GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — No. 6 Florida will have standout tight end Kyle Pitts back for Saturday’s game against Kentucky.
Pitts missed the last weeks following a vicious hit against Georgia that caused a concussion and did enough damage to his nose that he needed surgery.
“He’s another weapon that we’re adding into the game, the rotation,” coach Dan Mullen said Monday. “He’s got to go battle for some playing time right now. Those other guys are playing pretty good.
“He’s such a playmaker. He’s such a leader and brings such great personality, as well, to the team. Just having him back on the field is going to be great for everybody, and … the matchup problem that he causes defenses.”
The 6-foot-6 junior from Philadelphia has 24 receptions for 414 yards and a team-leading eight touchdowns this season. His play has been instrumental in making the Gators (6-1) one of the most dynamic offenses in the Southeastern Conference and in the country. Florida ranks seventh nationally in scoring (45.8. points a game) and 12th in total offense (511.7 yards).
Pitts opened eyes by scoring six touchdowns in the first two games and has commanded double teams and bracket coverage since, creating more one-on-one opportunities for teammates Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes and Justin Shorter.
Backup tight ends Kemore Gamble and Keon Zipperer have filled in nicely, with Gamble catching two touchdown passes last week at Vanderbilt and Zipperer getting two the previous week against Arkansas.
“Obviously Pitts brings a lot of mismatches to defenses, but at the same time, we have so many great tight ends and receivers, so many weapons overall,” quarterback Kyle Trask said. “I’m still going to trust my guys to get open no matter who’s out there, so obviously it doesn’t change a whole lot for me as far as going through my reads because I’m just trying to read the defense and find the open guy at the end of the day.”
Pitts was knocked out Nov. 7 in the second quarter against Georgia when safety Lewis Cine delivered a crushing blow over the middle. Cine was ejected for targeting. Pitts spent the rest of the game in the locker room.
He had surgery days later.
Mullen said he was never concerned the hit and its repercussions would prompt Pitts to even consider opting out of the season, a trend teams across the country as seeing as they deal with coaching changes or get eliminated from championship contention.
“He wanted to go play this past weekend,” Mullen said. “I don’t think that was ever something that popped up. I think if you just look at his competitive spirit, who he is, he’s played with a competitive chip all year. He wants to continue to do that.”
Also on the injury front, Mullen said linebacker James Houston will return against the Wildcats (3-5). Houston missed the last two games because of an unspecified injury.
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