Healthy Thompson ready to compete
Published: Monday, August 12, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, August 11, 2013 at 9:03 p.m.
Most college football players dread the mid-August dog days, with no games to look forward to after long, hot practices.
But following a recent Florida workout, redshirt freshman tight end Colin Thompson had reason to feel good.
“It's been nice to knock some of the rust off,” Thompson said. “It's been a while.”
A true freshman last season, Thompson was expecting a chance to see the field right away for the Gators. But a broken foot a year ago in camp, Thompson's second in the span of six months, required surgery. Doctors inserted a screw in his foot, which sidelined him for two months.
That made Thompson's choice easy. He decided to redshirt to give his surgically repaired foot time to heal. Thompson had first broken his foot in March of his senior year in high school. The second break was located in the same bone in his foot.
“For me to rehab that and to break it again obviously the obstacle (to return to the field) was somewhat impossible,” Thompson said. “So it was good to sit back, learn from a great tight end, and a great group of tight ends.”
Thompson arrived on the UF campus as a decorated recruit (ESPN.com rated him as the second-best tight end in the 2012 class) out of Warminster, Pa. Far from home and unable to play, the transition to his first year of college wasn't easy.
“I was lucky that my parents were able to come to a couple of games,” Thompson said. “I have a great group of friends here. We have a tight, tight end group. We have a good group of guys in there and Coach (Derek) Lewis really runs a good ship. We're a family in there so it was a lot easier.”
Thompson said he absorbed as much as he could from starting tight end Jordan Reed during his off year. Reed was picked in the third round of the NFL draft by the Washington Redskins last April.
“Jordan was very helpful when it came to running routes and even just knowledge of the game and how to handle yourself like a pro,” Thompson said. “He really was a great guy and someone to learn off of.”
Thompson has taken some knowledge into this year's camp. He's in a four-way competition with Kent Taylor, Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook for the starting tight end job and insists he's back 100 percent healthy.
“I get to compete, that's full go to me,” Thompson said. “You are either off or you are on, so if you are out there going, you get the opportunity to compete. Everyone is going to be nicked up, but that's just camp.”
So far, Thompson has impressed coaches in camp with his blocking ability. At 6-foot-3 and 252 pounds, Thompson has the size to help open holes in the running game. Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease has already experimented with some two tight end sets, with Thompson and Taylor on the field at the same time.
“You're going to see some physical play,” Thompson said. “Jordan was physical, but in a different way. Obviously he was more of a receiver so he didn't have as many opportunities to be, but you are going to see physical play and guys that are tough — multiple tight end sets and a whole lot of fun with that. That's why I came here. It should be a fun season.”
In the passing game, Thompson said he feels like he's improved as a route-runner and a pass-catcher. As a high school senior, Thompson had 13 catches for 208 yards and four touchdowns.
Whether Thompson's blend of blocking ability and pass catching ability is enough to win a starting job remains to be seen.
“We're all competing,” Thompson said. “Whether there's a clean cut (No. 1) or there is someone who is not (No. 1) I really don't know. I just know that every play, everyone is getting some equal reps and everyone is getting a shot at some plays and what coaches think is going to be the best for them.”