Mullen: Solid play from tight ends, but need more production from position

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Florida tight end C'yontai Lewis has yet to catch a pass this season. [Lauren Bacho/Gainesville Sun]

Had someone come up with an over/under for the number of receptions Florida starting tight end C’Yontai Lewis would have through the first three games of the season, it likely would have been close to double figures.

That’s because throughout training camp, one of the popular storylines involved the tight ends, about how they were going to be an integral part of Dan Mullen’s passing attack and how their production would soar.

So, 10 receptions in three games would definitely seem doable.

Well, through three games, Lewis’ reception total is: 0.

And the other tight ends — Moral Stephens, Kemore Gamble and Lucas Krull — have combined for five receptions for 70 yards and one touchdown.

So, a position that many are anticipating putting up big numbers this season is averaging only 1.6 receptions and 23.3 yards a game so far.

Obviously, the tight ends have gotten off to a slow start.

But despite the lack of production, Mullen and tight ends coach Larry Scott seem pleased with where the tight ends are at this early stage — and where they think they’re headed.

“I think they’ve played pretty solidly,” Mullen said. “Like any position, you want more production. I always want more production at every position. We’re always trying to get better at every position.

“Overall, they’ve played pretty solidly.”

Scott is stressing patience. Patience to the tight ends. Patience to all of those who have been expecting so much more out of the position.

“We’ve had a couple of drops in there,” Scott said. “They understand that when you have opportunities, you have to take advantage of them. They’ve been really patient.

“They understand what’s going on.The ball has been evenly dispersed among our team, a lot of different guys. That’s the power of team and the beauty of the offense. One group doesn’t have to carry the load.”

Scott said the tight ends are starting to learn that there’s much more to their role in the passing game than just catching passes.

“Sometimes you ought to get more joy out of understanding that I ran my route the correct way, the depth and different things needed to attract who I needed to attract for my buddy that’s coming underneath me to be wide open,” Scott said. “Just learning that it’s not always just about the ball being thrown at you, but where do you fit in the big scheme of things and if you do your job in the passing game, it opens up for everybody.”

The tight ends have played a prominent role in Mullen’s offenses at Florida, when he was the offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer, and at Mississippi State.

They eventually will in this offense, too, Scott said.

“It’s getting better each and every week, playing with more and more confidence as we go,” Scott said. “The guys are getting comfortable with all the technique. A gradual build each and every week, getting better. So, happy with the progression but we still have a long way to go.

“It’s happening. As we continue to grow and getting comfortable with the offense, you’ll see more and more as we go, those guys making plays.”

Opportunities are in the forecast for the tight ends.

“Absolutely,” Scott said. “When we do, we have to make the plays.”

 

28 COMMENTS

  1. It seems that Lewis has had some tough catches so far – but he has not come up with any of them! I am not sure the productivity for this position will improve significantly until some of the young guys and Krull understand enough of the offense to get in the game.

  2. Lewis a 3 star who has dropped passes his entire career, Stephens less than that, and Raymond a walk on. What do you expect? I thought Gamble was supposed to be a stud, can’t he break into this lineup? Must not be that great. With this lack of talent, would be for giving younger guys, Krull, Pitts, Lang, more experience so maybe the position can be productive next year.

    • Such negative comments are counter-productive. Perhaps you would like to suit-up and show us how the TE position should be played? It is easy to be an armchair warrior. My challenge to you is to find what you can say that is helpful and inspiring. Maybe you should read Tim Tebow’s book.

  3. I cannot fathom the part of the headline “solid play from tight ends..” Yea, solid drop the football. This is another year of a loaded position letting the team down. If we could run tight end drag and crossing routes and have our tight ends catch the ball when thrown to them, our receivers, (who can’t catch very well either) would have easier opportunities to drop passes! Throw and catch is fundamental. Look the ball into your hands. Catch the ball with your hands. Catch first, run second. If the ball is thrown your way, go get it! If you can’t get it, be sure nobody else can catch it! The concept isn’t that difficult. And yet, still we have no production out of the tight ends, and pass routes are not being run efficiently along with receivers dropping passes. Of course, not to leave out Franks, who has to see them open, and make the correct decision to throw them the ball!

