Skill-position players steal the show on Pro Day

While spring ball provided an opportunity to glimpse into the future of Gators football, Wednesday’s Pro Day provided one last chance to look back at one of the best offenses in program history.

Quarterback Kyle Trask, tight end Kyle Pitts and receivers Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes were among the 19 Gators to work out in front of NFL general managers, scouts and head coaches inside the Gary Condron Indoor Practice Facility. Every NFL team except for the Los Angeles Rams had a representative at the event, and the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Allouettes also had a representative.

“Today went very well,” Grimes said. “We came out, competed. Everybody did a fantastic job. We were all just excited to get out here and get back throwing with the quarterback that got me through my college career, so it was a pretty good experience. I’ll cherish this experience the rest of my life.

As anticipated, Pitts generated the most headlines. The 6-foot-5 1/2, 245-pounder continued to make a strong case to be the first non-quarterback off of the board at the draft, which begins April 29. His wingspan measured at 83 3/8 inches, which would’ve been the third longest of any skill-position player at the NFL Combine this century, according to The Draft Network’s Trevor Sikkema.

While official times have yet to be released, most experts clocked him somewhere in the 4.44-4.46-second range in the 40-yard dash despite slipping at the start and not running in a straight line. Anything under 4.5 would’ve been considered otherworldly for a guy his size. For comparison, former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields trended on the internet earlier this week after clocking the same time at around 20 pounds lighter and a couple of inches shorter.

Pitts also did 22 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press and jumped 10 feet, nine inches in the broad jump, both of which were near the top of the leaderboard for the day.

The only real disappointment for Pitts was that he only jumped 33.5 inches in the vertical leap, which was a bit lower than anticipated. However, his wingspan and knack for high-pointing balls in games will more than make up for that.

Pitts will become the first Gators skill-position player drafted in the top-10 since Travis Taylor in 2000. He’s in a battle with LSU Ja’Marr Chase to be the first skill-position player taken. Pitts said that the Atlanta Falcons have met with him multiple times over Zoom, and he has a longer meeting scheduled with them soon. The Falcons have the No. 4 selection in the draft. The Miami Dolphins are also a possibility at No. 6.

Pitts wasn’t the only Gator to shine on Wednesday, however. Toney continued to make a push to sneak into the back end of the first round.

Toney is known as a player with elite quickness and agility but not necessarily the best straight-line speed. As he’s done several times throughout his career, he proved those detractors wrong. The Gators posted on their social media accounts that he ran the 40 in 4.39 seconds. Others clocked him somewhere in the 4.4-4.44 range. He also jumped 11 feet, four inches in the broad jump.

Toney’s combination of speed, shiftiness, surehandedness and versatility should make him very appealing to NFL front offices. The Swiss army knife type of player has become heavily valued in recent years thanks to the emergence of Alvin Kamara with the New Orleans Saints.

Toney credited receivers coach Billy Gonzales for his development from a high school quarterback to an electric playmaker to a potential first round wide receiver.

“He never let a day go by without him trying to get you 1 percent better each day,” Toney said. “I really commend him for really just being on me. Me having him for three years was probably just the best three years I’ve ever had. I could really vouch for him. Any receiver looking to go to college and be successful, I’ll say Florida, for real, because Billy Gonzales, he really transformed me into what you see today.”

Grimes also tested well. As a bigger receiver, nobody expects him to run a 4.3. He just needed to get under 4.5 to prove to front offices that he can separate from defenders instead of having to outmuscle them for every catch.

He did way better than that, clocking in at 4.35 seconds, according to Tony Pauline of ProFootballNetwork.com. That time is likely a little off, but anything in the low 4.4s would’ve been an outstanding time for him.

Trask, meanwhile, recovered from a somewhat shaky start to turn in a good day throwing the ball. He wanted to show teams that he has faster feet and a stronger arm than he’s often given credit for. He feels like he did that by running a 4.98 40 and throwing some excellent deep balls.

“Really, I just wanted to show that I’m not just a statue back there, that I can move,” Trask said. “I thought I tested well, thought my cone drills were solid. Also, I just wanted to show that I can burst out of the pocket, have little movements within the pocket and still be able to deliver an accurate ball consistently, and I thought I did a pretty good job of that today.”

While pro days and combines are inherently designed for offensive skill-position players to steal the show, cornerback Marco Wilson perhaps turned more heads than anybody else. He ran the 40 in 4.37 seconds, according to Jim Nagy, an analyst for ESPN and the executive director of the Senior Bowl. He also jumped 43.5 inches in the vertical jump, which would’ve tied for ninth in NFL Combine history.

“I’m just proud of putting everything together,” Wilson said. “I knew I was going to excel in every drill. I did all these numbers in training, so I wasn’t surprised at all. The only thing I just have to make sure is that I can hit all these numbers in one day. In training, I never have to do everything in one day. I just had to make sure I, boom, hit my mark here, it’s time for the next drill and make sure I hit every number I needed to.

“I feel like I could have probably broke 4.29 on the hand time, kind of tripped on my first 40. But that’s still a great time. I’ll take that.”

It’s fitting that Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer was in the building for UF’s Pro Day because this might’ve been the most talent the Gators showcased since Meyer’s time roaming the west sideline in the Swamp.

Over the past decade or so, the Gators have had maybe one can’t-miss prospect per year, with perhaps a second elite prospect in a really good year. On Wednesday, the Gators had a Heisman finalist quarterback, perhaps the best tight end prospect of all time, a pair of early-round receivers and a supremely athletic cornerback on the field together for the final time.

Mullen said the day was beneficial for the future of the program.

“You get a lot of exposure,” Mullen said. “I think for us, our players that are here currently in the program get to see these guys, see how much they work, see what they’re doing, see the performance they’re getting ready to put on. And then you have a lot of young guys around the country saying, ‘Hey, if I go to Florida, I’m going to have the opportunity to live my dream and go be a top NFL draft pick.’”

Ethan was born in Gainesville and has lived in the Starke, Florida, area his entire life. He played basketball for five years and knew he wanted to be a sportswriter when he was in middle school. He’s attended countless Gators athletic events since his early childhood, with baseball being his favorite sport to attend. He’s a proud 2019 graduate of the University of Florida and a 2017 graduate of Santa Fe College. He interned with the University Athletic Association’s communications department for 1 ½ years as a student and has spent the last two football seasons writing for InsideTheGators.com. He is a long-suffering fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tampa Bay Rays. You can follow him on Twitter @ehughes97.