Freshmen tight ends set to make impact

DeAndre Goolsby

In an offense that lacked production during the 2013 season, it was the Florida tight ends that might have struggled more than any other position group. The tight ends on the roster caught a total of four passes, led by three for Tevin Westbrook. The tight end position wasn't featured in the offense because there wasn't enough talent. The 2014 signing class could change that.

"I think it was a very offensive position when Jordan Reed was here," Will Muschamp said. "It was an offensive position last year."

The quip about the position wasn't meant to mask any of Muschamp's frustration. Whenever he was asked about the tight ends and the lack of production during the 2013 season, the Florida coach didn't hold back. He was frustration with the lack of production from the position in the passing game and didn't hide his displeasure.

The Gators will return Clay Burton, Colin Thompson and Tevin Westbrook at the tight end position next season. At this point in their careers, seniors Burton and Westbrook likely won't surprise with a breakout season. Thompson will play as a redshirt sophomore in 2014 and could produce if he can stay clear of the injuries that have plagued him during his first two seasons.

If the returning players can't help, the coaches wanted to make sure they brought in freshmen that could. And they got three of them.

The first commitment of the three came from Cyontai Lewis, a 6-5, 220-pound product of Tuscaloosa, Ala. Florida running backs coach Brian White was at his school to scout another prospect, but the athleticism of Lewis continued to jump out. The Florida coaching staff challenged Lewis to come to their summer camp. He took the challenge and thrived.

"He came to camp and had an outstanding camp," Muschamp said. "He's a guy that showed all the athleticism and ball skills to be really, really good. When he committed to us, I want to say he was probably 205 pounds and now he's about 225, 228 pounds. He's going to continue to grow because he's a young 17. That's exciting."

The highest ranked of the three tight ends is DeAndre Goolsby. The 6-4, 230-pound prospect is also an early enrollee going through classes and spring practice, which should give him an advantage to get on the field early.

The nation's No. 17 tight end excels as a pass catcher and was a force at Derby (KS) High School.

"DeAndre Goolsby is a guy we targeted early on," Muschamp said. "(Tight ends coach) Derek Lewis went out and evaluated him in the last spring evaluation, really liked his movement skills, his growth potential, his toughness, his point of attack and those things. We're excited to have him on campus. He's a guy that can do some different things for you.

"He's a really good athlete. You watch him go through the off season program, really looks good in movement, his movement skills."

Moral Stephens committed in mid-December. A local product from Perry, Fla., he has the build to serve as a tight end of a big receiver. The 6-3, 230-pounder wasn't expected to be in Florida's class. The Gators didn't expect to have a scholarship for him, but after the transfer of Kent Taylor, it opened up a spot for the three-star.

"We're really happy to have him," Muschamp said. "He's a guy that vertically down the field can really make plays on the ball. He's a guy that we're excited about."

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