Notebook: Pitts opts in for Gators
While many of the top juniors around the nation are opting out this season to start preparing for the NFL, Florida tight end Kyle Pitts has opted to stay in with the Gators.
His plan is similar to those juniors who have left: get ready for the draft. The difference is he’ll be doing it by playing.
“(Opting out) is something I never really thought of,” he said. “I only was thinking about this season and how I can get better from last year to this year.
“Just blocking and knowing the game from the defensive side, knowing how defenses are going to play and how I can maneuver in certain situations.”
To help get ready for the season, he’s been studying tape of two of the best tight ends in the NFL — San Francisco’s George Kittle and Kansas City’s Travis Kelce. He’s learned a lot about their games. He’s also noticed the big contracts they’ve signed.
"I watch those guys a lot,” Pitts said. “I sit up in the office and watch with the coaches and try and critique their game and add certain pieces that they do in the game to my game. Because I see we kind of do a lot of things similar. Those guys, obviously, they've been in the league, and they know how to do certain things.
“But, seeing those contracts really just opened my eyes because years ago tight ends weren't getting those types of contracts. Now that they’re changing the game, it’s really exciting.”
So, what has he learned from watching Kittle and Kelce?
"Being a student of the game,” he said. “They know in certain coverages, do certain things. In the run game, they put their face on people. And every ball that's thrown to them, they catch it."
Pitts is coming off a strong sophomore season in which he led the Gators in receptions with 54 for 649 yards and five touchdowns. Some consider him the best tight end in college football heading into the 2020 season. With his combination of size, speed and hands, he’ll be a go-to guy again for quarterback Kyle Trask.
“We developed a pretty strong relationship as the season went on last year,” Trask said. “I think just over time with the repetitions and the experience of going through that whole last season and now going through this whole offseason, it's only gotten stronger. Kyle is just a very, very hardworking guy and just poses a match-up problem no matter who you line up against him."
Trask, King reunite
Trask spent the spring and early summer back in Texas working on his game with former high school teammate D’Eriq King, who is now the starting quarterback at the University of Miami.
"That was a really cool thing because I haven't really spent a whole lot of time with him since we both went to college,” Trask said. “It was kind of cool just for us to be back there competing against each other like we did in high school. I think it was huge for both of our games.
“A lot of people were probably just throwing with a group of guys from high school or whatever, but it was really huge for us because we're both playing big-time ball and it was an opportunity for us to stay competitive and always try to still one up each other through these little drills that we were doing back home. It was pretty cool."
Trask said the ‘Canes are getting a good one in King, the former standout at Houston.
“He's a playmaker,” Trask said. “They'll be glad to have him. I know he'll do very well down there."
Young WRs emerging
While veteran wide receivers Trevon Grimes, Kadarius Toney and Jacob Copeland were opting out of the first week of preseason camp, it created more opportunities for the young receivers. And maybe those extra reps have helped accelerate their development.
Trask and Pitts said those guys are really coming on and making plays. They mentioned three — redshirt freshman Trent Whittemore and true freshmen Xzavier Henderson and JaQuavion Fraziars.
"He looks really smooth,” Trask said of Henderson. “And not only Henderson, but Fraziars — just all the young guys, really. They've come in and made a quick impact and I can tell they've been working really hard."
Pitts also said Henderson is standing out.
He’s been showing a whole lot of talent,” Pitts said. “Him and Trent Whittmore, all those guys, all those (young) receivers. All those guys who have just been waiting for their turn. So, this year I think they’ll be able to showcase their talent.”
Henderson is the brother of former standout cornerback CJ Henderson, who was the fastest player on the team last season.
“I don't know who's faster like in a 40 or anything (between the Henderson brothers),” Trask said. “But (Xzavier) can definitely turn his wheel, that's for sure."