GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With the ensuing quarterback battle, the depth at wide receiver and the potential emergence of Jordan Scarlett as a top SEC running back, the tight end position is getting little discussion as the Florida Gators get ready for fall camp.
But Florida returns both of its top tight ends from last season and has one of the top freshmen in the country who could also see playing time.
Here’s a closer look at the Florida tight ends.
Senior DeAndre Goolsby
Goolsby has been a mainstay in Florida’s offense over the last two seasons, playing in 27 games with 16 starts. He finished third on the team with 38 catches in 2016 and tied Antonio Callaway with 3 touchdown receptions. Goolsby was mainly used in the short passing game, acting as a security blanket on slant passes. This was noted most in Florida’s win against Vanderbilt (8 catches, 37 yards) and the SEC Championship Game loss to Alabama (7 catches, 91 yards, 1 touchdown). Goolsby should hold down that starting role again in 2017 and could be a favorite target early for Florida’s starting quarterback — whether its graduate transfer Malik Zaire or redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks — as he gets acclimated to Jim McElwain’s offense. He was named to the preseason watch list for the John Mackey Award, given annually to the nation’s best tight end.
Redshirt junior C’yontai Lewis
Lewis started 11 games in 2016 and recorded 18 catches for 184 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His breakout game came against Georgia, in which he had 2 catches on a key drive early in the game, the latter of which was a 19-yard touchdown. Lewis is also an above-average blocker, an attribute that will ensure playing time.
Redshirt junior Moral Stephens
Through his first three seasons at Florida, Stephens has mostly been used on special teams. The 6-foot-3 tight end from Perry, Fla., has 1 catch in 17 games. His role will likely stay the same this season with both Goolsby and Lewis ahead of him on the depth chart.
Freshman Kemore Gamble
Gamble was a 4-star prospect and ranked as the No. 10 tight end in the Class of 2017 according to the 247sports composite ranking. The 6-foot-3, 241-pound tight end from Miami was one of five early enrollees and received a jump start on learning the offense by going through spring practice. And while Gamble seems like a strong candidate for a redshirt due to the veteran presence at the position, McElwain and tight ends coach Greg Nord praised Gamble’s work ethic and performance throughout the spring. McElwain said multiple times he expects Gamble to be a factor in the offense.
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