GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Several Florida players have some history with first-year coach Dan Mullen, including C’yontai Lewis.
The senior tight end was recruited in high school by Mullen, who was the first coach to offer him a scholarship in the Class of 2014. He also predicted an eventful position change for Lewis.
“In high school, he really recruited me to be a wide receiver, but my speed was too slow. That’s what he told me. So he told me I had to play tight end,” Lewis said. “When he got here, he was excited to see me and he said he remembers me. All the coaches, Coach [Billy Gonzales], Coach [Nick] Savage, all of them remember me.”
Lewis remembered Mullen as well. Not just because of that coveted first offer he received from Mississippi State, but for Mullen’s approach during the recruiting process.
“He was just real with me,” Lewis said. “When he recruited me, he was the first person to offer me a scholarship. He was like, ‘After I offer you this scholarship, a lot of schools are going to come and try to talk to you.’
“If I didn’t come there, he was still excited for me to get recruited by a lot more people. And for him to be the first person to offer me a scholarship, it’s crazy that he’s here now.”
The timing couldn’t have been better for Lewis, whose production dropped as a junior — 7 catches for 42 yards and a touchdown — because of Florida’s offensive struggles and inability to involve the tight ends. Lewis believes that will change under Mullen.
“I’m just excited. They use the tight end. It’s the main piece of the offense,” Lewis said. “We do a lot of running around, we do a lot of moving. We get the ball a lot now. They run most of plays off of the tight end. We got reads and all type of stuff now, so I’m excited about it.”
Lewis caught 18 passes for 184 yards and a pair of scores during his sophomore campaign. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound pass catcher wasn’t able to better his game last season, but he’s already making improvements with new position coach Larry Scott.
“He knows a lot. He’s teaching us more about the game, like coverages,” Lewis said of Scott. “I never knew about coverages, to be honest. So he’s teaching us a lot of coverages and how to run routes off that. And he’s a good people person.
“We’re comfortable with him. We feel real good about him. He makes us understand plays better. If we mess up, he doesn’t just jump down your throat. He’ll coach you up about the play. I like him.”
Lewis is also a fan of Mullen’s coaching cycle. He’s been having fun with the players during practice and running through drills alongside them.
“That’s the kind of coach you want,” Lewis said. “A coach that can be able to tell you what to do and show you. It’s hard to look at somebody and tell them to do something and they’re not doing it. But a coach like him, I’ll do anything for him.”