    • Or, it could just be gas, Jaws. Seriously, I think (like just about everything else this year) they’ll get there. And, as Franks improves across the board, so will they. Or, maybe Trask will end up getting a shot, but I think the end result will be the same. To me, it’s not so much a question of “why” so much, but a question of “when”. I’ve forced myself to be very patient this year!

      But great thought just the same, and I hope it’s not something you ate.

    • Jaws I was thinking the same thing. TE have been tested in the first game and have been blocking more. If to say expect the unexpected and then I would have to defer to 6 who says it might just be gas. I hope not but I have a feeling we are going to be turning it up a bit from here on out. Plays designed with different first and second looks to test Franks but that will change how defenses react to us as well. We look better that we did last year. Assessment of first three weeks. Week one not much of a test but a chance to play at game speed, Week two -we were not ready for week two, but it showed us where we are. Week three we are still improving with holes in our game. I haven’t looked over the recording of the game but I’d suspect the T.E. were blocking more last week after our OL got pushed by KY. If the OL can have a good day the T.E. will be a threat.

  4. Franks has 2 big weaknesses. He can’t make the throws to receivers in the middle of the field. He holds the ball too long.

    Watch the film, there are plenty of times the TEs are open. Franks either doesn’t make the throw, or makes a bad throw. Yeah, the TEs have dropped some passes, but I believe their lack of production stems from Franks’ inability to make the throws to open TEs. He admitted himself that he struggles with passes in the middle. The TEs often run slants and skinny posts through the middle.

    I believe this is also part of why the O-Line’s performance looks so poor at times. They’re not great, but they’re not as bad as they looked against UK. Again, if you watch that game film. Franks could have avoided pressure simply by getting rid of the ball.

    Franks isn’t the only reason the Gators offense is struggling. He is a major contributor to many of their issues.

    That said, based upon what we’ve been hearing about McElStain, we have to accept that Franks is closer to being a Frosh QB who has played a few games. I believe he’ll get better.

    We as Gator fans have to be patient, even though patience is a dirty word in Power 5 football.

    Personally I’ll consider 6 wins, a bowl win and the commitment from at least two 4-star or higher O-Line recruits a success for this season. Face it, this team had more problems than I believe most of us realized.

    • Like the Zooker used to day, “We’re gonna get better, better snd better.” Reality still is, “Sooner is better than later.” We keep hearing the word patience on here. Well, that’s good for a season. But you guys are right that things are barely underway under a new regime and it takes time to implement a new system. It may take a couple of years to get the mechanics right. They say give a new coach three years, so I guess that’s soon enough.

      • E. Jones Yes obviously Franks holds the ball too long but another problem that has plagued Franks is that often, although his pass is sometimes apparently on target if you look back at the play again or in slow motion it can be seen that the pass has been thrown slightly off target. The ball often comes a little behind the receiver or a little too high or too low, or just a little bit too far in front. The result is that many of the passes that seem to get there are not easy balls to catch. Franks seems to have the arm and talent but has a confidence problem and second guesses his own football instincts. Can he grow out of this and other problems like not being able to go through his progressions and locate the open receiver with good coaching? Only time will tell but long leash or not the question is how long?

    • I will consider anything over 4 wins a success! I would be thrilled with 6 wins! that would be TN, Sc, Idaho, FSU. Right now I only see the last 2 as certain. That could change in the next few games depending on how Mo. and MsSt play.

    • Eugene it looks like we only need the 6 wins and bowl win then cause they’ve already got the commitments of 2-4 star o-linemen in William Harrod and Wardrick Wilson. Riley Simonds and Ethan White aren’t too far behind that 4 star rating either.

  5. If the TE is not near the side line Franks is not going throw it to them. He hasn’t learned that part, yet. All thru high school he did not throw to his TE. It was Gavin deep, short. So, you see, he has always through the ball to basically one person. It is going to get interesting from now on.

      • You kill me with your unfounded absolute certainty of Trask’s greatness. I mean with the long line of great QB’s he’s already groomed and coached, the only possible explanation can be he’s completely lost all ability to recognize a stud QB as soon as he put the orange and blue on. Mullen should be fired by the end of the season for keeping the next Tom Brady on the bench. LOL!

  6. If the OLine remains porous, we probably won’t see many passes to the TE’s.
    The TE’s are needed for blocking and blitz protection now and until the OLine does its job.
    Stephens did make a great pancake tackle on a CSU lineman. Well done.