Tight end Aaron Hernandez gives Florida Gators yet another option

TALLAHASSEE — Florida's supply of playmakers continues to seem endless.

With receiver Percy Harvin going down to injury, there were a few more touches to go around Saturday, and tight end Aaron Hernandez capitalized.

The sophomore had four catches and set career highs with 61 yards and two touchdowns, both in the first half of the Gators' 45-15 victory over Florida State. The two scores give him five on the season, most among SEC tight ends.

Even with Harvin out, Florida State was left worrying about running backs Chris Rainey (eight carries, 97 yards) and Jeff Demps (nine carries, 89 yards).

So when the Seminoles shifted their focus on stopping the run, the 6-foot-3, 255-pounder found some favorable matchups.

"Defenses aren't worried about me," Hernandez said. "They're worried about the other key players, so I get open."

He was plenty open on both of his touchdown catches.

On the first, a 7-yarder late in the first quarter, quarterback Tim Tebow rolled left then threw a floater back across the field to Hernandez, who caught it at the 1 and walked into the end zone untouched to put Florida ahead 14-3.

"The last few weeks, teams used (the throwback pass) against Florida State, and it worked," Hernandez said. "So we put it in our playbook, and we used it."

Right before halftime, Hernandez found himself alone again when Tebow connected with him for a 24-yard touchdown to make it 28-9.

His other two catches also were key, shovel passes from Tebow for big gains.

The first came on third and 21 in the first quarter with Florida backed up at its 4. Hernandez rumbled for 16 yards to give punter Chas Henry some breathing room. Henry responded with a career-long 67-yarder, pinning the Seminoles on their 13.

In the second quarter, Hernandez took the shovel pass 14 yards to the Florida State 13. Tebow scored four plays later.

"He stepped up and made some big plays," offensive coordinator Dan Mullen said.

"That's part of our deal. We want to have enough guys on the field that you're going to struggle matching up against everyone, and he had a couple of advantageous matchups on him."

Saturday was the type of game coach Urban Meyer expected of Hernandez after standout tight end Cornelius Ingram tore an ACL during the preseason.

But inconsistency still plagues the 19-year-old from Bristol, Conn. Saturday was only the third time this season Hernandez recorded more than 50 receiving yards.

"I think he could be a draft pick in the NFL," Meyer said.

"He could be one of the best tight ends in college football. He needs to continue to improve."

Tight end Aaron Hernandez gives Florida Gators yet another option 11/29/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 10:41am]

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