Tight end is a tricky position in that you compare guys who were primarily receivers to guys who were primarily blockers to guys who were more of a combination of the two specialties at the position. Plus you have to consider "ends" of earlier eras before they called the position "tight end" yet that's likely how they lined up and were utilized. So here goes, but first let's go through the top Gator at each position thus far:
Specialists: Brandon James
D Tackle: David Galloway
D End: Jack Youngblood
Outside LB: Wilber Marshall
Inside LB: Scott Brantley
Corner: Lito Sheppard
Safety: Reggie Nelson
Center: Jeff Mitchell
Guard: Burton Lawless
Tackle: Lomas Brown
The best tight ends in Florida football history give us a good mix of the three categories I listed above.
#5 Cornelius Ingram ----- He came to the Gators from Hawthorne as a combination quarterback and shooting guard. He left as an NFL bound TE. Ingram didn't play the position long, but he caught 64 passes in the 2006-07 seasons including eight for TDs. C.I. averaged 13.9 yards per catch and was a major factor in the 2006 BCS Title Game win over Ohio State.
#4 Kirk Kirkpatrick ----- The first year of Steve Spurrier's "Fun and Gun" offense the second fastest receiver on the team was this TE from Brandon. Kirkpatrick was not a typical TE. He was undersized but he made up for it as a pass catcher. He snagged 55 of them in 1990 including seven for TDs. That total remains a school record for tight ends, but Aaron Hernandez might threaten it this year.
#3 Jim Yarbrough ----- My one-time TV broadcast partner was unquestionably the best blocker to ever play the position in Gainesville. "Punjab" was such an integral factor for the Gator teams of the late-60s that he was a second round pick in the NFL draft where he switched to tackle and played for nine years in Detroit.
#2 Forrest Ferguson ----- "Fergie" was an All-American two-way "end" in 1941 but I'm compelled to include him here. In an era of limited passing games he somehow caught 43 passes for 668 yards and five TDs. Those records lasted for a quarter century. Ferguson is also a true American hero, having been wounded in the Normandy invasion.
#1 Ben Troupe ----- From Georgia with love comes the best tight end that I've seen at UF. Troupe led the Gators in 2003 with 39 receptions, 638 yards and five TDs. He was phenomenal in the season finale against FSU catching four passes for 121 yards and two TDs. His TD catch with 2:50 to play appeared to give the Gators a 34-31 win in the infamous "Fumble" game. However the Gator defense couldn't and FSU scored in the final minute to escape with the win. He was a finalist for the John Mackey Award given to the top TE in the country.
HM: Jim Yancy, Erron Kinney, Chris Faulkner, Aaron Hernandez
We'll continue our series tomorrow with the best fullbacks.
Final Week of the Best Gators: Tight Ends
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