Given the success of sophomore Kyle Pitts in 2019, the short-term at Florida's tight end position looms pretty elite. However, the long-term at TE was a priority for Florida over the 2019 and 2020 signing classes - and tight ends coach Larry Scott nailed it down.
Last year, the Gators added an athletic, receiving tight end in Keon Zipperer from Lakeland High School (Lakeland, FL). For the 2020 class, Florida went in-state again, signing a more balanced tight end in legacy target Jonathan Odom, of Jesuit HS (Tampa, FL). Odom committed to Florida this past May, and never wavered from that commitment despite interest from Alabama, LSU, and other big programs.
The son of former Gators offensive lineman Jason, Odom has blocking in his bloodstream, a huge aspect of why Florida recruited him. But don't take my word for it, take Odom's.
The 6-6, 235 lb. Gators' signee joined GatorMaven for an interview to discuss his skillset, his fit in Florida's offense, and more.
"I feel like I am most polished as a blocker, with my ability to shoot my hands and roll my hips," Odom told GatorMaven. "Also, being able to block all over the field. Whether it’s on a linebacker, defensive end, or defensive back - whether it’s in space or in the tackle box."
Violent at the point of attack and through his blocks, Odom isn't the type to pull up until the whistle blows. With aggressive feet, Odom drives defenders into the ground on a regular basis as he opens up lanes in the run game.
Watch the bottom of the line, as Odom works inside with the left tackle to remove the defensive end from the gap. In the beginning, both Odom and the tackle get hands on, but Odom finishes the job with a quick, strong punch to the chest, a full arm extension, and by driving his defender backward until he eats dirt.
Blocking is the floor of Odom's game, with length and strength to essentially serve as a sixth offensive lineman as an in-line tight end, a lead blocker at H-back, or out in space. And the ability to play multiple positions as a versatile threat is something that intrigues the incoming freshman.
"[Tight ends] coach [Larry] Scott has told me he loves my versatility my ability to be a dominant blocker and that I can flex out as a receiver when needed to," Odom said.
Versatility is a huge aspect in Odom's game, with a solid floor as both a blocker and a pass-catcher given his length.
"I love the way Coach Mullen uses the tight end in his offense. He’s used the TE in a very versatile way, which is exactly how I see myself being used and ultimately why I chose Florida. Coach Mullen bases his offense off of matchups and that’s exactly how I want to be used"
"I really feel comfortable anywhere on the field," Odom continued. "In my film, you probably see that I played all three of those positions throughout the years. I really feel the perks come once you’re able to play all three because then you can be used in a very versatile way. You can be put all over the field and do many different things."
In the above clip, Odom proves his point. Blocking in space is a totally different game than as an in-line blocker, and at H-back, you have to mix the skills of both.
While he starts out with more space to operate within than when he's in-line, Odom still must move quickly to seal off the outside before the rush begins. Odom must be precise in his initial contact on a block in space in order to control the direction of the block, which his size and athleticism paired together allow him to do.
It will be interesting to see if Florida utilizes the H-back position more often with Odom in house, and if the coaching staff will choose to develop him as a lead/pulling blocker across the line of scrimmage as well.
His positional versatility, to go along with his size and athleticism combo, comes in handy as a receiver as well.
"Coach Scott has also told me he loves how soft my hands are when I catch the ball, and my body control for my size" Odom said. "My sneaky athleticism helps me create a lot of matchups and mismatches... Through my four years in high school, I had only two drops and zero fumbles, which I feel makes me a very reliable target."
As seen in the clip above, all of those traits beneficial for Odom as he can contest catches in the redzone and on the boundary. While there's a home for Odom in the Dan Mullen offense on or near the line of scrimmage, it's clear that Odom's versatility makes him an intriguing passing game weapon.
While Odom has work to do with his feet in order to sharpen his breaking routes, as he told GatorMaven, his initial burst when he's dedicated his route a certain direction will boost his route running. On the mesh concept above, Odom accelerates underneath the linebacker and opposite dig route from the slot receiver on the weak side of the formation, getting into space and bringing the ball in with room to work upfield.
Odom runs one of his personal favorite routes, a corner, in the clip above.
When asked where he has room to improve from a technical perspective within his game, Odom responded "just to continue working on footwork and polishing my routes and things like that. I still have many things to learn." On the corner route above, Odom rounds the route break which would typically give the safety plenty of time to react and close the separation.
The burst out of Odom's initial stance and post-route break is appealing, though, and with added technique in his route running, Odom's corner route could become a deadly asset within Florida's offense.
Odom also says he would like to improve his strength at the next level. "College is very different than high school. We are playing a much heavier competition and I need to prepare my body for that."
"I watch a lot of Rob Gronkowski," Odom said of who he models his game after.
"I watched him be physical at the top of his routes and also being a bruising blocker. That’s who I model my game after. I’ve also started to watch Kyle Pitts as he’s emerged, and have learned a lot from him and will continue too as I go up to Gainesville."