By: Nick de la Torre
In part four of our spring position battles series, we’ll take a look at tight end and who will replace Jordan Reed. Reed became Jeff Driskel’s favorite target last season and led the Gators in receptions (45) and receiving yards (559). Reed’s early departure for the NFL leaves the Gators with very little experience at the position. However, what they lack in experience, they make up for in talent.
More and more teams at both the college level and in the NFL are moving towards using more two tight end sets. These sets give the offense flexibility and can create mismatches for the defense. The New England Patriots took the NFL by storm with Rob Gronkowski and former Gator, Aaron Hernandez and college and pro teams alike are trying to mimic that success.
To be as successful as the Patriots have been in this offensive scheme, you need the right personnel. When Florida would line up with both Clay Burton and Jordan Reed on the field, opposing defenses knew exactly what was happening. Reed, who struggles in run and pass protection, would be a receiving threat, while Burton would block. There was no element of surprise. This is not a knock on coach Pease. You have to have the right personnel to make certain offensive schemes work.
The Gators didn’t have that personnel in 2012 but they might have it in 2013.
Clay Burton, Jr.
Burton is hands down the best blocking tight end on Florida’s roster. The problem is Burton’s route running and hands leave much to be desired. Burton was used exclusively as a blocking tight end in 2012 and he should continue that same role in 2013.
Kent Taylor, So.
Taylor saw limited action as a freshman but is a talented prospect in the same mold as Jordan Reed. Taylor is a vertical threat and at 6’5” should develop into a deadly redzone weapon.
Taylor finished his freshman season with two receptions for five yards and a touchdown.
Colin Thompson, R-Fr
Thompson missed last season due to a foot injury. A 6’4” 256 lb. prospect from Pennsylvania, Thompson might be the most well rounded tight on the roster. He is a mauling blocker who can be effective in both run and pass protection but also possesses soft hands and is a load to bring down in the open field.
Thompson is a player to keep a close eye on as he head into spring practice and inch ever so slowly towards opening day.
Earlier, I alluded to the Gators not having the personnel to be effective in two tight end sets in 2012 but that they could have the right combination next season.
Collin Thompson is the reason the Gators could have the right personnel to make those sets work in 2013.
While Burton is primarily a blocking option and Taylor is more of a receiving threat, Thompson brings a little bit of both to the position. While Burton may be a better blocker and Taylor more of a vertical threat, Thompson is more well rounded and can both block and catch adequately.
Whereas the offense might tip its’ hand with Burton or Taylor, Thompson will allow Pease to disguise more on offense.
It will be interesting to see how Thompson rebounds from the foot injury that cost him last season but he’s my dark horse candidate to have a breakout season in 2013.