When the Florida Gators kick off on Sept. 4, all eyes will be on its offense, especially after having one of the best offenses in football just a season ago.
Losing one of the top players in the nation in tight end Kyle Pitts to the NFL, selected with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons, it will be tough for Florida to match his production from a season ago.
While the team has two tight ends in Kemore Gamble and Keon Zipperer ready to step up to the plate to become excellent players in their own right, tight ends coach Tim Brewster will have plenty of talent to work with, in the future, and perhaps even this season if freshman TE Nick Elksnis can be brought up to speed quickly.
While that is sort of forward-thinking, Elksnis has already impressed his fellow teammates and coaches during fall camp and the team's most recent scrimmage. According to head coach Dan Mullen, his future is certainly bright.
"He's a freshman, so he's learning the system right now. He has the potential to be [one of the biggest matchup problems on offense] down the road, yeah, because he has good size and athleticism," Mullen said on Monday when asked if Elksnis could be a matchup problem down the road.
"He's really taking advantage of - one of the toughness things - he's been able to stay healthy, and continue to get reps, for the most part, battle through things. I think he's only missed a day or two since he's been here.
"And I think that gives him an opportunity, he's gotten a lot of reps. I think he had the most reps at tight end last night - for a lot of different reasons -, some of the guys were banged up and we're limiting certain guys and getting guys ready to play. But, he's taken advantage of that and done a pretty good job and I think he's gonna have a really, really good future with us."
Elksnis is a part of this year's freshmen class and is currently listed at 6-foot-6, 243 pounds, one of the most physically imposing tight ends on the roster. Due to his size, many players on the Florida roster have already described the young TE as someone with toughness.
Fellow tight end Kemore Gamble used shared that exact sentiment to describe Elksnis four times during his Zoom call with the media this fall, and other players such as running back Malik Davis followed in his footsteps.
Florida defensive back Tre'Vez Johnson was short when asked to describe how one even goes about defending the tight end, saying “You gotta be just physical as just any other tight end we got. You got to be physical, he’s a big body.”
Moving forward, the Jacksonville (Fla.) native is certain to receive a lot of looks from Florida coaches, though it might not come for some time as he works to continue learning the team's playbook. For freshmen, Mullen says, special teams is where they earn a spot on the team's 70-man travel roster.
"You're looking at SEC games, you bring 70. So there's 45 guys that don't even get to make the trip from one week to the next of the teams, almost a third," said Mullen.
"So, you know, we're trying to get the ideas together of who are the guys that are gonna be on that 70-man travel roster, and get all the special teams sorted out, finish up the special teams depth chart and go from there.
Regardless, it's clear that Elksnis has left an impression on the football program and looks to be a part of the team's offense sooner rather than later.
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