The Florida Gators were poised to bring in one of the most dynamic tight ends to enter college football in quite some time. Earlier today, however, transfer tight end Arik Gilbert (LSU) opted to de-commit from the university, stating that he will not be announcing his final decision "until I am enrolled into school and on campus."
Gilbert was thought to eventually become one of the more premier players on the Florida offense, but that will have to be put on permanent hold. Florida will now need to look at its own roster for help at the tight end position, but where do they stand now that Gilbert's not part of their future plans?
Over the past several months, Florida has been praised heavily by media, fans and onlookers due to their incredible development of tight end Kyle Pitts, who will now enter the 2021 NFL Draft and is expected to be a top-10 selection this year.
But, even without Pitts and now without Gilbert ever entering the picture, Florida should feel fine at the tight end position, especially if you ask tight ends coach Tim Brewster who met with the media last week, discussing his players.
"We’ve got, I think, a really talented room. I think it’s a room that … everybody’s worried about us losing Kyle Pitts, and we’re certainly going to miss Kyle and everything he brought to it. But I think these other guys are really going to do some great things next season,” Brewster said about the position group without Pitts in the fold.
Those "other guys" include Kemore Gamble and Keon Zipperer, two veterans who have had a lot of experience within the system, including last season when they were forced to step in for an injured Pitts at times. Brewster stated the two players were ascending in their own right; Gamble with his blocking ability, and Zipperer with his athleticism.
Both Gamble and Zipperer are entering their redshirt senior and junior seasons, respectively, which could point towards their last years with the team. The Gators do, however, have younger players on the roster and one, in particular, Jonathan Odom, has been constantly praised by Brewster seemingly since the time he stepped foot on campus last season.
The team's latest addition, freshman Nick Elksnis is another player that Brewster has given praise to, citing his "maturity."
"Odom has done a nice job. He’s gotten bigger, he’s gotten stronger and then Nick Elksnis has come in and today was the fourth day. I couldn’t be more excited about a young guy than I am," Brewster said about the team's young tight ends.
"Both him and Odom are going to be outstanding young tight ends as they grow into this program."
Florida will also have an opportunity to add more youth to its tight end position group later on in the offseason with the addition of freshman Gage Wilcox, out of Jefferson HS (Tampa, Fla.), who did not have the opportunity to early enroll like Elksnis did.
Nevertheless, Florida should still be happy about its tight end position. While it does not come with the high, but relatively unknown, pedigree that Gilbert brings to the table, it does have plenty of exciting players to look forward to. According to Brewster, the future is bright too, with the team receiving plenty of interest around the country.
"For me as the tight end coach, I'm in the dream spot," he said. "There's tight ends all over America that are calling and wanting to be part of this offense at the University of Florida. They've seen what Pitts did ... I kinda kid (Florida head coach) Dan Mullen, I wish I could take three tight ends this year.
"Right now the excitement level with players in the country, tight ends in the country, they want to be Gators. And I bring great passion and energy to selling what makes this place great and the position. And then I show a highlight tape of Kyle Pitts, and it's like 'Wow," you know, I mean, 'amazing,' 'I wanna come.'"
Florida can likely parlay their efforts at the tight end position, and the way the position is utilized within its offense to bring in plenty of talented players in the future. While missing out on Gilbert is unfortunate, they ought to be able to make up for it in the near-present and certainly in the future.
"It's a lot of fun being a tight end coach at the University of Florida right now."