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Thursday August 29, 2013Jordan Reed is gone, that much is known at tight end

Updated: 8:18pm, August 29

Clay Burton

Junior Clay Burton opens the season atop the depth chart at tight end.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel is going to drop back and pass at some point Saturday. When he does, it won’t take Driskel long to realize his favorite security blanket a year ago, tight end Jordan Reed, is nowhere to be found.

In Driskel’s first season as Florida’s starting quarterback, he looked Reed’s way more than any other receiver. Reed led the Gators with 45 catches for 559 yards. Reed left a year early and was taken by the Redskins in the NFL Draft.

“Jordan Reed was a big-time player for us; he’s a great athlete,” Driskel said. “You don’t really find a player like him too much, but we do have a couple of guys who have stepped up over the summer, and I’m excited to see them moving forward.”

The tight end depth chart looks like this entering the season opener against Toledo: 1. Clay Burton, 2. Tevin Westbrook, 3. Colin Thompson, 4. Kent Taylor.

Depending on your point of view, it could be a good omen or bad one that Taylor, the only member of the foursome with a touchdown catch, is buried deepest.

Burton and Westbrook are former defensive players still learning the position.

“I’ve never really ran routes and had to go out [for passes],’’ Westbrook said this week. “To have to step up and be able to run 20-yard routes and get down the field, if anything [I’ve had to do] more cardio work and footwork and knowing your breaks and how to get out and get off a defender.”

Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease was asked Tuesday about Burton earning the starting job. Pease’s answer makes you think the position battle will remain open early into the season.

“I don't know if he really did distance himself,’’ Pease said. “I think that he's established himself that he's consistent with especially blocking. I think he's grown in that tremendously, size and strength. He's a smart kid. I think he understands the passing game because in the passing game you've got to understand distribution and how you're affecting the defense.

“I think he's grown with that, too. I mean we're happy with what Colin and Tevin have done also, and Kent's still progressing. Like I tell kids, that’s where it’s at. It doesn’t mean it can’t change tomorrow or after this game.”

Burton and Taylor each have two career receptions – Taylor’s touchdown grab coming in the Sugar Bowl loss to Louisville – while Westbrook and Thompson have yet to catch a college pass. Thompson missed last season after foot surgery but is healthy entering his second year in the program.

Gators coach Will Muschamp said the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Westbrook is raw but that he is making the adjustments necessary to play the position.

“Tevin is a guy that gives you multiple things at the position as far as blocking at the point of attack, gives you some things as far as receiving,’’ Muschamp said. “His length creates some things in the run game that we really like and his length creates some things in the pass game that we like. He’s developed himself to not mind sticking his face in the fan a little bit and blocking the point of attack, which was an issue before -- his buy-in for that.”

As the Gators prepare to open the 2013 season, they are settled at certain positions more than others.

Tight end appears a position that remains fluid. What we do know is that when Driskel drops back, he won’t find Reed. If he throws No. 11’s way, it will be to freshman receiver Demarcus Robinson, and that’s a story for another blog.

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