Florida head coach Dan Mullen, center, celebrate with fans in the stands after the Gators defeated Georgia in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Florida TE Gamble on Kyle Pitts, COVID issues and upcoming season

For Kemore Gamble and the other Gator tight ends, the hole left by the irreplaceable Kyle Pitts only creates opportunities.

“Kyle Pitts is Kyle Pitts,” said Gamble during a press conference Wednesday. “There’s only one Kyle Pitts.

“And there’s only one Kemore Gamble.”

The Florida tight end, a redshirt senior, enters presumably his final year with the Gators for the 2021-22 season. Appearing in all 12 games of the previous season, Gamble quietly caught 10 passes for 160 yards and three touchdowns. He and fellow tight end Keon Zipperer, who caught 11 passes for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns, were shadowed by Pitts who finished his season as arguably the nation’s No. 1 college football player. Pitts finished the season with 43 receptions for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns- with only 8 games played.

With Pitts and Florida’s then-leading receiver Kadarious Toney both heading into the 2021 NFL draft, the Florida tight end room has big shoes to fill and many questions to answer.

Where do we go from here?

Florida quarterback Emory Jones, presumably QB1 heading into the season, has plenty of respect from his tight ends. When asked, Gamble said that while Jones is known for his speed and athleticism, he thinks that he’s a “pass-first quarterback.”

Gamble expects that if the offense transitions to run-first, it will be gradual: the talent in both the receivers and tight ends is too much to dismiss.

New kids on the block

Speaking of talented tight ends, the redshirt freshman Jonathan Odom has made a splash during Florida’s spring practices.

“I love Odom,” said Gamble. “He’s a funny guy, he’s always working hard.”

Gamble has high hopes for his fellow tight end, citing Odom’s ability to learn from his upperclassmen as part of his strong work ethic. Look for Odom to play a bigger part in the Florida offense this season.

Incoming freshman Nick Elksnis has also impressed so far this spring. The “country boy,” as Gamble describes, is tough and has a strong ball-catching ability. Elksnis is learning fast, and if he keeps progressing at the rate he’s going, Gamble expects the freshman to see the field in the fall.

“Be the hammer, not the nail”

That’s what Gamble said the motto is in the tight end room for the upcoming season. While Gamble gave his pass-catching ability a lot of credit, he did admit that he and his tight ends could use some work on his run blocking. This trait was shown in Pitts as well- many NFL analysts mention the only noticeable flaw in Pitts’ game is his run blocking. The Florida tight end room has to improve here to give the evasive Jones an easier time on the field for the upcoming season.

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