Prior to opening preseason camp Friday, Florida coach Dan Mullen was asked to compare UF’s offensive line with the tight end unit, considering the two position groups each lack experience yet possess significant potential.
Before answering, however, Mullen opined on Lucas Krull’s injury during spring camp. Krull fell on his shoulder during the second practice of pring camp, causing the redshirt junior to miss the remainder of his first spring camp in Gainesville. To add insult to injury, Krull’s mishap occurred during one of several NCAA-mandated “no pads” practices — rules instituted to prevent injuries, ironically enough.
The irony of the situation appears to be an issue Florida’s head coach still contemplates.
“I love some of the rules — we look at some of the rules that they put out, well this rule’s in place for player safety and he gets hurt because of the rule because you can’t have any, they can’t even put a spider pad on him, like they can’t have (any) pads, and a kid falls and gets hurt because they’re running around going full speed,” said Mullen, “so we end up suffering more injuries for the NCAA rules that they try to put in to prevent injuries, and it puts kids in more danger.”
Mullen made sure to close his commentary on NCAA mandations with a pertinent aside, noting Krull worked to improve despite missing the remaining 13 spring practice sessions.
“For a guy like him getting back,” Mullen said, “he’s put in a bunch of extra work in all the meetings.”
The former junior college pitcher said it “was weird” and “uncomfortable” to miss spring camp, and that’s before considering the available opportunity. With the departures of C’yontai Lewis and Moral Stephens, the Gators have no clear cut leader at the position, leading many to peg Krull as the possible starter after the upperclassmen played in all 13 games last season for the Gators. Seeing his opportunity to emerge dissipate with one hard fall was a tough pill to swallow.
“It’s frustrating, especially because you’re so excited, it’s the first couple practices out, and you’re just giving it your all and it happens to be, the NCAA wants to make this the most safe game you can play, make it as safe as possible, but you take away the pads from us and then crazy accidents like these happen. It’s a little upsetting, because these pads protect us and then they take them away from us, and then you end up getting hurt” Krull said. “At the end of the day, you know, you move on and stay positive, and I did that.”
Rather than sulk and complain about falling victim to an NCAA mandate, Krull looked to make up for lost time.
“I didn’t like it at all, but I knew once I was healthy again and I could get back after it that I had to step it up. Every day after weight (training), I would stay after practice with the offensive line and work afterwards with Coach Tanner (Maher, a UF strength and conditioning coordinator) and do a lot of blocking work, so every day I was doing 15 to 30 minutes of that,” Krull said. “And then every day we would have ‘skills and drills’, I’m in there early getting extra work, staying late. Just doing a lot of things I couldn’t do in spring to make up for what I missed and make sure I’m ready for this season.”
Without any film from spring of his own game to study, Krull studied his peers. And instead of hanging his head while inactive at practice, Krull studied the defense.
“I couldn’t watch myself, so I watched my other tight ends. Watching them in practice, keying on defensive things, watching how the defense is playing,” Krull said. “It was a lot of mental things of the game, honing in on the mental side.”
After being a thoughtful observer from afar, Krull doesn’t see what others see. He believes the tight end group is poised for greatness in 2019.
“I think the sky is the limit for us. We’ve just got so much potential and so much ability. I don’t think there’s a tight end group that can run like us, block like us. I think we’re the most aggressive, the most physical,” Krull proclaimed. “I just don’t think you’re going to find a group that’s better than us. We get after it every day, we love what we do, and, yeah, I think we’re really going to wake a lot of people up with the tight end group this year.”