GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida’s Jordan Reed has always had the size, speed and athleticism to become a pretty good tight end.
It just took a little long than some people may have expected.
Reed has caught a team-high eight passes for 92 yards for the 18th-ranked Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC) and is UF’s only consistent playmaker in the passing game. It’s a role that he was expected to have last season -- but one he wasn’t ready for because he was still transitioning from quarterback to tight end.
"Last year was his first year playing tight end ever and we all wanted him to be (former N.Y. Giants tight end Mark) Bavaro running around out there," UF coach Will Muschamp said. "Jordan is a fantastic athlete. He’s got really good ball skills. It’s not add water, instant player. It’s not. It takes a process to become a good player, and just because you’re a great athlete doesn’t mean you’re going to be a really good football player. Sometimes it takes time."
In Reed’s case, it took a full season. A hamstring injury during preseason practices in 2011 set him back and he re-injured it during UF’s second game against UAB and missed two more games. He ended up catching 28 passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns -- including a 31-yarder against Georgia on fourth down -- in 11 games.
But he didn’t have a complete grasp of the offense and his blocking needed work, which wasn’t unusual because he had been a high school quarterback in New London, Conn., and never had to block before.
He knows the offense now and his blocking has improved significantly. He’s more comfortable in what he’s doing, too, Muschamp said.
"He developed more toughness in the offseason," Muschamp said. "He got stronger, so he's better at the point of attack as far as blocking is concerned. The natural process is your first year, you do however you do and then you improve a little bit or a lot based on your dedication in the offseason. He worked extremely hard and had a great offseason for us."
The 6-foot-3, 239-pound redshirt junior is lining up at different spots, too, working as a flex tight end as well as an inline tight end. That gives Reed more chances to make an impact, offensive coordinator Brent Pease said.
"He's in a lot of different positions if you look at it from the other day," Pease said "He's learning. He's doing a great job in the run game. He's got good hands. He's coming along. He provides a big opportunity for us to be able to put him in a lot of spots."