Florida Football: Breaking Down Tight End Depth Chart Without A.C. Leonard
After a freshman season marked by just eight catches and one nasty domestic violence arrest, sophomore A.C. Leonard will transfer from Florida, leaving behind a sizable hole on the tight end depth chart.
According to Michael DiRocco of Gator Nation, the Gators' top backup tight end met with head coach Will Muschamp on Tuesday, and the two came decided it would be best for the former 4-star recruit to move on.
Leonard arrived at UF as Scout's Inc.'s sixth-best tight end of the 2011 class, but his short-lived career with the Gators was derailed when he was arrested in February for assaulting his girlfriend.
Following the arrest, Muschamp suspended Leonard indefinitely before reinstating him in late March.
With Leonard moving on from the program, the Gators' tight end end depth chart features just one player with any significant experience—incumbent starter Jordan Reed—and a collection of talented, but inexperienced underclassmen behind him.
Let's take a look at how the tight end depth chart stacks up in the post-Leonard era.
Jordan Reed, Redshirt Junior
Entrenched as the starter, redshirt junior Jordan Reed has been a man of many roles since he arrived in Gainesville in 2009.
The former high school signal caller earned some playing time at quarterback in 2010, flashing some of the dynamic skills that made him Rivals.com's No. 10 dual-threat quarterback.
In 10 games, the 6'3", 239-pounder managed to contribute on the ground, through the air and on the edge, rushing for 328 yards and five scores while completing 26 passes and grabbing six more.
With John Brantley grasping the starting job in 2011, Reed made the permanent move to tight end, utilizing his unique athleticism to catch 28 passes for 307 yards.
Now entering his second year as the starting tight end, the Connecticut native should make a big leap as a go-to target for either Jeff Driskel or Jacoby Brissett.
Tony Pauline of Draft Insider currently rates the Gators' top tight end as an undrafted free agent prospect, but because of his athleticism and frame, I expect Reed to rise up draft charts if he remains focused in 2012.
Clay Burton, Sophomore
While he didn't have the freshman impact like his older brother Trey did in 2010, Clay Burton may be in line to have a breakout sophomore campaign.
The 6'4", 242 pounder is a former high school defensive end turned tight end who followed his brother to UF after starring at Venice High (Fla.).
Trey's younger brother appeared in just one game last season, but should see a big increase in playing time now that Leonard is on his way out.
Gator fans haven't seen much of Burton on the field, but with his imposing frame, he could develop into a solid pass-catching option should Jordan Reed suffer an injury.
Kent Taylor, Freshman
The sting of losing A.C. Leonard can be eased knowing the Gators brought in the consensus top tight end of the 2012 recruiting class.
By bringing in four-star recruit Kent Taylor, the Gators added a dynamic all-around tight end who has the capability to develop into a big-time player for Will Muschamp.
As an in-state star at Land O'Lakes High, the 6'5", 225 pounder flashed dynamic receiving abilities while showing the aggression and desire to be a good blocker.
If Taylor can add some bulk to his impressive frame, he has a chance to be a rare complete college tight end with no holes in his game.
Colin Thompson, Freshman
What's better than signing the nation's top tight end?
Getting the second-best one, too.
As if swooping up Kent Taylor wasn't enough, the Gators made it a point to address their tight end depth by securing the services of the 6'5", 255-pound Colin Thompson.
While Taylor is more of a traditional receiving threat due to his lanky frame, Thompson already boasts NFL size and a penchant for blocking.
The Pennsylvania product is highly regarded for his blocking ability, hands and concentration, according to his evaluation on Scout's Inc.
Despite lacking elite speed, Thompson's ability to be a complete player made him a hot commodity on the recruiting trail, picking up offers from SEC rivals Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina.
Thompson may not see the field much this season, but in a year or two, he could be a giant thorn in the SEC's side.
Tevin Westbrook, Sophomore
Rounding out the trio of tight end converts is sophomore Tevin Westbrook.
The 6'5", 268 pounder saw limited action as a freshman last season after arriving at UF as a three-star defensive end before switching to tight end this summer (via Matt Murschel of the Orlando Sentinel).
It's hard to gauge what impact, if any, Westbrook will have at tight end this season.
He wasn't a particularly sought-after recruit, but does possess the frame to be a possible red-zone threat and blocking asset.
If Westbrook plays any significant snaps at tight end this season, it won't be a good sign for the Gators offense.