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Florida tight end C'yontai Lewis still thinks about the 2016 SEC Championship Game loss to Alabama.

Gators tight end still motivated by 2016 SEC Championship Game loss, intent on 2018 Florida return

Ryan Young

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Florida TE C’yontai Lewis could be in for a breakout season

Redshirt senior tight end C’yontai Lewis has been around the Florida football program for a handful of years and dozens of games now, but one still sticks with him more than others: the Gators’ 54-16 loss to Alabama in the 2016 SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.

“I still got the confetti in my room that they dropped. I got it in the bathroom on the wall. I look at that every day,” Lewis said. “That was a special moment for us to be able to make it to the SEC championship, and like, it hurt me bad not to win, especially playing against Alabama. Every year I want to play against Alabama, like every year. That’s just like a big moment that I think about every day. Like, I just want to get back to Atlanta and win in Atlanta.”

Lewis, who is from Eutaw, Ala., could be primed for a breakout season in Florida’s new offense.

He and the Gators’ other tight ends spoke Thursday after practice about how much more involved the unit has been in the passing game from previous years.

Lewis had just 7 catches for 42 yards and a touchdown in 2017, and he’s eager to make the most of his final season at Florida, one he hopes will lead him back to Atlanta.

“I haven’t had the season I wanted to have,” he said. “I want to win a championship and I feel like this is my last year, it’s time for me to step up. I feel like I was like a leader when I was young, but I was scared to step up into that position because I feel like I wasn’t doing enough or I wasn’t like in the light of fully being a leader. But now I feel like I [need to] ’cause it[‘s] my last year.”

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In Florida football news

Recruiting roundup

  • SEC Country’s Zach Abolverdi caught up with Florida defensive end target Derick Hunter, who has been a frequent visitor to Gainesville this spring and will return for the spring game on Saturday. “I can’t miss that,” said Hunter, who is ranked No. 190 nationally in the 247Sports composite. “I just want to see the fan base come together. I’ve been seeing how it looks in practice throughout the spring, so I want to see the Gators come alive again and I want the fans to get a good glimpse of it. Last year was a little downfall, but it’s time for a major comeback.” Read more here.
  • Abolverdi also evaluates the Gators’ chances of pulling prospects out of Georgia, where the in-state Bulldogs have been locking up their local recruits.
  • The latest Chomp Chat podcast discusses the recruiting impact Florida’s spring game can have on Saturday.

Florida baseball hosts Missouri

  • No. 1-ranked Florida (29-6, 9-3 SEC) hosts Missouri (24-9, 6-6) for a three-game series at McKethan Stadium this weekend. All three games can be streamed on SEC Network+.
  • The series opener is set for 6:30 p.m. ET Friday with Gators right-hander Brady Singer (7-1, 3.00 ERA) opposing Missouri lefty T.J. Sikkema (2-2, 2.90).
  • The teams play at 5 p.m. Saturday with Florida RHP Jackson Kowar (5-1, 2.72) and Missouri LHP Michael Plassmeyer (4-0, 1.99) set to take the mound.
  • And the finale Sunday is set for 1 p.m. with Gators RHP Tyler Dyson (4-2, 3.48) facing Mizzou RHP Bryce Montes De Oca (4-2, 2.64).
  • Florida is 17-4 all-time against Missouri, including 10-1 in Gainesville.
  • Junior third baseman Jonathan India takes a 20-game hitting streak into the weekend and leads the SEC in batting average (.426), on-base percentage (.545) and slugging percentage (.870).
  • Junior shortstop Deacon Liput has hit safely in 16 of the last 18 games and has a nine-game hitting streak.
  • Three Gators made D1Baseball’s top 150 college prospects list, with Singer at No. 2, India at No. 6 and Kowar at No. 15. See the full list here.

In other Gators-related news …

  • Former Florida women’s basketball coach Amanda Butler has been hired as the coach at Clemson. Butler coached the Gators from 2007-17, reaching the NCAA Tournament four times.
  • Meanwhile, new Gators women’s basketball coach Cameron Newbauer signed four recruits on Thursday. The signees bring diverse international backgrounds with Emanuely De Oliveira (Brazil), Kristina Moore (Australia), Paige Robinson (England) and Kiara “Kiki” Smith (Maryland). Read more here.
  • The Gators women’s tennis team won 4-0 over No. 23 Kentucky on Thursday, setting a high-stakes SEC finale at 11 a.m. Saturday with No. 3 Vanderbilt in Gainesville. The winner will claim the conference championship. Read more here.
  • Florida sophomore golfer Andrew Zhang will turn professional after this college season. Read more here.

What they’re saying on Twitter

  • Former Florida football star Kevin Carter spoke to the Gators on Thursday:

  • Like his coach, Florida defensive end Antonneous Clayton is putting out the call for a full house in The Swamp on Saturday:

  • Florida basketball coach Mike White tweeted about his former player Devin Robinson scoring his first NBA points on Wednesday night:

  • From earlier in the week, the Gainesville Police Department thanked football coach Dan Mullen for opening practice to them and other first responders on Tuesday:

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