Spring Breakdown: Tight Ends and H-Backs

In his first year as an assistant coach at the University of Florida, Brian White couldn't have started under better circumstances. White will be coaching the tight ends and fullbacks at Florida and inherited one of the nation's best tight ends in junior Aaron Hernandez. The fullback or H-Back is also under his helm and looks to be more involved in 2009 than the position has been.

According to White, his group of pupils have been working hard in an attempt to help the Gators repeat as National Champs.

"Its been a really productive off season," White said. "Winter conditioning has been outstanding. I am very happy with the complete work habits of the group."

As a junior, White is expecting a lot from his star tight end Aaron Hernandez. The departure of a few offensive stars means that Hernandez's role will be even more important. He likes the direction that the junior has taken this spring.

"Aaron Hernandez has worked extremely hard," White said. "He is obviously very talented and (we are) expecting big things from him this year. I have been very pleased with the leadership he has shown so far in mentoring Desmond (Parks). He's really in phenomenal shape and worked hard in the weight room and the conditioning phase."

Hernandez played well last year and seemed to step up whenever called to the task during the season. However, according to White, there are phases where he can make great improvement.

"Everyone can improve daily," White said. "Our expectations of Aaron are high and we expect him to be the best tight end in the SEC. He needs to be a better on the line of scrimmage blocker and still be able to stretch people vertically and create mismatches in the passing game which he has been able to do. We just really need to increase his consistency on the line of scrimmage in the running game. There is no reason he shouldn't. He has all the capabilities, he's a very intelligent young man and he should be consistently a dominant football player."

This spring the Gators will get an early look at true freshman Desmond Parks who is already enrolled at Florida from his high school in Greer (SC). Parks and Hernandez are the only scholarship tight ends on the Gators' roster. Parks has a long way to go, but according to White, he may have to speed up his learning process a bit.

"Desmond Parks has been very impressive and has a lot of ability," White said. "He's a freshman and has to grow up and learn and speak the language and perform.

"Because of numbers we almost have to have him on the field. We are going to force him to grow up fast, he has enough athletic ability...he needs to flatten the learning curve and overcome the usual strength deficiencies that freshmen normally have. He hasn't had a chance to develop even though he's made phenomenal gains in the two months he has been here."

White also has another option if need be.

"Chris Coleman is another tight end that is a walk on and has made tremendous gains throughout the winter phase," White said.

The Gators haven't utilized the H-Back or fullback much in their offense since the departure of Billy Latsko and the efforts he brought to the table. White knows there is a chance we could see a lot more from the position this season and has a trio of players to work with.

"At fullback, I'm happy with T.J. Pridemore," White said. "He's a redshirt freshman that is big, physical, strong, and runs well. We have to get him to play and perform this year. (Sophomore) Steve Wilks has worked hard. Rick Burgess is a walk on that has worked hard this off season."

What I want to see this spring...

It sounds more and more like Hernandez will get a chance to fire off the line of scrimmage as a locked in tight end rather than spread out in the slot. There is no doubt they will continue to utilize his talents in the slot shooting for mismatches on the other side, but the Gators look to have a more running back potent ground game this season and using the tight end to block will be key for the offense.

Hernandez is a natural open field blocker because of his athleticism and physical ability, he is also physical enough to do it from the line of scrimmage. It is a matter of technique and that is where more coaching comes in.

Parks should redshirt but he may not have the chance, so I want to see him gaining muscle and show fearlessness going over the middle like Hernandez.

Pridemore and Wilks need to be the guys ready to step in and be the lead blocker when called upon and this is the year to show they can do that in this offense.

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