It's tough to replace a player like former Florida Gators tight end Kyle Pitts, someone TE coach Tim Brewster said yesterday was a "generational talent." While that label has been used far too often in today's football climate, it certainly applies to, at the very least, Pitts's collegiate career.
Now, without Pitts, Florida will have to figure out the playmakers to take his role, and Brewster believes his former tight end's legacy will live on through the lessons he taught within the position group over the past three seasons.
"He tried to help others get better, shared his knowledge. It wasn’t about him. It was about the team. Kemore Gamble, Keon Zipperer, Odom, (incoming freshman Nick) Elksnis now, who’s here, they all, everybody took so much excitement in watching the way that Pitts played," Brewster said at his first media availability on Wednesday.
"Now everybody wants to be like Pitts. It’s not 'be like Mike.' It’s 'be like Kyle.' It’s just – we had an amazing year together. And he not only rubbed off on the room, but he rubbed off on the team. And I think everybody celebrated his accomplishments. It was a really special year with him."
Florida now will be relying on several veterans and young players within the tight end room, including Kemore Gamble, Keon Zipperer, Jonathan Odom and new Florida signee, Nick Elksnis.
While many know Gamble, Zipperer, and to a lesser extent, Odom, the team's new tight end, Elksnis, is the one that's already got Brewster fired up.
"I couldn’t be more excited about a young guy than I am (Elksnis)," said Brewster.
"Both him and Odom are going to be outstanding young tight ends as they grow into this program. We’ve got, I think, a really talented room. I think it’s a room that … everybody’s worried about us losing Kyle Pitts, and we’re certainly going to miss Kyle and everything he brought to it. But I think these other guys are really going to do some great things next season.”
Elksnis, a true freshman, hails from Jacksonville (Fla.) and attended Episcopal High School for his prep career. He's listed at 6-foot-6, 237 pounds on Florida's roster. According to MaxPreps.com, Elksnis accounted for 21 receptions for 425 yards and five touchdowns in just 7 games last season.
In 2019, he accounted for 36 receptions for 665 yards and seven touchdowns.
"I think the kid’s 6-foot-6, he’s 235 pounds, he’s a big, strong, physical guy, caught a couple of balls for touchdowns today against the defense. He’s got a maturity about him, OK."
Brewster has been impressed by his veterans, Zipperer and Gamble, stating that both of the players have improved from last season, Gamble with his blocking and strength, Zipperer with his athleticism. While the two are always striving to get better, Brewster believes no one should "try to be Kyle Pitts."
"He’s generational," Brewster added. "He’s just absolutely different in his skill sets and the things that he can do. I do exactly what you just said: I take Kemore Gamble and I say, ‘Let’s extenuate the things that you do. Let’s not try to be Kyle. Let’s not do the things Kyle did. But let’s be the best version of you that you possibly can be and let’s look at the areas that you need to improve and let’s work on them."
So, while the tight end room certainly has the mindset of "be like Kyle," similar to how basketball players have the mindset of "be like Mike," in the end they'll strive to be something different, perhaps better, themselves.
Ultimately, this will be one of the biggest tests for Florida this season, particularly at tight end, replacing Pitts.