Redshirt Report: Elksnis has found a sweet spot in terms of size, strength and speed

Jul 6, 2022 | 5 comments

Tight end Nick Elksnis’ early journey as a Florida Gator has been unconventional, to say the least.

As a true freshman, Elksnis saw early playing time under former head coach Dan Mullen, but it was mostly on special teams. By the fourth game of the season, he had already played in his four allotted ‘freebee’ games and was one more appearance away from losing his redshirt season, despite not recording a single stat on offense.

Later in the season, Mullen admitted during a press conference that the staff had miscalculated the playing time of one of the true freshmen. It is assumed he was referring to Elksnis.

Apologies aside, according to Elksnis’ father Darryl Elksnis, this still created a lot of frustration with the family and Nick.

“You know, we had a conversation after the fourth game. And I said, ‘Nick, you’ve got to talk to the coaching staff, and you know, don’t lose a year of eligibility playing on extra point teams,’ which is pretty much what they did in the first four games.”

Elksnis did not play another snap the rest of the season and was able to keep his redshirt, but at the conclusion of his freshman season, both his head coach and his position coach Tim Brewster were gone, and in stepped a new staff led by Billy Napier and new tight ends coach William Peagler.

Despite the negative feelings about how the redshirt was handled, a losing season, and a complete coaching staff change, Elksnis said that his son transferring was not on the table and did not make a lot of sense as a family.

“The portal didn’t make a whole lot of sense to us,” he said. “You know, I just felt like we were just going from one bad situation to another, so we stayed at Florida. We’re fully committed and really turned out to be very, very pleased.”

A distinguishable aspect of Napier’s offensive philosophy is his use of the “12 personnel” formation, which utilizes two tight ends on the field. After the departure of 2021 starter Kemore Gamble and a lack of any established veterans in the room, the former three-star recruit Elksnis would have plenty of opportunities during the spring to solidify his place in the offense.

However, adding to the unconventional storyline, Nick’s integration into Napier’s offense began with a delay after suffering a broken scapula, which forced him to miss most of the spring practices.

Elknsis was one of three scholarship tight ends to miss spring practices with serious injuries as Jonathan Odom suffered a torn labrum and Gage Wilcox suffered an undisclosed career-ending injury.

The road to recovery was not easy for Elksnis as he lost muscle and a chance to earn playing time. However, according to CJ Brewer, a former wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers and owner of X-Factor Academy with whom Elksnis trains with, Elknsis found perspective in the midst of another trial.

“Coach Napier has come in and put just put a really well-organized schedule and procedure and very structured, very well thought out program in place, and I think Nick thinks it’s a recipe for success.” – Darryl Elksnis

“A conversation that we had, though, was it just brought so much appreciation, you know, to the opportunity to be at Florida, to be a tight end,” Brewer said. “It kind of brought perspective to where he’s like, ‘Man, there’s a lot of guys that could be in a situation that I’m in, and it can be taken away in an instant.’ Those were his exact words, and it just brought him so much more appreciation and just lit even more of a fire in him.”

Since spring, Elknsis and Brewer both said that Nick has fully recovered from his shoulder injury and has gained all of the weight back that he lost.

When Elksnis first arrived on campus, a goal he and the previous strength staff under Nick Savage had was to build muscle to match his 6-foot-6-inch frame. According to both his father and Brewer, Elksnis was around 230 pounds at the time of his enrollment and eventually grew to around 250 pounds. From there, it was about keeping his speed while gaining that muscle.

“He’s a sub-5 guy in speed. So, putting an extra 20 pounds on and still trying to run a 4.9 or 4.84 is a tough thing,” Elksnis’ father said, “but I think he’s as fast as he’s ever been.”

Brewer confirmed this saying that Elksnis is faster than he’s ever seen him in the four years he’s known him and is “getting in and out of his breaks like he’s never lost any time.”

“That’s what I saw was his sweet spot in terms of size, strength, and speed and having that all of those three things translate to the field, which is the most important thing because you can be the biggest guy, the strongest guy, the fastest guy, but if he can’t move or get off his breaks, it’s pointless,” Brewer added.

Back to the unconventional side of Elksnis’ early career, Napier has made a complete 180-degree turn with the program as far as support staff, off-field life, and organization. Despite the sudden change, Elksnis has praised the changes so far, according to his father and Brewer.

“Coach Napier has come in and put just put a really well-organized schedule and procedure and very structured, very well thought out program in place, and I think Nick thinks it’s a recipe for success,” Elksnis said.

Specifically, the hirings of Peagler as the tight ends coach and Ty Darlington as a tight end assistant have paid off for Elksnis, who his father says he has good relationships with so far.

Off the field, Elksnis specifically praised the change in the parking situation and the nutrition for the program, according to both his father and Brewer.

“He really praises like, they brought in a whole new training staff. They brought in extra staff just to handle nutrition, you know, extra staff for strength and conditioning,” Brewer explained. “We didn’t talk a lot about the previous staff, but he was impressed about the way that Napier came in and the attention to detail that he brought.”

As the Gators head into the 2022 season, Elksnis said his son has been working with the second team with incoming true freshman Arlis Boardingham. Dante Zanders and Keon Zipperer are working with the first team.

Despite the lack of on-field experience and currently being a backup, Brewer said he wants Elksnis to take on a larger leadership role under the new staff.

“Even though he’s a younger guy, he’s only a redshirt freshman, he’s a natural-born leader. And I told him to carry himself that way,” Brewer said. “He’s going to be one of the hardest workers in the room at all times. He’s a kid that you can count on.”

According to his father, Elksnis’ personal goal is to ultimately become the number one tight end for the Gators.

“He’s definitely a driven kid. So, you know, his goal is nothing less than that,” he said. “He wants to be the primary tight end when they’re going to be throwing the ball. So, you know, that’s his goal. That’s always been his goal.”

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