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Recruit Report: Kent Taylor, TE, Land O’ Lakes

Back by popular demand. With another commitment comes another breakdown.

Name: Kent Taylor
Position: Tight End
Height: 6’5"
Weight: 220
High School: Land O’ Lakes (Land O’ Lakes, FL)
Status: Verbally committed to Florida

The Gators will take three tight ends as part of the 2012 recruiting class. How many times have we heard that in recent weeks? It didn’t necessarily surprise us, but it also didn’t make complete sense. After all, why would a school with a junior, sophomore and freshman on the roster and one tight end already committed talk about taking two more at the position? One more seemed probable; two more possible, but unlikely. Oh what can change in only a few days.

On Thursday, the public found out what the Gators’ coaching staff had known for nearly a month: Land O’ Lakes tight end Kent Taylor was committed to Florida. Two days prior, we learned that the sophomore on the roster – Gerald Christian – would continue his career elsewhere. Suddenly, three tight ends sounded more likely. For now though, we focus on number two. Taylor is the nation’s best at the position according to Rivals and Scout, and fourth according to ESPNU. To say his addition to the class is a good thing is as understated as saying that three consecutive losses is a slight annoyance.

On to the breakdown…

Taylor and fellow tight end commit Colin Thompson both measure in at 6’5". That’s not exactly where their similarities end, but it’s not far off either. It wouldn’t be entirely accurate, but the easiest way to describe the two would be as follows: Taylor = pass-catching tight end; Thompson = blocking tight end. The only reason to simplify it to that point would be because those are their strengths. Of course, being rated as high as they are, they’re both talented in many aspects of the game. The most important thing to remember is that they complement each other almost perfectly.

The first thing you’ll notice from Taylor’s highlights is how deceptively fast his is. Some players have obvious speed; think Jeff Demps. When a lane opens, you can see Demps accelerate, hit his top speed, and pull away. It’s a process, which although it happens quickly, you can visualize. Now, don’t think I’m comparing Taylor to Demps in terms of speed. I’m not; I’m merely illustrating that while Demps’ speed is obvious, Taylor’s is unexpected.

Time after time, the ball is snapped, Taylor makes his move off the line, and, suddenly, he's wide open in the middle of the field, having outrun a linebacker and sometimes a safety. It’s not hard to catch a pass when you’re wide open (well, unless you’re…you know, I won’t even go there). Taylor will face faster defenders in the SEC than he ever did in high school, but his speed still impresses. A tight end that can separate from coverage is never a bad weapon to have.

As for hands, he has good ones, and they are another attribute listed under "good things this freak of an athlete brings to the game of football." Open over the middle, easy catch. Quick out/in/curl, yup. In traffic, sure. While jumping to reach a less-than-perfect throw, count on a reception. Taylor – like classmate Thompson (that "blocking" tight end I referred to earlier) – makes catches look easy, so easy it makes us all wonder what we’d be doing right now if we could catch like that.

For many wide receivers and tight ends, the catch is THE key to the play. Well, yes, that’s true, but (you saw that coming, right?) those that don’t treat it as such are the great ones. Taylor is one of those. Making the catch is just another part of the play. It’s no more important than getting off the line with perfect timing, running the route flawlessly, or the yards he gains after the catch. It’s easy to treat the catch like that when you have the hands Taylor possesses and that’s exactly what he does.

If I had to pick one area in which Taylor could improve, it would be blocking. It isn’t a deficiency, but it’s isn’t his strong point either. He’s a serviceable blocker, but being honest in our assessment of Taylor, it’s the area he can work on. Thompson gets the blocking label because he’s relentless in that aspect of the game. Taylor can get there, too, but he isn’t just yet. The 35-pound advantage Thompson possesses might have something to do with it, or it could be their differing styles of play. While it’s not Taylor’s strength, it’s a perfect example of why the Gators took both tight ends. Again, perfect complements.

The only down side to Taylor’s announcement is that commitments are rare during this part of the season. They happen, as we’ve discussed before, but not frequently. Learning about Taylor’s pledge was a boost of sorts and one we may have to subsist on for the near future, at least in the recruiting realm. If that’s the case, I think we can all take comfort in it being a great one.