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Q&A: Clay Burton

GAINESVILLE -- With Jake McGee’s season-ending injury, Clay Burton is no longer Florida’s starting tight end in name only.

Burton is now the de facto starter. For good. 

The former defensive end turned tight end reeled in seven passes for 42 yards in UF's opener against Eastern Michigan -- more than doubling his career totals (3 receptions for 24 yards) in one game.

It was a breakout performance for the beleaguered senior, plagued by drops since his transition to offense.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end spoke about his offseason development, his productive performance and the urgency of stepping up in McGee’s absence.   

On his evolution as a player…

“It’s just a lot of hard work that’s kind of finally coming to the surface. I’m thankful for the opportunity to compete and play and earn the job. I’m just ready to have a great senior season and help the team win.” 

On specific work towards improvement…

“We have a JUGS machine, I did that. And just doing a little extra with Jeff [Driskel] and stuff like that, just trying to get out there every time. Whenever Jeff would go out and throw extra, I would try to get with him and stuff like that. Just extra stuff. … You could say there was more urgency because it was my last year.”

On UF's revamped offense optimizing tight ends…

“It felt great. Just really doing anything I could to help the team win. Felt great. The fact I was catching a lot of balls, something I haven’t done in the past, I really enjoyed it.”

On transforming his body… 

“This offseason I've lost like 15 pounds, so that's kind of like goes into what I did in the offseason to try to help myself get lighter and be able to run a little better and stuff like that, better conditioning."

On replacing McGee...

"Whatever his production was going to be as a starter I've just got to keep on doing what I've been doing. I kind of felt like it was always on me, you know, but just keep playing well."

*************** BONUS QUOTES ***************

Coach Will Muschamp on Burton’s transformation… 

“He’s changed his body a little bit. He’s slimmed down. He’s quicker than he’s been, he’s faster than he’s been. He worked extremely hard on the JUGS machine all summer. He hasn’t had many drops at all through fall game and working into game week. All those things, he’s a player who has done everything we’ve asked him to do to put himself in a position to be successful, and he certainly was Saturday.”

Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper on Burton’s breakout performance…

“I can't say that I was surprised. We've been out there quite a bit in practice. I think he’s a guy that has been steady for us the whole time. I think he understands. He's got a lot of experience to grow back on. He just gets the game now because he's older. He plays with a great base and he understands how to be in good positions, so that just carried over to the passing game. Same thing. He gets big picture, so he knows where he fits into schemes and gets in the right spots and makes those plays.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

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