As Florida football continues to chase after the ghost of Kyle Pitts, there is an acceptance that Pitts was a special talent that will be hard to duplicate. But there is also a reality that Georgia keeps loading up on the position while the Florida Gators feel fortunate to have healthy bodies that call themselves tight ends.
Now that Russ Callaway has officially been named tight end coach for Florida, he has his work cut out to revitalize a group that has been neglected.
Florida Football: Tighten up
The Gators have eight tight ends listed on their roster for Spring practice. Only three of them played more than one game in 2022. Of the three that played, none are heading into the 2023 campaign as someone that will strike fear in the hearts of opposing defensive coordinators.
Jonathan Odom, for example, caught seven passes for 69 yards all season in 2022. Brock Bowers at Georgia caught seven passes for 152 yards in the national title game against TCU.
Dante Zanders will be taking advantage of his bonus 6th year due to Covid. He has bounced back and forth between the offense and defense during his time in Gainesville, moving to tight end full-time last season.
Keon Zipperer is the one guy Florida football fans have been waiting to break out. A four-star prospect out of Lakeland, he had a career-high 177 yards in 2022. Bowers had 154 yards alone in the game against Florida.
Beyond those three, Tony Livingston is a converted offensive tackle that was a four-star prospect in 2022. Arlis Boardingham is a three-star athlete, Andrew Savaiinaea is converted from a defensive lineman, Hayden Hansen was the 110th rated tight end in the class of 2022, and Scott Isacks is a walk-on.
So how did we get to the point where Florida hasn’t signed a top 300 overall tight end in the last four recruiting cycles and signed zero tight ends for the class of 2023?
William Peagler and Tim Brewster weren’t good enough at recruiting for one. While there are not as many top-end tight ends coming out of high school compared to other positions, it ties into the narrative that Florida football has been unable to sign truly elite prospects.
And because the recruiting has lagged the last four years, you’re left with an underwhelming room when the one true blue-chip (Zipperer) doesn’t reach his full potential.
Yes, under Billy Napier, Florida’s offense has its tight ends block more than they catch. But given the amount of two-tight-end formations Napier loves to use, it will be paramount that Callaway hit the trail and beef up the room going forward.