Florida’s Pitts a mismatch problem for opponents

7
35
Florida tight end Kyle Pitts (84) gets open in front of LSU safety Grant Delpit in the second half Saturday in Baton Rouge, La.. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

 Florida coach Dan Mullen refers to the tight end as a weapon within his offense. Well, in the first few games this season, he had a secret weapon at the position, a talented but unknown sophomore who had not done much yet.

 His coaches and teammates were aware of his talent and potential, but Kyle Pitts was otherwise an unknown across the college football landscape.

 Now, of course, the secret aspect no longer applies to Pitts. He’s a weapon, a dangerous and well-known weapon who has gained instant national recognition with his back-to-back performances on national television against top-10 teams the past two Saturdays.

 Eight receptions for 65 yards against then-No. 7 Auburn.

 Five receptions for 108 yards against then-No. 5 LSU.

 During a halftime television interview last Saturday, LSU coach Ed Orgeron stressed that his secondary had to find a way to cover No. 84, who had burned the Tigers for four receptions for 85 yards in the first half.

 No. 84. That would be Pitts.

 “He’s phenomenal,” junior wide receiver Trevon Grimes said. “He’s a freak of nature. He’s a mismatch with anybody, any DB, any linebacker. Anybody you put on him, he’s a mismatch. I kind of feel people are starting to notice that. He’s the best, in my opinion, tight end in the country.”

 The 6-foot-6, 239-pound Pitts has become one of the surprise breakout players in college football this season.

 But what he’s doing, how fast this is happening, is not surprising to his coach. Mullen saw this coming when he first saw Pitts going through spring practice as a true freshman in 2018.

 “Right away you knew he was something special,” Mullen said. “Certain times it takes a little bit of development for those guys. Coming in from a high school offense to a pro offense there are certain adjustments that come with it, with how to run routes, how to do things. He made some big plays for us last year. Not quite like this year. 

 “Right away we knew that he’d become a problem for people with matchups. It was just how fast he developed into that and he’s really developed into that the last couple of games.

 “Last year he played a lot more flexed out getting comfortable as a route runner. This year he’s playing a little bit more attached and the mismatches he creates is his ability to do both. Now that he’s comfortable in both positions he’s become more of a mismatch problem.”

 Pitts has become a matchup problem for opposing defenses because he has the size of a prototypical tight end and the speed, hands and route-running ability of a wide receiver.

 In fact, he played more wide receiver than tight end last season and spent a big chunk of last spring working with Billy Gonzales and the wide receivers.

 He said his time with the receivers has helped accelerate his development.

  “It helped me in the passing game, knowing how to get off press and how to get open on some routes against DBs,” Pitts said. “I’ve been maturing, working harder in the offseason, working with the receivers and the tight ends in the offseason. It’s helping me develop.”

 Pitts is still relatively new to the position. He didn’t start playing tight end until his senior season of high school at Archbishop Wood in Arlington, Pa. Before that, he was a quarterback.

 “I think it was very beneficial (moving to tight end). They saw something I did,” Pitts said. “I think it’s playing out good right now.”

 Early in his senior season, Pitts committed to the Gators. Later that fall, Jim McElwain was fired. Even with the coaching change, Pitts never wavered in his commitment to UF.

 “This is a school I always wanted to come to,” he said. “You don’t commit to coaches, you commit to the school. I felt like great coaches were going to come to this staff and I would have a great career here.”

 It looks like that has already started to happen. In only his true sophomore season, Pitts has developed into a complete tight end — and a weapon in Mullen’s offense.

 “He does things every day in practice you probably never will see anyone else do with how big and how fast and just how agile he is,” Grimes said. “He played receiver last year so he learned a lot of things from Coach Gonzales that he brings over to the tight end room. That being said, he just knows how to get in and out of breaks smoothly, he knows how to catch the ball really well and he blocks well.”

 It’s been a rapid ascent, going from unknown to well-known. It’s even surprised Pitts a little bit.

 “Usually your junior year is the year you breakout,” he said. “But God had a different plan for me this year.”

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. What will make Pitts even more dangerous the rest of this season is the stable of great receivers he’s surrounded by. Note the way Van Jefferson exploded in the 2nd half when the LSU D “adjusted” to better cover Pitts after Orgeron’s TV comment at half time. Jefferson ended up with even more catches than Pitts!

  2. One reason, I think, that we can see Pitts’ enormous talent on display now is that we have a quarterback now as well who can actually get the ball either accurately to him or close enough at times so that those enormous talents can clearly come into focus. Which can be said too about our other stable of receivers finally, which makes me say that even sans a dependable OL and running game per se, the Gator offense finally has some punch to it and after lo these many years is fun to watch again.

    • Hear, hear!!! I’m glad you brought up the QB 6. I was beginning to feel like a broken record, repeatedly pointing out how nobody knew who the heck Kyle Pitts was until the 4th quarter of the Kentucky game.

      I find it beyond curious that, even now, there’s zero interest in the sports media on why Pitts emerged when he did.

        • True dat, but not exactly what I meant. Reinforcing your point above, I meant that Pitts could have emerged late last year, but didn’t. He could have emerged on opening day vs. the Canes, but didn’t. He only emerged 3/4 into the Kentucky game… Why then??? What changed??? Why is the sports media (especially at this site) not curious about dat???

          I’ll drop this crusade when I see someone in the sports news media (especially at this site) write a column declaring Trask a better QB after 3 starts than Franks is after 2 years and 3 games worth of starts.

  3. I can’t answer the first question and am drawing the same blank, altho as we both noted the answer is probably related to your second statement. Were that a question instead of a statement, I’d say the answer is never if it were posed as a “when will”. Were you to ask it as a “why”, I’d opine that simply because the Gators are irrelevant in the majority of media minds not from Florida and to some even within Florida. We’ll need a big splash to get their attention, contextual for Michigan still being seriously discussed as a Play Off team somehow — we could have made it last Saturday, IMO, had the defense actually played too, but even if we had I somehow suspect it would have been seen as a fluke and just a minor inconvenience to LSU. That’s what we’re up against, IMO. Kind of like being a Republican or a Conservative in Austin, Texas.