Pitt picked up a key graduate transfer at the tight end position when they added Lucas Krull to the room back in December. At Florida, Krull was pushed aside for the incredibly talented Kyle Pitts, who has a chance to be a first-round prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft.
As a result, there is a lot that Krull has to prove since he was essentially a backup in Gainesville. Still, however, with his pedigree and the limited tape he has shown, there is a lot to be excited about in Krull. He brings traits that Pitt has not had in the tight end room in a long time.
The receiving part of Krull’s game is where he wins. Flexed out or in-line, Krull is a dangerous weapon because of his athleticism and crisp route-running skills. On this play, Krull is running a simple curl route, but with an off-man defender, he attacks the defender’s outside hip and works into his blind spot. By doing that, the defender is in a compromised position due to Krull’s athleticism. Obviously, he does not want Krull to run by right up the seam. So, Krull takes advantage of that fact, snaps it down quickly, and makes a nice catch. This is a great example of Krull uses his athleticism as a weapon.
This is only a play during practice at Florida, but it perfectly illustrates what Krull does with his athleticism up the seam. At heart, he is a seam buster that stretches defenses with his athleticism. Then, he adds in the size element to create a really problematic mismatch. Krull’s catch radius is big. With sure hands added onto that, Krull can come back to the ball like this and make a catch out of the air. Mark Whipple loves to use his tight ends in lots of ways, including downfield, so getting an athletic seam buster like Krull is a great fit.
Talking about those stems, Krull is a master of manipulating zones and bending those stems back to get himself open. Idaho runs a Cover 2 shell, and Krull does a terrific job of bending this stems behind the linebacker and then trends it up on the crosser to get open. Krull is a big guy, but he knows how to get skinny and fit through these smaller areas of zone coverages and get himself open.
On tape, Krull’s most glaring weakness is technical blocking skills as a tight end. He was lined up on the hip of the offensive tackle and in-line often enough at Florida to the point where he got consistent reps as run blocker and pass protector.
Krull’s reps as a run blocker are often mulled by a lack of grip strength, leverage issues, and a noticeable lack of pop at the point of attack. He certainly has the energy and want to get after it as a blocker, but he never really seals off blocks or moves defenders off their spot. Just like in this play, Krull places his hands on the outside shoulder of the defender instead of driving through the middle of his chest plate. That never allows him to get a firm hold on the defender, who comes back around and almost makes the tackle near the line of scrimmage. Part of his hand issues are placement, but he also has sloppy footwork as a blocker. Krull has to get more even-keeled and use his back pivot foot as a source of power rather than just dragging it along for the ride.
Here is Krull in pass protection. His feet are dead in the water here. The moment he stops running his feet to get into his pass set, he was done for when facing a pass rusher. Since he never sets to his spot, Krull is forced to lunge forward to get his hands inside, but by doing that, he exposes his chest. In addition, Krull loses any source of balance and core strength by throwing himself off his center of gravity. Luckily, he has some help from the running back on this play, but Krull gets pushed back hard here.
Krull might be the most intriguing transfer from this past cycle. There are so many tools there to work. The great size, huge catch radius, and obvious athleticism leave room for a lot of potential in Whipple’s offense that utilizes tight ends a lot. Pitt simply never had that reliable tight end last year to consistently go to, but if they did have that guy, it is not a stretch to say the Pitt offense would have run more efficiently.
Krull might not be a great blocker and that is probably never going to be his calling card on the field. However, more and more tight ends at the NCAA level are focusing more on being a weapon in the receiving game. Krull can bring that to Pitt and give Kenny Pickett a big reliable target to throw to in 2020.