Gators seek more production from tight ends

Florida tight end DeAndre Goolsby makes a reception in front of Vanderbilt linebackers Caleb Peart, left, and Emmanuel Smith during the first half of the Sept. 30 game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The tight end has been a staple of the Florida offense for close to 30 years.

From Kirk Kirkpatrick to Ben Troupe to the late Aaron Hernandez to Jordan Reed, the Gators have found creative ways to get the ball in the hands of their big targets in the middle of the field.

But Florida has had a hard time getting tight ends involved in the passing game this season. Through five games this season, Florida tight ends have combined for just 10 catches for 109 yards.

There were no completions to tight ends during UF’s 17-16 loss to LSU last week. In addition, the Gators are just one of four teams in the SEC who have yet to throw a TD pass to a tight end this season. Texas A&M, Auburn and Ole Miss are the others.

Florida coach Jim McElwain said a number of factors have come into the lack of production from tight ends in the passing game, including injuries and keeping tight ends on the line to help with pass protection.

“Attacking the middle of the field and getting those guys involved was big,” McElwain said. “We’ve obviously had to use them a little bit in protection as part of that piece as well, as you start to move the pocket and get yourself into your seven-man protection stuff. So things we need to get better at.”

Florida was expecting a breakout season from senior tight end DeAndre Goolsby, who was UF’s third-leading receiver last season with 38 catches for 342 yards and three TDs. But Goolsby suffered a leg injury in UF’s season opener against Michigan and hasn’t been much of a factor since. The 6-foot-4, 239-pound Goolsby has just three catches for 49 yards this season.

Asked if Goolsby is back to 100 percent, McElwain said: “He is back from that injury, he’s done a good job, and it’s really … that’s how you practice and he’s done a good job with that.”

Another promising freshman tight end, Kemore Gamble, suffered a foot injury late in preseason camp and hasn’t been a factor this season. Redshirt junior Moral Stephens leads Gator tight ends in receiving with three catches for 55 yards, with redshirt junior C’yontai Lewis adding four catches for 21 yards.

Overall, Florida’s passing game has had issues, with three different quarterbacks playing through the first five games. Redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks, who will make his fifth career start against Texas A&M, has had a tendency to lock into his primary receiver when he throws rather than scan the field for other targets.

But McElwain said the tight ends also need to do a better job of running routes and finding holes in opposing coverages.

“They’ve got to go get open,” McElwain said. “That’s a big piece of it.”


  1. I would like to see more variations of plays from one set. I know our QB’s have been below avg performance wise, but I having seen us use a play to set up another play on very many occasions. That makes us way to predictable and would hinder even an above avg QB.

    I do think we need to run the offense we want to run and not dummy it down. That way you teach the offense and QB to learn were they need to be instead of settling for where they are at.

    I will acknowledge that the coach is paid to win games and it is alot easier to sit bac and complain win your livelyhood is not on the line. And the Coach is trying to do what he thinks best to when a game. I can see that cureently he feels the best way to win games right now is too keep it close and find away to win in the 4th quarter. He maybe right this team has right.
    If that is his thinking he needs to let the fans know at his pressers and be staight with the fans. I believe he trying to protect his kids, bit many great coaches have acknowledged we are just not a very good team right now and let us know his current philosophy on the true state of the gators. I feel fans are always under estimated with the knowledge of the game when they gooo know the X’s and O’s and concepts behind a particular play. We can never know which plaver is supposed to be where on a given play because we are not privy to that information. We the fans are brush brush painters and have a point of view that can only be attained from afar. That does not mean critique’s are invaluable and should be immediately disregarded. Coaches like cliches, rightfully so they became cliches for a reason. So here’s one that will accentuate my point “can’t see the forest for the trees”.
    One last thing any idiot who sends sends hate mail to any coach becuase they are upset with the product on the field is an embarrasment to Gator Nation. Criticisizing decision on the field is fair game personal attacks reflect badly on Gator Nation.

  2. Thanks Glen.
    My belief is if we are better than what we have seen, the play calling would reflect that. I’m sure Mac would love to have the third team in the game at the start of the fourth quarter.

    We as fans can stay positive or move to Alabama. I want a positive environment in the Swamp when kids are on their visits. They are the future and the ones capable of turning it around. Would anybody want to go before 90,000 distraught and booing fans??

    Urban Meyer isn’t coming back!

    Everyone in the country knows our problems. They hear about it every week. Encouragement would be a nice place to start.

    Go Gators!!