Moral Stephens leaped forward with the ball extended over the pylon, his first collegiate touchdown a mere inches away. Ultimately, the replay booth ruled Stephens down inside the one-yard line, but the play was a defining series for the redshirt junior tight end.
A former Taylor County standout, Stephens played primarily on special teams throughout his first two seasons in Gainesville. His first UF reception, a 14-yard pass from quarterback Luke Del Rio, came in 2016 against Kentucky, and Stephens doubled his career total with a 10-yard reception this season against Tennessee.
Before Saturday, that was it – two receptions for 24 yards over a span of 20 games in the orange and blue.
So when Stephens doubled his reception total on one drive against Vanderbilt, coming down with a 29-yard catch before the 16-yard grab that nearly led to six, it was a defining moment for the redshirt junior in the 38-24 Florida win over the Commodores at Florida Field.
“It feels great, you know what I’m saying. All the hard work is finally paying off,” Stephens said. “I ain’t never lacked confidence. It’s just being out there more. Just getting used to playing the position and stuff.”
Stephens, a former four-star wide receiver prospect, feels like he’s ready to consistently contribute for the Gators. And it’s reflected in practice, where the coaching staff rotates which tight end works with the first-team unit. Considering the injuries the Gators have sustained on offense, the coaching staff wants all potential weapons to prepare as if their number will be called on Saturdays.
“Our coaches do a good job of rotating the tight ends real good. We rotate a lot during practice so we all get looks of what could be possibly called in the game,” Stephens said. “Let’s just say if C’yontai (Lewis) got them all that day, I’m going to get them the next day. They make sure we all get the same rep counts and stuff so if I’m in the game, they’re in the game, we’ll be ready for it.”
Now that he’s had a breakout game so to speak, the possibility exists that defenses will be aware Stephens is now being used as a pass-catching threat rather than as a blocking tight end or special teams reserve. He isn’t speculating on whether his role will expand on offense or not, but, as he’s always done, Stephens will be ready when the coaching staff calls for No. 82.
“We’re going to see next week,” Stephens said. “Other than that man, I think I’m ready.”
Way to represent Perry… How bout them Taylor co. Bulldogs.
Great showing Moral. I’ve been waiting for your skills to be showcased every since you signed with Florida and not that other Florida school north of our Hometown Perry. My sister Ms. Mildred was your next door neighbor. Alexis her granddaughter graduated the same year from Taylor County that Moral did. Go Gators and our Taylor County Alum Moral! BTW I went to High School at Taylor County with your all your aunts.
Tight ends have not been used well by this staff, with so many who should have talent I wonder at the coaching and game planning. Other teams get their players open through design we either don’t or our QBs don’t see them. Only game film would tell. Sure would be nice to have a great blocking and pass catching tight end in the game.
Wow Dude! You must perpetually be stepping in dog poop. Does the sun ever shine on you or is it always a doomy gloomy day. Gators are getting incrementally better each week, starting with the egg dropped in Dallas. Relax and enjoy. Do we have things to work on? Absolutely! With four games into the season you BETTER have things you are working on!
I like what I am seeing. The playbook starting to open up, the defense needs to keep pressure in the backfield and the Secondary needs to step up communication. All coachable and resolvable issues and one I think the coaching staff will continue to address.
We are 3-1 and 3-0 in Conference play! Enjoy it. We have the meat of our season ahead and lots of work to do. The Sky Is NOT Falling!
I agree, no creativity on this staff. Upper tier talent wasted and that’s evident by watching the nfl.
im sure there are plenty of people from todays uncooperative world that will disagree with me, but imo this kid has the best name in gator history. maybe college football history, maybe more than that. I love hearing he has the ball, its like a victory against so much that I wish wasn’t out there. I’m sure he is a good kid, I know everyone else wants the ball too, but I don’t have to think about it, that’s how I see it. kudos to the good people that gave him that name.