WARMINSTER, Pa. — Incoming 4-star tight end Kyle Pitts was one of a handful of Florida commits who didn’t waver much through the Gators’ coaching change last season.
And in the end, a coach from the old staff on his way out the door as well as an incoming assistant on Dan Mullen’s new staff both played key roles in reassuring Pitts of his decision.
Pitts, listed at 6-foot-6 and 239 pounds when he made it official during the early signing period in December, was ranked the No. 5 tight end in the 2018 recruiting class according to the 247Sports composite, and had no shortage of suitors.
But everything he felt — and those he trusted — told him that Florida, the school he committed to last July, was the right place for the next chapter of his football career.
Ja’Juan Seider, Florida’s former running backs coach, had been a key in landing that initial commitment, and even as he moved on to Penn State this winter, he reassured Pitts that the tight end had made a good decision.
“He was saying, ‘I know you’re in good hands. If you wasn’t, I would tell you to de-commit.’ He was like, ‘You’re going to do very well in Coach Mullen’s offense,'” Pitts recalled.
That helped, but what sold him on finalizing that decision was his first conversation with new Florida tight ends coach Larry Scott, who came to Gainesville after a stint at Tennessee.
The Vols had been the first SEC program to extend a scholarship offer to Pitts.
“I saw the background he had, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m ready to sign in December,'” Pitts said. “He recruited me from Tennessee and me and him had already spoke, but when I was about to go visit Tennessee, someone already committed, so me and him stopped talking. But when he came to Florida, he was like, ‘I remember you. I see what you can bring to the table. I watched [your] season. I think I can do some really good things with you.’ ”
Pitts’ conversations and later visit with Mullen helped solidify their relationship as well, and Pitts liked what he saw from Mullen’s history of tight end use.
According to his official Florida bio, Pitts finished with 5 touchdowns and more than 300 receiving yards last season while helping Archbishop Wood to an 11-2 record and a Pennsylvania PIAA Class 5A state championship.
He’s an interesting prospect because he didn’t make the move to tight end until his junior season when he transferred to Archbishop Wood. He played out of position as a rush-oriented option quarterback at Abington Senior High School as a sophomore.
All told, Pitts say he feels fortunate how everything unfolded these last couple years, leading him now to Gainesville later this summer.
“Where I’m at now is just a blessing,” he said. “To be where I’m at, and I didn’t think I would actually make it this far, but God put me on the way.”
The following is part of SEC Country’s “Recruiting Rewind” series looking back on the recruiting process with Florida’s incoming freshmen. Also look for the “Next Generation” series, which goes in-depth on each of the Gators’ 2018 signees.
Q: How did Florida’s coaching change last season affect your mindset on your decision?
Pitts: “When it happened, I just kind of kept my season going, kept worrying about that and my schoolwork. I wasn’t really worried about that until after and I saw who the new coach was. That’s when I was going to make my decision. And then they hired Coach Mullen, I did my research and I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to stay at the University of Florida.'”
Q: What were your first impressions of Mullen after he was hired?
Pitts: “He’s a very honest guy, tells you everything straightforward, and I like that. It was a good relationship, and then he came to a home visit and we got closer after that.”
Q: Did other schools try to use the uncertainty of the coaching change as leverage before Mullen was hired?
Pitts: “A couple schools did, but I wasn’t really paying attention because, like I said, it was during the season. So I wasn’t really getting back to them.”
Q: What was your first impression of Florida on your initial visit for the Friday Night Lights camp last July?
Pitts: “It was just like, ‘Wow.’ I’d seen it on YouTube and stuff like that, but to see it with my own eyes, it was crazy.”
Q: What school would have been your second choice?
Pitts: “I guess you could say Maryland. I kind of went there a lot because it was a local place. [First-round 2018 NFL Draft pick] D.J. Moore was a big influence, and Georgia, I guess you could say. Maryland was the closest because that’s where I could have got the most time at.”
Q: Who was the nicest coach you dealt with during the recruiting process?
Pitts: “Coach Seider. Even when he was at West Virginia. Me and him just had that connection. We were just real cool, he’d just call and check on me, tell me about his family and all that. That was one of my favorite coaches.”
Q: Who was the funniest coach you encountered?
Pitts: “Coach Galen Scott from Virginia Tech, that was a funny guy. When I was on a couple visits, he’s like an uncle, he’s like one of those funny uncles. He’d crack jokes all the time.”
Q: What’s the most memorable thing that happened on a recruiting visit?
Pitts: “I guess you could say on my official when I got to be in the locker room with the team and talk to those guys. That was a cool experience. I could see myself [there].”
Q: Is there a school that would have had a better chance with you if it had come in earlier?
Pitts: “No, because when I first started getting offers, I would do my research on a lot of schools, but like low tight-end rates and [depth wasn’t ideal]. … So I think I was fine where I was at.”
Q: What advice would you give a high school prospect just starting to go through the recruiting process?
Pitts: “Go where you fit in at. Don’t go for the name or certain things. Go where you can play, get your degree, a good education and you have a good relationship with the coaches. It’s not [just] about football, it’s about family also.”