Florida Tight End Spring Preview: New coach, new players, new hope

Feb 25, 2023 | 1 comment

(Photo courtesy Florida Sports Information)

The Florida Gators are preparing for year two under Billy Napier with plenty of questions to be answered after a disappointing 6-7 2022 season. The Gators will begin preparations for 2023 with spring practice, which kicks off on March 4th. In anticipation, Inside the Gators takes a look at every position; who’s returning, what needs to be proven, and more.

Up today are the tight ends. 

Main Participants

  • Arlis Boardingham
  • Hayden Hansen
  • Tony Livingston (True Freshman)
  • Jonathan Odom
  • Andrew Savaiinaea
  • Dante Zanders
  • Keon Zipperer

Out this spring

  • None known

Arriving this summer

  • None


  • Nick Elksnis (Transfer to South Carolina)
  • Griffin McDowell (Transfer to UT Chatanooga)

Key Question: ow will a coaching change effect their usage?

With William Peagler off to the NFL, Billy Napier needs to find his replacement sooner rather than later. Whoever it may be, how will this affect their usage. Outside of Keon Zipperer and Jonathan Odom, the Gators hardly used the tight ends in the passing game. Spring will be an early indication of their usage under a new position coach.

Bonus Question: How healthy is the group, and can they stay healthy?

The tight end room took a massive blow in what felt like injury after injury in 2022 after Gage Wilcox’s career-ending injury and when Jonathan Odom and Nick Elksnis both missed spring with injuries. Add to it Arlis Boardingham’s shoulder injury that sidelined him for most of 2022. Then, Elknis and Zipperer both suffered midseason injuries that kept them out for the rest of the season before Odom was injured in the bowl game. That’s a lot of injuries in one season. Simply put, this group needs to stay healthy in spring.

Something to Prove: Keon Zipperer
The former four-star recruit returns to Gainesville for one more season. Zipperer hasn’t truly lived up to the hype, but flashy plays like his touchdown against Tennessee proves he’s capable to be a good tight end in the SEC. However, Florida’s overall tight end usage plus his foot injury held him back from making statistical impacts, and he isn’t the best blocker in the room. Now in his final spring, he’ll have a lot to prove between his health, his production and his relationship with a new starting quarterback. Not to mention, he has competition behind him.

He could surprise: Andrew Savaiinaea
After the plethora of spring injuries, Florida made some position changes by moving Dante Zanders back to tight end and Griffin McDowell to tight end from their previous defensive end spots. This year, Andrew Savaiinaea moves to tight end from defense, but this isn’t a random move to make up for depth. The redshirt freshman succeeded at tight end in high school, catching 24 passes for 317 yards and nine touchdowns his senior season. He very well could push for playing time, but he’ll have to adjust to the position change this spring.

Keep an eye out for: The 2022 class – Hansen, Boardingham and Livingston
In Napier’s first signing class, the Gators brought in three tight ends not including Savaiinaea – Hayden Hansen, Boardingham, who can also play receiver, and Tony Livingston, an offensive line convert. Hansen redshirted, Boardingham missed 12 games with an injury and Livingston grey-shirted and didn’t make it on campus. Now, all three are participating in spring practice. Keep an eye on how they fit into the offense after not playing last season and if they can make a push on the pre-fall depth chart.

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