Florida football: QB Kyle Trask’s patience rewarded with first start since high school

By Michael Phillips
September 20, 2019
Florida football: QB Kyle Trask’s patience rewarded with first start since high school
Football

Image Credit: Tim Casey / UAA Communications

If you’ve ever seen “Friday Night Lights” — the television version — you know what Florida Gators quarterback Kyle Trask is experiencing. When Jordan Street went down in the first game of the season for the Dillon Panthers, backup Matt Saracen was forced to lead the team for the rest of the season. He wasn’t expecting it, but he stepped up in the right moments and led the Panthers. 

When Feleipe Franks went down with a dislocated ankle at Kentucky, Trask was asked to do the same thing. Down 21-10, the fellow redshirt junior signal caller didn’t flinch, bringing the Gators back from behind for a 29-21 victory. 

“He is a poised guy,” senior linebacker David Reese said. “He has always been a ball player since he has been here. Guy that loves Florida, loves the team. He is a people’s person that you can relate to and you know you can depend on him. When he came in, we had no doubt that he would take care of us. We already know his ability.”

Trask is about to take over at quarterback for one of the biggest programs in college football, and his first career start comes in a massive rivalry games as No. 9 Florida hosts Tennessee, a team it has not lost to as an unranked opponent in decades.

It also happens to be Trask’s first start since his freshman season … in high school.

“Yeah, that’s been a while,” Trask said. “I started my freshman year of high school. It’s been a few years. I didn’t start in high school, but I definitely got a lot of reps. I was around a lot of talent, and our coaches here have done a great job of preparing me for this moment.”

Trask arrived in Gainesville, Florida, in 2016 and was immediately a backup. When Franks was named the starter in 2018, Trask could have transferred. When he didn’t beat Franks out for the starting job in 2019, he could have left as a graduate transfer.

Trask stayed put.. 

Nowadays, it is more surprising than not if someone in his position — at his position — never transfers. That’s ust not how he’s wired. 

“I think the whole portal thing in the past year or two has been a big thing,” Trask said. “But this is one of the best schools in the country, so I figured why leave when I have a top-10 education, friends I love dearly, a football team that’s very supportive of me, and really I was just preparing every day as if I was the starter, as I should be. I took advantage of the opportunity I’m given.”

Not too many schools can say they have a guy who can come in and fill the starting quarterback’s role. Florida believes it has two in Trask and redshirt freshman Emory Jones, who will also take snaps behind center, according to Mullen.

That has a lot to do with how Mullen and the coaching staff prepare throughout the season and divvy up reps in practice. It also speaks to how incredible it is to have a guy like Trask continuing to grind daily as he learns the system and hopes that effort will pay off. 

“That says a lot in today’s college football. Right?” Mullen said. My meeting with him last season was, ‘Do you want to be here? Do we need to help you go somewhere else?’ That’s kind of the in thing in college football. ‘If I’m not playing, how fast can I transfer? If I’m not going to start, if I’m not going to get this, if I’m not me, me, me, me, me, I, I, I, I, I, I have to do this. I have to be in the transfer portal.’ Kyle’s not that. 

“He’s a graduate from the University of Florida. He’s going to get a master’s degree from the University of Florida. He sees the bigger picture in life, understands he’s being developed really well here as a quarterback and was waiting for it. He loves the team, loves the program, has been working really, really hard and was ready for his opportunity when his number was called. 

“That’s kind of a throwback, right? But then it’s amazing that he had the character and the readiness to go prepare and be ready for that moment. Well, all of his actions that led up to be ready to play in that game showed he had that kind of character with all of the decisions he made leading up to that.” 

Now, Trask and the Gators turn their attention to the Volunteers. For Trask, the offense won’t change much at all, though Florida may use Jones a bit more than it was planning to with Franks. Trask knows the playbook extremely well and can run everything. The only differences you will probably see is simply how Trask utilizes it with his skill set.

“I want to say that Feleiepe has a really strong arm; Kyle’s arm isn’t as strong,” senior wide receiver Josh Hammond said. “But I think Kyle definitely isn’t afraid to throw the ball. I want to say he’s probably just a little bit more decisive than Feleipe can be at times. I think that’s probably the biggest difference between the two, and he doesn’t run as much. 

“Feleipe will tuck it and run. Kyle probably won’t tuck it and run as much as Feleipe would. But both guys, Coach Mullen does a good job of putting them in the situations that they do well at. Kyle is more of a gunslinger guy than Feleiepe is because Feleipe will tuck it and run when he needs to. Just calling those plays to help Kyle excel when he needs Kyle to make plays for us.”

Losing Franks was a blow for the entire team. From his production on the field to his leadership off it, the Gators will miss him.

But Franks’ absence does not signal the end of the season. It is just beginning, and Florida fans have Trask’s ability and loyalty to the program to thank. 

“Coaches do a great job of preparing us for these kind of moments,” Trask said when asked whether he was nervous for Saturday’s start. “This is why we come to Florida, to play in big games like this. I was trying to take advantage of my opportunity.”

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