Four receptions for 42 yards. Seems like a pretty solid game for a tight end doesn’t it? The only problem is that those numbers were the combined production from all of Florida’s tight ends for the entire 2013 season.
Four receptions for 42 yards. Just let that sink in for a minute.
The problem for the Gators was that they relied on former defensive ends Tevin Westbrook and Clay Burton as their primary tight ends. Each player is big, and adequate as a blocker, but neither is suited as the leading tight end in any offense. When Westbrook or Burton was on the field, the position was a non-threat, nothing more than a glorified offensive lineman.
If the Gators hopes to improve on a passing offense that ranked 107th in the nation last season, Florida will need increased production from its tight ends in 2014, among other things.
Florida does have a couple of things working in its favor as it looks to optimize production from its tight ends.
For starters, new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper has been effective at utilizing tight ends in his offense. Last season, Duke tight ends combined for 44 receptions for 508 yards and four touchdowns. Not spectacular, but solid nonetheless. In fact, those numbers are rather similar to the numbers former Florida tight end Jordan Reed put up in 2012. That season, Reed has 45 receptions for 559 yards and three touchdowns.
Also working in Florida’s favor is that the talent at the position should receive a huge facelift come National Signing Day. As it stands, Florida has added three tight ends through recruiting.
DeAndre Goolsby was an early enrollee and is already practicing with the team. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Goolsby is an athletic, flex-type tight end. He is regarded as one of the top tight end prospects in the country by some recruiting services.
Another option could be Cyontai Lewis. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder is similar in build and ability to Goolsby. He has been committed to Florida since last May.
The most intriguing prospect of all could be Moral Stephens. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Stephens was a wide receiver in high school, but has the skillset to be a move tight end at the collegiate level. Stephens has strong hands to go with the type of speed that would make him a matchup problem as a tight end.
Florida was not supposed to have this great a problem at the tight end position. In 2012, the Gators added Colin Thompson and Kent Taylor in recruiting. Each one was a consensus top five tight end prospect in the nation. However, it hasn’t quite worked out for either player, as Thompson has dealt with nagging injuries throughout his collegiate career and Taylor transferred to Kansas this offseason.
The good news for Florida is that help appears to be on the way. If any of the incoming recruits, or even Thompson, can provide some sort of stability at the position, it would go a long way towards improving Florida’s offense.
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