For the next few months, GatorCountry.com will be previewing the players that will make up the 2012 Florida football team as we lead up to the season.
Each day, we’ll count off a scholarship player until the season officially arrives on Sept. 1 with a home date against Bowling Green.
Today, we take a look sophomore tight end Clay Burton.
Burton arrived at Florida as a lightly recruited defensive end from Venice, best known for his relation to then-freshman-star Trey Burton, his brother.
After arriving in the summer, Burton quickly moved from defensive end to tight end after injuries hobbled starter Jordan Reed and backup A.C. Leonard. He learned the position quickly enough to avoid a redshirt, somewhat due to necessity.
He dressed for six games during the season and played in one, against UAB. He did not produce much, utilized mostly as a blocker in certain situations.
|Clay Burton Career Statistics|
Burton failed to record any statistics in his true freshman season in 2011.
There isn’t a whole lot of game tape on Burton to go by, since he has only been around for a year and entered games last season primarily as an extra blocker down near the goal line.
What we have seen of the 6-foot-4, 242-pound tight end is that he isn’t quite as athletic as brother Trey, but he’s a bigger body with a little better strength. He fits somewhere in between the mold of an athletic pass catcher like Jordan Reed and more of a pure blocker like Tevin Westbrook.
Burton did flash some ability in the passing game in the spring game. He’s a big target that may be a good option on short routes over the middle, assuming his hands aren’t an issue (not enough snaps yet to tell).
One area of his pass-catching that isn’t very good is his range. He isn’t going to catch many balls at extension, so the window throwing to him is a bit smaller than some of the rangier wideouts and tight ends.
What to Expect
Burton has ground to make up if he hopes to play a big role in the offense in 2012, but he made good progress in spring practice, taking advantage of some extra snaps with A.C. Leonard suspended for about half the spring.
He showed he can be a viable option in the passing game, but it doesn’t appear that he’ll ever be an elite threat with average athleticism for the position. The lack of explosiveness limits his ceiling as a pass-catcher, which means he’ll really have to excel as a blocker to carve out a consistent role.
Both of Florida’s true freshmen tight ends – Kent Taylor and Colin Thompson – are expected to contribute early for the Gators, so Burton has his work cut out for him.
Don’t expect him to see a ton of snaps with Jordan Reed and Leonard ahead of him on the depth chart when healthy and able to play.
Burton will have to take advantage of his snaps early in the season with Leonard likely to face a suspension to begin the year. It’s unlikely he’ll have much of an impact on offense, though, and it’s possible he moves back to defensive end at some point.