Tight Ends Developing

There is no more youthful position on the Florida Gator football squad than at tight end. Gone is all-American and Mackey Award winning tight end Aaron Hernandez to the pros and in his place are four freshmen with absolutely zero college experience. Brian White has his hands full this fall as the coach at the position, but is starting to like the talent he has on hand.

With four freshmen at the position, Florida will have to make some decisions at tight end this year. Desmond Parks, Jordan Reed, Gerald Christian, and Mike McFarland are a group that has a well rounded list of traits for the position, each with their own style.

As of now, Parks is recovering from injury and McFarland is catching up having just arrived on campus in June. Jordan Reed and Gerald Christian are the two that are leading the charge at the position.

"They are improving," White said of Reed and Christian. "Gerald Christian is definitely getting better. Jordan Reed has made a lot of improvement. They have a long ways to go, but I am happy with where they are at.

"Once again, it is accelerating the learning curve. How much can we do with them...over time it will be complete, but in the short time we have to really focus in getting them all better to win the first game."

There was no bigger surprise to the public eye in the spring on the entire football squad than the play of Jordan Reed. He simply glides on the field and looks effortless running down field for a guy that stands 6-4 and weighs 240 pounds.

"Jordan should be able to do all the stuff that Aaron Hernandez did," White said. "A hybrid guy I think is the best description for him. Where as Gerald is a hybrid guy that will play off the line as well as on the line."

For Christian, he arrived in the spring fresh out of high school and was really rough around the edges. He attacked things slow as he tried to soak in the mental part of the game. However, he improved dramatically over the summer both mentally and physically and White likes where Christian is at these days. White says he has also been "rotating in at fullback" as well, most likely giving him an even better chance to get on the field.

"It has (been a drastic improvement)," White said of Christian. "With that said, he has to make another big leap to get him game ready for September 4 against Miami (OH). We have to get him ready, he has to be more than just a functional tight end, fullback, hybrid player for us. He has to play at a high level. He has made tremendous improvements but has to continue and accelerate his growth.

One possible external reason for the success of the tight ends this fall has been a mentor in the form of Cornelius Ingram. The Hawthorne native, Gator Great, and NFL star is around the program a lot and has been making sure these young guys learn from one of the best.

"He's around enough and I know he reaches out to all of our players," White said of Ingram. "He is extremely generous with his time and very actively involved with this program. He appreciates what this program has provided him and he's a giver and gives back."

A new wrinkle for the offense will likely include a large dose of receiver Omarius Hines playing in the tight end and H-back roles in the offense. We saw Hines line up a lot in the position in the spring as well as collect a few shovel passes from John Brantley. White thinks Hines can be a special player here at UF.

"Hines did some work in the spring," White said. "Our job is to put as many good players on the field as we can and create roles for some players. Omarius has some skills that will allow him to do some off the line of scrimmage, hybrid stuff that will create some mismatch advantages for us against the defense.

"He is a good guy, smart, loves football, and very talented. People are going to enjoy his play this year. He's fast, really strong, and tough. When I say he is fast, he is really fast. He is a sub 4.4 guy (in the 40) and 220 pounds so he can block linebackers in space. He has really good hands. We have to create roles for guys and put the ball in hands of guys to make plays and at the same time ask him to do some things blocking that he can handle.

Brian White has a lot to teach a very young group of tight ends that will undoubtedly have some growing pains as they go along. In the meantime, he will just have to keep smiling as he knows what this group can become some day.
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