On Tuesday, they picked up a bigger name: With the commitment of Jalen Kitna, a three-star prospect from Texas, Florida has the son of a former NFL quarterback set to join its 2021 recruiting class.
The elder Kitna had a peripatetic football career, starring for NAIA Central Washington before joining the professional ranks and ending up playing for four different NFL teams — the Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, and Dallas Cowboys — as well as the World League of Football’s Barcelona Dragons, where he won World Bowl ‘97 over the Rhein Fire, a team coached by former Florida head coach Galen Hall that would eventually be quarterbacked by Danny Wuerffel.
Those playing days have been followed by a headlong jump into coaching, which has seen Kitna helm high school football programs in Washington, Arizona, and Texas, and also spend 2019 as the Cowboys’ quarterbacks coach. Last fall, Kitna helped former Dan Mullen pupil Dak Prescott to arguably his finest year as a pro: The Mississippi State product threw for 30 touchdowns for the first time as a Cowboy, posted a career-best 8.4 yards per attempt, and compiled his best passer rating since the 2016 campaign that got him named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
All of that is to say that Jon Kitna’s coaching bona fides are solid, and so his children’s involvement in football — Jalen’s elder brother Jordan walked on as a quarterback at TCU, elder sister Jada was “run(ning) our practices” at Kitna’s first Texas high school stop and is now an Arizona State equipment manager, and Jalen and younger brother Jamison served as ball boys for years, sometimes to their detriment, before becoming QBs in their own right — was all but inevitable.
Jalen Kitna developing into a recruitable prospect — one who will start for his father at Burleson High this fall, should the novel coronavirus permit a high school football season — was maybe less inevitable. And yet he has: On his highlight film, the three-star QB, rated the 247Sports Composite’s No. 100 prospect in Texas, shows a strong arm and decisive play, with balls rocketing to receivers with alacrity after Kitna sets to throw.
A slightly exaggerated throwing motion could be an issue for Kitna, sure — but Mullen, who has succeeded with an ice cream shop’s worth of varieties in that regard, probably isn’t too worried about that, especially with Kitna as the 1B to four-star passer Carlos Del Rio’s 1A in the Gators’ 2021 recruiting class.
If Florida reels in both Del Rio and Kitna, it will land two high school quarterbacks in one recruiting class for the first time since 2016, when Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier teamed to bring in four-star Feleipe Franks and borderline three-star Kyle Trask. Without retelling the entire history of their Florida careers, it suffices to say that was a wise decision for the Gators.
This two-man class could work similarly. While Emory Jones is likely to inherit the reins of Florida’s offense in 2021, after Trask likely moves on to the professional ranks rather than seeking a sixth year of collegiate eligibility after this season, Florida entered the 2020 offseason with just two scholarship quarterbacks returning to its roster, with Franks transferring to Arkansas and the only QB other than Franks, Jones, and Trask listed on the 2019 roster being walk-on Luke Matthews — son of former Gators great and journeyman NFL QB Shane Matthews. Though Florida brought in Gainesville-area star Anthony Richardson as part of its 2020 class, a QB room consisting of Jones, Richardson, and Matthews obviously isn’t as formidable or deep as one with that trio and two other freshmen in it.
And Kitna — who has very good height for the QB position at 6’4”, though he could add weight and muscle to a 190-pound frame — needs look no further than fellow Lone Star Stater Trask to see what can happen for and to a backup QB if things break a certain way.
Kitna is Florida’s 15th commit in its 2021 recruiting class, which moved up one spot to No. 6 nationally per the 247Sports Composite rankings in the wake of his pledge.