On August 2, I composed a piece on this very website comparing the Florida’s 2010 tight ends with this year’s group and made predictions as to how I thought the 2011 unit would fair. In the conclusion of my piece, I gave the unit as a whole a B grade for the upcoming season but noted that depth could become an issue. Well guess what…depth has become an issue!
The rumors that A.C. Leonard had suffered an injury that would sideline him for some time started to pop up earlier this week. That injury was confirmed by Will Muschamp this morning. Coach Muschamp stated that A.C. tore his meniscus in a non-contact drill earlier this week and will subsequently miss the next 6 to 8 weeks. If my math is correct, that would mean that A.C. will probably not be returning to action until the end of September.
Some may not view this as a very big injury considering that the best team we play in the month of September is Tennessee and besides them we play three teams that we should beat fairly easily (fingers crossed!). But I think this could be a bigger blow for a couple of reasons.
First, by all accounts, A.C. was becoming the #1B tight end to #1A Jordan Reed. And with new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis almost certainly going with several two tight end sets in his offense, having two formidable bookends for the offensive line would have been a great weapon. Also, being a true freshman, the more playing time that A.C. could have received in the first few games, the more prepared mentally and physically he would have been when we hit the meat of our schedule in October.
The ripple-down effect could hurt the Gators. It is believed now that Gerald Christian will move back over to the offensive side of the ball to take over some of the tight end responsibilities that A.C. leaves behind. That in itself is fine with me as I think Christian could be one hell of a tight end in his own right, but I never like it when guys are constantly switched from one position to the other (in this case, from linebacker to tight end). It seems to me like these guys start to be a jack of all trades and a master of none.
In addition, Clay Burton will likely move from his defensive end position to a full-time tight end, at least at the start of the season. My biggest fear with this move is taking a freshman away from the position he will most likely be playing at going forward and therefore taking away his chances of increasing his skills at that position. There was a chance, albeit maybe a small one, that Clay would have redshirted this year. That chance probably goes out the window with A.C.’s injury.
Finally, there is also some thoughts that Omarius Hines could pick up some of the slack at tight end in A.C.’s absence. Again, on the surface this looks fine as Hines has the hands and the size (well, maybe he is a little small but that’s ok) to be a very serviceable tight end. But it’s not like the Gators have a closet full of good wide receivers right now that they can open up and pluck one out when need be. Our WR unit is one of the thinnest unit’s on the team and if Omarius is playing tight end that means one of our best WRs isn’t lining up at his normal position.
In the end, the old adage that injuries are part of the game is certainly true. I just hate to see one like this so early in fall practice and at a position which the Gators are already fairly thin. On the other side of the coin, I guess it’s better to happen now than in the third week of the season.