After dealing with injuries throughout most of the 2022 season, redshirt freshman tight end Arlis Boardingham made some noise during Florida’s spring camp.
Boardingham was a late addition to the Gators’ 2022 class, committing and signing on February 9th before arriving in Gainesville that summer. Florida beat out Oregon and Texas for the California native.
“I would say what brought me here was just coach Napier. Although we don’t have coach KC, coach KC was another big reason I came here,” Boardingham said. “We had a similar vision that I was going to be a versatile player. And I know that they’ve seen it from the previous staff, that they’ve seen what it looks like to use a tight end that’s versatile, and we just, we clicked.”
That tight end he’s referring to is Kyle Pitts, who’s success at Florida played a part in Boardingham’s recruitment.
“It was one of the reasons that I came here,” Boardingham said on the inspiration he drew from Pitts. “I saw what he was doing in the recruitment trail when I was still being recruited, and I saw him, and that was something that I thought that I could do.”
Boardingham started as a receiver when he first got to campus, much like Pitts.
“I came in being a receiver at first, just playing receiver in high school. And just coming here, coach Napier told me trust the process playing tight end, just learning how to do the blocking that first year even though I battled through injuries, still learning and going through that,” Boardingham said.
Boardingham believes he’s grown as a blocker throughout his time at Florida.
“I think I’ve come a long, really far from where I came from ‘cause I came from playing wideout in high school, not really blocking at all, not really having to be in the trenches or anything like that,” Boardingham said. “So this first year and this spring was, I really felt like I’ve gained a lot in the run blocking scheme.”
Newly promoted tight end’s coach Russ Callaway has placed a premium on blocking within Florida’s scheme.
“Every day, we’re going through drills, making sure we’re hitting all the right points, definitely through the blocking for sure,” Boardingham said. “I feel like we’re all growing as a group for sure in the blocking area.”
“He’s a great coach, and he definitely brings something different to the table,” Boardingham said on Callaway. “I would say, like you said, the emphasis on the run; we’ve definitely been working the run. And I feel like we’ve been doing a great job at that again. And I just feel like we’re getting real serious in that room, and I feel like it’s going to be something special.”
Boardingham’s athleticism stems from a background in track, where he claimed to log a 10.9 100-meter dash and a 23.10-foot-long jump.
“I ran track, ran track in high school, was big track guy, ran track before I played football, love track all day,” Boardingham said. “I just feel like that speed is what makes me different from other tight ends.”
Boardingham has put on 26 pounds from his high school days, checking in at 6-3, 246 pounds on Florida’s February 27th roster update. The weight change isn’t something that worries the second year tight end.
“If you put a linebacker on me then scary things gonna happen,” Boardingham said.
With Florida’s starting tight end Keon Zipperer out for the year due to a torn ACL, Arlis Boardingham’s role will certainly expand in 2023.
“Just embrace the opportunity I was given,” Boardingham said. “I know we had some injuries come along during the spring camp and even from last year, so just to take the opportunity I was given and trying to make the most of it.”
Boardingham has already stepped up the plate, leading all Gators’ tight ends in receiving during the Orange and Blue spring game, posting three catches for 33 yards.
If Florida doesn’t snag a tight end in the portal, I expect Dante Zanders and Arlis Boardingham to be the two most used tight ends this season. Redshirt freshman Hayden Hansen may also find significant playing time this season due to his blocking ability and Napier’s willingness to work with two tight end sets.
“I feel like Hayden is a great blocker,” Boardingham said. “I feel like being his size and his frame that he is a really good blocker.”
There’s plenty of unknown’s when evaluating Florida’s current tight end room, but the upside Arlis Boardingham brings to the table makes him a player to watch in 2023.