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Mullen Monday: Pitts is back

November 23, 2020
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Dan Mullen held his weekly press conference on Monday afternoon to update injuries, discuss Kyle Trask’s remarkable journey once more, preview the Kentucky game, and more. 

Here are the highlights. 

  • Tight end Kyle Pitts (concussion/nose injury) and linebacker James Houston (undisclosed) are expected back this week. There's nobody new on the injury front. Receiver Trent Whittemore will be out for another week or two as he recovers from a broken rib and a punctured lung. 
  • Kentucky is a really good team. Their 63-3 loss to Alabama last week was out of the norm for them. Some weird things happened in that game. Mullen thinks they're stout upfront and have one of the best pass defenses in the league. They know they'll get their best shot.
  • The Gators didn't play their best game against Vanderbilt. However, they still won by 21 points on the road in an 11 a.m. game. The 2006 national title team had to recover an onside kick to hold on in a similar situation. They started slow but got that 14-point swing to bridge the halves, put a few stops together, and scored on a 99-yard drive. There were still some positives in that game.
  • Pitts is another weapon that they'll add to the mix. The other tight ends are playing well, so he'll be in a battle for playing time. He's a matchup problem and helps open things up for other players.
  • Pitts wanted to play against Vanderbilt, but UF decided to hold him out. Mullen doesn't think Pitts ever considered opting out.
  • They've bumped back their Thursday practice and will have a team Thanksgiving dinner that day instead of allowing the players to go back home for the day as they normally do. 
  • This offense has some maturity that allows them to make some in-game adjustments. For example, Vanderbilt played them differently than what they expected based on film, and they were mature enough to execute those adjustments quickly. 
  • Opposing offenses are trying to snap the ball as fast as possible against them, and they've got to adjust to line up faster. If they run a play inside, they'll be able to snap the ball faster than after a play outside the numbers. There are pluses and minuses to that strategy, as Vanderbilt hurt themselves by snapping the ball with a receiver still offside.
  • Backup linebackers Jesiah Pierre and Ty’Ron Hopper prepared for their moment in the Vandy game, but there are a lot of things they can do better, as neither graded out as a ‘Champion.’ Mullen was noncommittal as to whether they’d play more this week.
  • He thinks their defensive adjustments are going pretty well. They gave up seven points over the final eight drives on Saturday. He doesn't get upset when the opposing offense makes great plays. It only bothers him when his defense doesn't execute what they're supposed to do, and he thinks a lot of Vanderbilt's big plays were just good offense. “For the majority of the game, I thought we were solid.”
  • Trask playing well without Pitts the past 2 ¾ games highlights the great job he's doing of spreading the ball around the field and taking what the defense gives him. They tell the receivers not to get frustrated because some teams are going to take you out of the game, which will free up somebody else. Other games, the roles will be reversed.
  • Personal achievements and individual awards don't cross his mind during games. If they keep winning, he thinks the recognition will follow. “If we keep winning and we're successful, Kyle's going to continue putting up big numbers.” So, he just focuses on winning games.
  • The tight ends are a big part of the offense, and they knew Kemore Gamble and Keon Zipperer were capable. They have a lot of confidence in them, and they prepared to be ready for their moment. They didn't have to change the offense at all. He also thinks they benefited from opponents focusing more on the outside receivers with Pitts out.
  • He has a lot of confidence in Trask to make tight-window, high-risk throws because he knows that Trask knows what he is doing and has calculated the risk. He doesn't see Trask make a lot of poor decisions that way. He goes where the reads take him and makes the throws on time.
  • He had confidence in Trask in the Kentucky game last year. He's shown since then that, if you're willing to make sacrifices and work hard, you can accomplish great things.
  • Getting the players to buy-in to rotating is huge, and he thinks it helps when you see the number of guys they have playing in the NFL. It's a little trickier early on in the season, but once they start seeing the balance in touchdown catches, they understand that they just need to be patient.
  • They like to play a lot of players to keep everybody fresh for all four quarters and to get everybody some experience so they're ready to go in should somebody get injured later, Mullen said. It also keeps the young guys motivated because they know that they're going to get some snaps. The receiver position is a great example. Despite losing four seniors to the NFL, they still had players like Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes and Jacob Copeland who had already played in some big games.
  • When Mullen was at Utah, their starting quarterback got hurt, and Alex Smith had to start four days later. That's the closest comparison he can think of for Trask’s story. His story is different, though, because they knew that Alex Smith was going to be their future at some point. That wasn't the case with Trask. You can come up with a lot of reasons why he wouldn't be here, which is what makes his story special.

 

Mullen Monday: Pitts is back

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