Over the next 88 days, GatorCountry will preview the players that make up the 2013 Florida Gators football team as we inch closer and closer to the season.
Each day we will count down using the player whose jersey number corresponds with how many days there are left until Florida kicks off against Toledo in the Swamp on August 31.
Today we take a look at junior tight end Clay Burton.
Burton made his way to Gainesville via Venice high school and chose Florida over schools like Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Stanford and Tennessee to name a few. Burton was actually committed to Notre Dame at one point during his recruiting process before de-committing and following his brother, Trey Burton, to Florida.
Burton was a defensive end and linebacker in high school and started out on that side of the ball at Florida before making the move to tight end to help with depth concerns.
With Jordan Reed on the roster, Burton found himself being used primarily as a blocker and he is the best blocking tight end the Gators have.
2 receptions, 12 yards
As we mentioned before, Burton is the best blocking tight end that the Gators have. Burton is solid in both pass protection and as a run blocker. He is able to anchor down and keep his man in front of him and has the mean streak you need to mix it up and block some of the monsters that Florida will face on defense this season.
There are a couple of things we are going to touch on here. First, Burton needs to work on his hands. Burton told the media that he caught 2,000 passes from the JUGS machine in the month of February and he will need to continue that work ethic. While Burton looked much better as a pass-catcher this spring, he needs to continue working and developing his hands to become a more rounded player.
Second, Burton needs to work on his route running. He doesn’t need to run picture perfect routes like a wide receiver, but he has a tendency to round off his routes rather than making a confident cut.
At 6’4” 253-pounds, Burton has great size for the position and if he can become an above-average route runner with decent hands he will give the Gators a player who could create mismatches for opposing defenses.
What to Expect
Burton entered spring practice No. 1 on the depth chart and he left spring practice with the same distinction.
The Gators lost a key piece of their offense in Reed and right now it looks like Burton is in the lead to replace him. Kent Taylor and Colin Thompson should give Burton a run for his money but neither player was able to play consistently enough in the spring to overtake Burton on the depth chart.
“We need to continue to come on at tight end.” Will Muschamp said this spring. “Clay Burton’s done some nice things, but we’ve gotta continue to get better at that position.”
The battle at tight end is not over and even though Burton is currently listed as the starter he will need to improve this fall and throughout the season if he wants to hold on to that spot.