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April 13, 2012

Spring Recap: Is Reed the answer?

The tight end position is under construction in Gainesville.

After the departure of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, tight end was an area of the team that produced plenty of questions. After all, Weis had been touted as a tight end specialist, a guy who's past attracted two of the best tight ends in the country to Florida's 2012 recruiting class.

By the end of spring, it had become one of the positions that we had learned the least about.

Biggest Winner: Kent Taylor and Colin Thompson
It's probably not good when a spring position review begins with two players who did not participate in spring practice. Taylor and Thompson will be arriving on campus this summer and have been told by coaches there will be immediate chances for them to contribute for the Gators. Those chances only increased this spring as the incumbent tight ends failed to stand out for one reason or another. Between Jordan Reed's continued unnecessary jumps, A.C. Leonard's arrest and Clay Burton's skillset, it's tough to pinpoint one guy who absolutely solidified his playing time for the fall.

Biggest Loser: A.C. Leonard
You could probably copy and paste Leonard's name for every bad category related to this spring. The charges brought against him during the offseason not only garnered him a suspension for the early part of the spring and the spring game, but also got people publicly questioning the discipline of the Florida football program again. Leonard started practicing with the team again toward the end of spring practice but will likely open the 2012 season with some form of a suspension as punishment.

Surprising: Clay Burton's chances
Media members knew there was something up when Trey Burton's little brother was sent in for interviews for his first time as a Gator on the final day of spring availability. Then during the Orange and Blue Debut, Burton was thrown to a number of times and finished the day with three catches for 53 yards. Plenty of other chances did not quite pan out for Burton, but the story was that he was being used so much in the first place. The story won't fully develop until fall when newcomers could easily pass him by, but for at least a moment, Burton looked like a substantial part of the team.

Disappointing: Jordan Reed
Coaches have praised Reed for his build and said he is the kind of guy they're looking for at tight end. However, he just didn't look like he had really used his offseason to make himself a better player by the end of spring. In Brent Pease's new system of shifts and schemes, Reed appeared to be lost on a number of plays during the spring game and still has gotten over his inexplicable habit of jumping when he doesn't need to for catches. Reed certainly left the door open for other players to steal some playing time.

Projected Starter: Jordan Reed (During Leonard's suspension), A.C. Leonard (after suspension is over)
This may be a little misleading because players have been told that there will be plenty of two-tight end sets in Pease's offense, meaning there can be any combination utilized come fall. Reed likely will use his experience to hold the spot down for however long Leonard is suspended. Leonard, who came on strong at the end of 2011, should handily take the top spot when he returns. By that point, Reed will have to fight off Taylor and Thompson who respectively bring great vertical presence and blocking prowess to Gainesville.


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