On Tuesday, to the surprise of many, the Gators added three-star quarterback Jalen Kitna to their 2021 class.
Head coach Dan Mullen and quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson had extended an offer to Kitna back in January, and the mutual interest has been high ever since. Mullen and Johnson were not actively searching for a quarterback No. 2 in the 2021 class, but they felt good about adding Kitna to the class.
Kitna joins four-star quarterback Carlos Del Rio as the other quarterback in Florida's 2021 class. It is clear that Mullen would prefer four scholarship quarterbacks in the room, and with Kitna's commitment, that is right where UF will sit moving forward.
The purpose of adding Kitna to the class was to bring in quality depth to the QB room, which is a problem that UF has dealt with multiple times in the past. However, Mullen took advantage of former head coach Jim McElwain and his staff's recruiting of two quarterbacks in the 2016 class in Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask, and things worked out pretty well.
The quarterback position has turned into a strength under Mullen, not only thriving with Trask at the helm but now set up well for the future. The addition of Kitna allowed the Gators to bring in a quality quarterback as a depth piece that will compete with other quarterbacks in the room, but won't threaten the commitment of Del Rio.
Kitna comes from a family that has a rich football history as his father, Jon Kitna, was an NFL quarterback for 15 seasons, playing for four different teams before he called it a career. Jon will serve as Burleson's head coach for Jalen's senior year of high school, after most recently finding success as quarterbacks coach for the Dallas Cowboys.
The Texas gunslinger is not afraid to let the ball go, which explains his near-even touchdown-to-interception ratio. This may be concerning to some, but expect this to change for the better in his senior season under the guidance of his father. The majority of his interceptions came during his sophomore season, tossing 17. He cut that number down drastically to seven in 2019, despite throwing only 11 fewer passes.
It is also of note that Kitna has played at four different high schools, where he has had very limited time with each of his teammates. Still, those stats are easy to overlook once you turn the film on and see what Mullen could work within the coming years.
Kitna has the physical tools to become a successful SEC quarterback, as he stands at 6-4 and weighs 200 pounds heading into his senior season. Kitna runs a 4.7 40-yard dash, he made note of in an interview with Ben Murphy on First Coast News.
The following scouting report is comprised of observations from Kitna's available game tape.
Kitna appears able to squeeze in tight passes to his receivers all around the field, the question is how consistent is that ability given his interception count? Throws toward the sideline and in the end zone are precise on the tape available. Kitna leads the ball just enough, and keeps it away from any defenders, putting it only where his receiver can make the catch. There are multiple freeze-frames included in the embed below of the ball's location at the catch point.
As he said in his interview with First Coast News, Kitna can throw a football 60 yards down the field. He doesn't possess a cannon in the sense that he can push the ball downfield with the same velocity of say, Anthony Richardson, but he can accurately place a deep ball in stride for a receiver to make a big play. His velocity comes out more in the 10-20 yard range, routinely making impressive throws across the middle of the field and on the boundary. That zip could tend to improve on shorter throws as well, but Kitna should continue to progress here as he has since his early days of high schools.
Kitna appears comfortable operating within the pocket and only appears to bail out when necessary. The complexity of his offense is unknown, but he appeared to make a lot of one-read throws and max out at half-field reads, although he made those throws across different levels of the field. Kitna's 4.7 speed is impressive for his stature at his age, and it is clear he is willing and able to move around the pocket and scramble if he has to. Due to his arm strength, he is able to make throws on the run while still putting the ball on target. Kitna's feel for pressure is solid and he's shown the ability to step up into throws from it and make plays with his legs.
Unsurprisingly, the son of a former NFL QB has solid mechanics and footwork. The former Boston College commit has a quick, compact release, which allows him to generate the velocity he has on intermediate throws. His footwork is good, as he avoids hitch steps and sets his feet before letting the ball go. A trait Mullen covets, Kitna admires his throw by remaining balanced, which improves his accuracy.
The surprise addition of Kitna was a welcomed one from the UF staff. Kitna is aware that he will come in and compete in what is becoming a very talented quarterback room, and he embraces that fact. The Gators will now look forward to filling their quarterback spot(s) for the class of 2022, as offers have gone out and some visits have been conducted.