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Thursday August 23, 2012Gators' tight ends have shown promise in preseason camp

Updated: 12:13am, August 24

Jordan Reed

Photo: The Gators are looking for a big season from junior tight end Jordan Reed.

Much like Florida's football program, the tight end position has been in a state of flux since the 12-0 Gators lost to Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.

The tight end on that Gators team is considered the best in school history. Aaron Hernandez rewrote the school record books and became the first Florida tight end in school history named first-team All-American.

Since Hernandez's final game, the Gators have used Jordan Reed, Trey Burton, Omarius Hines, Gerald Christian and A.C. Leonard in that role.

Christian left the program midway through last season, eventually transferring to Louisville, and Leonard departed over the summer to transfer to Tennessee State.

With new offensive coordinator Brent Pease aboard, Burton and Hines are listed as F-Backs, although both are expected to line up at times at tight end this season.

Meanwhile, Reed opens the season as the most experienced at the position. After playing quarterback and tight end as a freshman, Reed moved to tight end last year and hauled in 28 catches for 307 yards and two touchdowns.

Pease said Reed will have the opportunity to increase those numbers significantly in 2010.

Reed was slowed earlier in camp due to a sprained knee but Pease said this week that Reed is healthy and has all the tools to be a premiere tight end.

"You have someone like Jordan who really has wide receiver ability but in a body like his,'' Pease said of the 6-foot-3, 243-pound Reed. "He's a nightmare for defensive coordinators."

Behind Reed are a pair of former defensive players who moved to offense since coming to UF: redshirt freshman Clay Burton and sophomore Tevin Westbrook.

Burton is 6-4, 242, and Westbrook is 6-5, 268. Both have made significant strides adjusting to Pease's offense and figure to see playing time.

"I’ll tell you this: Tevin has had as good of a camp as anybody. He has been a complete bonus to get him. He’s gotten better,'' Pease said. "The kid’s got a great attitude. I probably can’t say enough good things about him. He’s done a great job catching and blocking. [I’m] very, very excited to have him. He’s built our depth; he’s made our packages better.”

Burton said he feels much more comfortable than a year ago when he played tight end in one game.

"I just viewed this spring as an opportunity. Ever since the winter conditioning program, I've been all in, giving it my all."

The Gators added depth by signing Colin Thompson and Kent Taylor in the 2012 recruiting class. Some recruiting services had Thompson and Taylor as the top two tight end prospects in the country. Thompson is out at the start of the season after foot surgery but Taylor has shown an ability to get open and create plays down the field.

"Kent catches the ball extremely well. He’s very athletic. I mean, very athletic,'' Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "That’s another guy that you have to decide what he can do at this point. Obviously he’s a guy that needs to gain some girth and some strength as far as the blocking is concerned.

"Let’s don’t ask him to do something he can’t do. I know one thing – he can go get the football down the field. He can catch the ball. He can do some of those things. So let’s identify what he can do and what he can handle in those situations."

While there remain question marks at the position, there also appears to be more talent and depth than the past couple of seasons.

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