football Edit

Mark Webb discusses former teammate, Florida’s Kyle Pitts

He’s perhaps Georgia’s primary concern when the Bulldogs face Florida in Jacksonville this Saturday: Kyle Pitts. The early favorite to receive this year’s John Mackey Award as college football’s top tight end, the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Pitts, according to Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, is “elite,” a “first-round talent,” and “a receiver and tight end in one.”

For Georgia senior defensive back Mark Webb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he’s quite familiar with Pitts—and even going back before the players’ college days.

“I knew [Pitts] pretty well growing up. We trained together for a long period of time,” Webb said. “It’s crazy the improvement he’s had to now.”

Mark Webb (UGA Sports Comm.)
Mark Webb (UGA Sports Comm.)

Just before his junior season in high school in 2016, Pitts transferred from Abington (Penn.) Senior eight miles north to Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster, Pennsylvania, where Webb was a senior.

That season, with Archbishop Wood en route to an 11-2-1 campaign and a PIAA Class 5A state championship, Webb and Pitts finished first and second on the team in receptions with 33 (703 yards) and 28 (394 yards), respectively. The pair also started on the Vikings’ defense: Webb, at cornerback, where he led the squad with four interceptions, and Pitts at defensive end.

“I remember when [Pitts] couldn’t catch a soul,” Webb joked. “Now, he’s catching every pass that comes to him. It’s crazy just to see him blossom to the level he is now.”

Webb soon clarified his Pitts-couldn’t-catch-then statement: “I mean, he could catch, it just wasn’t how it is now.”

After choosing to attend Florida over Georgia and Virginia Tech, Pitts was limited to three receptions as a true freshman in 2017. However, "how it is now," Pitts is considered an absolute matchup nightmare. After making 54 catches for 649 yards and five touchdowns as a sophomore last season, he has 22 receptions for 355 yards and a staggering seven touchdowns in just four games this year. Pitts’ Pro Football Focus (PFF) grades for offense (95.0), pass routes (94.7), and drop rate (86.7) all rank first out of the 74 tight ends in the FBS who’ve been targeted at least 10 times this season.

“When you got a guy like Kyle, you can put him anywhere. He’s making plays from all over the field,” Webb said. “You just don’t know when he’s going to attack—and attack from. That can make it hard on a defense.”

After starting nine games last season, Webb has yet to start in 2020, and has totaled just eight tackles. Still, he’s averaging approximately 30 defensive snaps per game, sixth-most among Georgia defensive backs, and his 84.5 PFF tackling grade is second-best on the team, only trailing fellow secondary member Lewis Cine (86.5). In the Bulldogs’ victory over Auburn earlier this season, Webb tallied the first interception of his collegiate career.

When Pitts does “attack” this Saturday, the question is, who from the Georgia defense will be directly defending the versatile tight end?

With recent injuries to the Bulldog secondary perhaps increasing his playing time a tad, and the fact he plays the “Star” position—Georgia’s fifth defensive back in a nickel formation—odds are more than good that Webb will line up to defend against his former teammate quite a few times in Jacksonville.

“Definitely,” Webb replied when asked if he thought he’d draw Pitts on occasion this Saturday. “If he lines up [accordingly], yeah!”