INSIDE THE GATORS FLORIDA F-CLUB SERIES
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Over the course of the summer, Inside the Gators will be catching up with former Florida players to discuss the past and present of the positions they played at UF. Up today is tight end Tate Casey.
Background: As a freshman, Tate Casey - a 6-foot-7 tight end from Texas - started four games and would go on to see action in 54 games with 16 starts. He caught 28 passes for 370 yards and seven touchdowns during that time. Casey was a part of two national championship teams.
Now living in Jacksonville, Casey works with neurosurgical devices. He and his wife had their first child in March. Casey said he makes it to three or four Florida games every fall and closely follows the team. He is active in the Florida Players Network.
Assessment of Florida's current tight end situation: "We've definitely got a lot of guys who have experience. We've also got a lot of young guys coming up who are talented. The Burton brothers have been around for a while, so there's some good leadership there. Then you've got young guys like Bair Diamond and Colin Thompson coming up. Kent Taylor, I joke, because I look at him like I was. When I first saw him in two-a-day last year: big, tall string-bean looking guy that was kind of built the exact same way I was when I came in. The main thing with him was technique that if he brushed up, he's got the athleticism. The same thing with Clay Burton. A little bit of discipline goes a long way with him. They'll show him some things and if he buys into it, that will be the difference between being a mediocre player and a really good tight end."
If Kent Taylor can develop into a consistent receiving target: "Blocking, it's always a concern. It always will be one of those things where when you go to a school like Florida, everything is based so much on speed. We go recruit these guys that have a lot of athleticism and a lot of speed and great footwork. It really comes down to how much you want to learn blocking as a tight end. It doesn't just mean on-the-ball blocking. When Urban Meyer was there, you better be able to block the perimeter. You better be able to block linebackers and safeties on the run. You have to block stuff out of the box. Then you have to go up against the big boys inside. We ran a lot of power. We ran a lot of gap scheme. You're leading the hole quite a bit. These guys have the same responsibilities. It takes a little bit off having Hunter Joyer there because he's such a talented fullback. That kind of helps those guys that are like true tight ends. You've got Burton and those guys, but I think a lot of them are coming out of high school as prime receiving tight ends. That's a hard thing to transition, especially in the SEC. You've got to learn blocking whether you want to or not. If you want to get on the field, you have to block. That's a tough thing for Kent. It takes a while."
Comparisons between Will Muschamp and Meyer: "I've known Will since I was in high school. I know him well now. Every time I go to Gainesville I stop by the office and say hello. There are so many similarities between Urban and Muschamp and then there's a world of difference. It's two different personalities. Urban is almost all business. Muschamp is the same but he'll give a warm feeling toward everybody. That's not saying Urban didn't have that, but it's almost like Ron Zook and Urban. Urban was all about business. He stayed on you about discipline. He stayed on you about grades. I know Will is doing the same thing. He's really stressing the importance of hard work on and off the field. They're in the right direction. Last year, I think they blew some people away with a team that, I think if you ask 90 percent of the Gator Nation, would tell you it wasn't going to do much before the season. It's evident they put their work in and handled their business. I'm really anxious to see what they've done this offseason. Games are won in spring, summer and two-a-days."
What it's like seeing Florida play a more old-school style of offense: "I wish I had three more years of eligibility. I probably would have seen a few more passes. I like it. Being a tight end, it's one of those things you like to see, especially in the SEC. Tight end in the SEC is always a staple. You can go down the line and list names from the past 20 years and you'll see some pretty damn good names."
The best player he played against at Florida: "Florida State probably had the most talented group of linebackers I ever played against. Buster Davis, Ernie Sams, Sam McGrew, A.J. Nicholson. You can almost run through their two-deep linebackers and it would be better than half the SEC linebackers we played. LSU in '06, '07 and '08 was the best DB corps we ever played against. I'd say Alabama is right there with them. That '08 defense Alabama had is about as stout as you can play against. That had a lot to do with our success after the SEC title game. It's really hard because a lot of them are neck and neck. I don't think I can name one single player. Marcus Spears and David Pollack are up there. It may have been because I was a freshman, but when you're 205 pounds playing tight end against Marcus Spears at 285, and then you have David Pollack and everyone knows what he is. It's a shame because I see Pollack now. I really wish he would have panned out in the NFL without the injury. He'd be a Pro Bowler in a heartbeat."
The best player he played alongside at Florida: "Percy Harvin and Tim Tebow are the top two. There's stuff that Tim did even off the field, in the weight room, leadership, you can go on and on and everybody knows that. Percy is the same way. There was stuff on the field Percy did and it made my job a lot easier, especially leading in the hole on linebackers. He made my half second to a second block seem like it was a split-second. You get a chance with Percy to chase the play. When everything sprung, he was going the distance. Sometimes you'd get a chance to make a good block with somebody on some contact. If you don't, the great part is you get to follow the play and watch every move he makes on the next guy. There were so many times where you could hear guys running down the field, like 'Damn, that guy is fast.' It's funny to hear the commentary and respect he got. As far as defensive guys, Reggie Nelson is the most feared defensive guy I ever played against. It didn't matter if it was 7-on-7 or team scrimmage or seam routes, the guy was coming at you. He didn't care if you were ready to go. You always had to cover your ribs because he'd hit you."
His opinion of the best tight ends to ever play at UF: "I was blown away by Ben Troupe. That had a lot to do with me coming to Florida. Just what he did on the field and his athleticism in general. He was probably classified in the same group as Jevon Kearse and Percy Harvin as far as a freak athlete. Kirk Kirkpatrick and Aaron Walker have to be considered in there. Aaron Hernandez has to be in the top three if not No. 1 in terms of raw athletic ability and what he did while he was there. Aaron was just a rare breed. He did stuff receivers couldn't do. At the same time, packed in at 250 could move like he was 200 pounds."
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