College football programs traditionally show significant improvement from year one to year two under a new coaching staff.
If that happens at Florida under coach Dan Mullen, the Gators could be College Football Playoff contenders next season after going 10-3 and rising into the top 10 in the nation in 2018.
For it to happen, the Gators will have to improve in some areas and some new, inexperienced players are going to have to come through at certain positions.
Over the next several days, The Sun is breaking down the team position-by-position, one position at a time:
Who’s gone: C’yontai Lewis and Moral Stephens, who were the leading receivers among the tight ends last season. Lewis had nine receptions for 128 yards, while Stephens had eight catches for 106 yards and three touchdowns.
Who’s back: Redshirt sophomore Kemore Gamble, redshirt junior Lucas Krull, sophomore Kyle Pitts and redshirt freshman Dante Lange. Gamble had seven catches for 58 yards, while Krull had six for 75. Pitts had three receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown, but those catches came after he moved to wide receiver.
Who’s new: Lang, who redshirted as a true freshman this past season, and incoming freshman Keon Zipperer, a four-star prospect from Lakeland who appears to have the size and receiving skills combination Mullen is looking for in his tight ends.
What’s next: With Lewis and Stephens gone, the competition for the starting role will be wide open between Pitts, Gamble, Krull and Lang. The question is, with so few players at the position, will Pitts continue to see reps at wide receiver and tight end this spring, or will he focus on one position where the coaches can develop him.
If Pitts continues to work at more than one position, Gamble likely would be the front-runner for the starting role at tight end. He has shown in his two years at UF an ability to be a pass-catching tight end. He also has the size to develop into solid blocker.
Krull flashed some playmaking ability this past season, including an accurate passing arm. Like Gamble, he has some pass-catching skills and the ability to make plays down the field.
Lang, a four-star prospect, is a bit of an unknown after spending the fall on the scout team.
Zipperer, who will enroll this summer, was one of the nation’s top tight end prospects and will have a chance to work his way into the possible playing rotation during preseason camp.
Going into the 2018 season, one of the storylines on offense was how involved the tight ends would be in the passing game. As it turns out, the tight ends combined to catch only 32 passes for 440 yards and four touchdowns.
Whether the tight end position becomes more productive in 2019 depends on how development goes this spring and in preseason camp.
Possible scenario: A pass-catching tight end with some size, Gamble emerges as the starter in the spring, which gives Pitts an opportunity to concentrate on becoming a full-time wide receiver.