immediate impact players either. That changed when Jake McGee elected to transfer from Virginia.

McGee was exactly what the Gators needed. The Florida coaches realized they didn’t have anyone on the roster at tight end to scare defenses, and they tried to correct that by signing three tight ends in the 2014 recruiting class. Until those players are ready, McGee is the perfect one-year fix.

With the Cavaliers, McGee led the team with 43 catches and 395 receiving yards last season. He was the team’s best pass catcher but played in an anemic passing offense. He can be a playmaker in an offense that can get the ball to him, and that will be the case with Florida.

McGee moved in with Jeff Driskel during the summer, and the two have spent time studying the offense after McGee missed the spring in Gainesville.

Roper doesn’t like the idea of putting a player on the field at a skill position if the defense doesn’t fear them. That gives McGee the top spot on the depth chart heading into fall camp. He’s an important piece of the offense and should help give Driskel a safety blanket to throw to if other options aren’t open.

Tevin Westbrook led the Florida tight ends last year with three catches for 30 yards. A convert from defensive tackle early in his Florida career, Westbrook has never put it together to be a trusted part of the passing game. At 6-5, 257 pounds, he has the size and strength to be an effective blocker at the position, and that’s most likely what his role will be this season.

Clay Burton has struggled with drops when passes are thrown to him, and he ended the season with one catch for 12 yards last season. Like Westbrook, his main role will likely be as a blocker.

The hope from the Florida coaching staff is that one of three freshmen tight ends emerge this fall and prove they can handle the starting job for the 2015 season.

DeAndre Goolsby enrolled early and went through spring practices with Florida. He looked a step slow at the start of practice, which isn’t much of a surprise for a kid from Kansas that should’ve still been in high school. As practice continued, Goolsby got more comfortable, and it was easy to see the game slow down for him. With three senior tight ends, it’s uncertain what his role will be this fall, but Goolsby’s future is bright.

C’yontai Lewis and Moral Stephens both enrolled during the summer and will have a chance to earn a role in fall camp. Lewis came to campus at 6-4, 224 pounds while Stephens showed up at 6-3, 247 pounds. Both seem like safe bets to redshirt and prepare for the 2015 season.

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