How will the Gamecocks defend Kyle Pitts? Will Muschamp has an idea thanks to a Gator he coached
This isn’t the first time a South Carolina coach has had to plan against a dynamic tight end at Florida. Coach Will Muschamp remembers all too well one he coached who he believes draws a favorable comparison with rising star TE Kyle Pitts.
Muschamp was asked about how similar Pitts is to former Florida TE Jordan Reed, who played for Muschamp with the Gators. Reed didn’t have the same build, yet still was an “unbelievable athlete.” Reed made 79 career receptions for 945 yards and 6 touchdowns, an average of 12 yards per catch. He entered the 2013 NFL Draft and has played 8 NFL seasons with Washington and San Francisco.
Pitts is listed at 6-6 and 240 pounds. He has longer arms, more of a basketball-player frame, while Reed at Florida was 6-3 and 243 pounds. But both have accounted for room in the back of a defensive coordinator’s mind developing the plan to contain them.
“They’re, I think, very similar,” Muschamp said on a Sunday evening media teleconference. “As a defense, if you’re calling defenses, you’ve got to account for where he is all the time. Dan does a good job of moving him around. He’s not in one spot all the time and you’ve got to make sure you don’t get in a bad matchup, and then sometimes that can limit you a little bit with what you can call. Because you like the call versus the team and the scheme, but then you don’t like the call versus No. 84.”
Pitts had a huge game last week in the win at Ole Miss, with 8 catches for 170 yards and 4 touchdowns. Even in the storied history of Florida pass catchers, the last Gator with at least 3 TDs against a Power 5 opponent was Jabar Gaffney in 2000. Pitts showed his versatility in just his touchdown catches alone. Against the Rebels, he had scoring plays of 1 yard, 16 yards, 71 yards and 17 yards.
Against South Carolina last season, Pitts had 5 catches for 29 yards, including a 4th-quarter touchdown.
South Carolina’s defensive game plan is a bit influx because of a pair of injuries the Gamecocks suffered against Tennessee. CB Israel Mukuamu (groin) and outside LB Sherrod Greene (hip) each missed time, and would play a factor in how the Gamecocks defend Pitts.
“He’s a great player, he’s as good a tight end as there is in the country,” Muschamp said. “He can win against DBs, he can win against corners, he can win against safeties.”
Florida coach Dan Mullen agreed with that sentiment in his post-game comments after Ole Miss.
“He’s that matchup problem,” Mullen said. “You get (linebackers) matched up on him, and that’s a problem in the pass game. You put DBs on him in the run game, and he’s a physical blocker at the point of attack. That’s what you want at the tight end position. To me, he’s really taken a step forward as being a complete tight end.”
This isn’t anything new for those who have followed Pitts’ career. Last year, he was 3rd in America in catches by a tight end with 54 and 7th in yards with 649.
If Mukuamu cannot go against Florida, Muschamp indicated he has confidence in Jaylin Dickerson to fill a role in the secondary. Against Tennessee, Dickerson played for the first time since the 2018 Belk Bowl and made 2 tackles. Muschamp also added that John Dickson did some nice things for the Gamecocks. Cam Smith filled most of the role in place of Mukuamu. Tennessee challenged him several times, and he yielded a 32-yard score in the 4th quarter.
“We’ll continue to look at what our best combination is of guys at those spots,” Muschamp said.