On what looks to be an otherwise loaded team, two of the biggest question marks for the Gators offensively this year are at the tight end and fullback positions. Outside of junior tight end Aaron Hernandez, an All-SEC candidate, new coach Brian White is facing a lot of uncertainty at the position. During Tuesday's Media Day, he and Hernandez touched on the coming season.
A: "I think coach (Urban) Meyer would be best served to answer those questions, but I can tell you this, we need to get him ready to play, and play winning SEC football. Both he and (walk-on tight end) Chris (Coleman). With how the offenses have evolved and the importance of that position, we need to be able to make them better."
A: "I like it, but he needs to get better. He needs to improve. He's a very explosive guy, he's physical, but he needs to be more consistent. That's what happens with young players. Every day in practice is a new learning experience."
"We've got to get him to play at a championship level."
Q: What does he need to improve upon, the blocking aspect?
A: "No, at the point of attack he's a really physical blocker. It's footwork. It's all the little details and minutia of the position. It's muscle memory stuff that you only get through practice, and repetition and game reps and practice reps "
Q: The fullbacks were more involved in the offense over the spring, are we going to see more of them in the offense this year rather than just as a lead blocker?
A: "I anticipate that the position will play a more prominent role if they continue to evolve."
Q: How interchangeable are the players at the tight end, fullback and H-back positions in this offense?
A: "All of the off-the-line stuff is very interchangeable, but obviously the tight end, in-line, on-the-line-of-scrimmage, is what's really not interchangeable."
Q: What about the battle between Parks and Coleman to backup Aaron Hernandez?
A: "It's wide open."
Q: Hernandez and Parks are the only two scholarship tight ends on the roster. Over the spring you said that shouldn't add any more pressure on Parks. Is that still the case? Do you think he is feeling some pressure to perform?
A: "We need to develop him to put him in a position to play winning football. That is the pressure I have as a coach and he has as a player. It's an obligation and a demand, but I don't want to make it larger than life. It's not like he'd be the first freshman to have played tight end in the SEC or NCAA football. So constant practice, and constant development and he'll improve."
Q: How much did the knee injury over the spring set him back?
A: "Physically, none, but he missed the mental repetitions and obviously the physical reps, but there are absolutely no physical liabilities or effects from the injury."
Q: Parks said when he reported in January, he weighed 207 pounds. What is he up to at this point?
A: "He is in the 230s. I don't know exactly, maybe 235 or so."
Q: Will he be able to hold up in the SEC at 230 if he had to from a blocking standpoint?
A: "I would say there's been 235-pound tight ends who have played very effectively in this league. So I would say yes."
Q: Is T.J. Pridemore a guy who can flex out and do some tight end stuff?
A: "We'll flex him out. We'll do a bunch of things with T.J. Are you asking me if he's going to flex out and be a down-field receiving threat like Aaron Hernandez? The answer would be no. Aaron's a very rare player in that regard."
Note: Walk-ons Chris Pintado (former linebacker) and Chris Scott (former running back) have been moved to fullback to help fill the void left when Steven Wilks went down with a knee injury over the spring.
Junior tight end Aaron Hernandez
Q: What has this first week of practice been like?
A: "The team has been working hard and everyone has actually been grinding harder this year because you have people behind you that might take your job. We're working hard and trying to get it right before the season.
Q: Talking about the upcoming season, expectations are at an all-time high. What's it like dealing with that?
A: "You really try not to think about it when you're in this situation. There is a lot of pressure on you, but that's why we're working hard and being pushed hard by the coaches."
Q: With the departure of Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy, there's going to be more pressure on you to perform. Does that force you to prepare differently?
A: "Definitely, because I have to play a bigger role. I have to work harder everyday because they're expecting me to do more. I'll get a few more catches here and there that Percy or Murphy would have had. Maybe some more catches over the middle, but nothing crazy. I'm more of a leader now for the younger kids. I'm trying to set a good example for them."