With spring practices only a couple of weeks away, it’s time to start previewing what the 2020 Gators might look like position-by-position.
Next up are the tight ends. Here are three observations, two questions and one prediction about the group entering the spring.
1. While Kyle Pitts was one of the nation’s premier pass-catching tight ends in 2019, his blocking sometimes left a lot to be desired. Making Pitts a well-rounded, three-down player is the goal for him this spring, new tight ends coach Tim Brewster said during his appearance on the Stadium and Gale podcast this week. Brewster said he and Pitts have watched film of San Francisco 49ers’ tight end George Kittle, and that is the type of player he thinks he can become. Pitts is already a freakish athlete in the passing game. If he adds the blocking component to his game, he’ll be almost completely indefensible and a first-round draft pick.
2. Kemore Gamble should finally get his shot. He’s played a lot on special teams the past two seasons but has contributed just seven career catches on offense. With Lucas Krull transferring after last season, Gamble should be able to clench the No. 2 role with a solid spring. The former top-300 prospect is undersized but is probably the best blocker of the group. Dan Mullen likes to utilize multiple tight end sets, but he wasn’t able to do that much in 2019 because of the lack of quality depth behind Pitts. Gamble has a chance to rectify that problem.
3. While a lot has been made of how Mullen has successfully overhauled the offensive line, defensive line and quarterbacks in recruiting, what he has done with the tight end position is just as incredible. This position has been completely transformed from where it was a few years ago. At the end of the Jim McElwain era, Florida’s top-3 tight ends were C’yontai Lewis, R.J. Raymond and Moral Stephens. All three were excellent blockers and team players, but the Gators basically played shorthanded in the passing game with them on the field. Now, UF has a tight end group that reflects the way the position is used in the modern game. The group is so talented and deep with pass-catchers that Keon Zipperer was the No. 2 ranked tight end in the Class of 2019 and will be in a battle to earn the third spot on the depth chart. This is the deepest UF has been at the position since Mullen’s time as offensive coordinator.
1. How will Brewster change things from what the tight ends did under Larry Scott? Scott was one of the better assistant coaches on the staff, but every coach has their own way of doing things, so there will be some changes. He seems to emphasize the blocking aspect of the position a little more, so that will be something to watch. The Gators have talented tight ends; how Brewster coaches them will determine what kind of players they become.
2. Will somebody emerge to complement Pitts, or will he have to carry the load by himself again this season? Pitts is an incredible player, but like any other player on the team, he would probably be more effective if they could limit his snaps somewhat. Tight end was the only position where the Gators couldn’t rotate a lot last year; they had a better one-two punch at quarterback than tight end. That needs to change.
1. To help improve his blocking, Pitts will be used more on the line of scrimmage this spring than he has in the past. He spent last spring primarily working with the wide receivers to refine his route-running. He’s got that skill mastered now, and it’s not going anywhere. He needs to improve his blocking, and the best way to do that is by practicing blocking. He’ll be used more like an old-school tight end than a big receiver this spring.