How open is Florida's QB competition this offseason? Dan Mullen says 'every position is open'
Many have pegged Kyle Trask as the best returning quarterback in the entire Southeastern Conference heading into the 2020 season.
While that may in fact be the case, Dan Mullen isn’t ready to hand anything to his players — especially his quarterbacks.
During his first press conference of the spring, Florida’s coach was asked several times about Trask and how the Gator signal-caller is handling himself this offseason following his breakout performance last fall. After beginning the season on the bench, Trask made 12 appearances for the Gators and completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 2,941 yards with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also rushed for four more touchdowns.
“Seems to have handled it well,” Mullen said of Trask. “I know he’s got a couple of other guys in the room that expect to start next year. He better push himself and continue to work every day and compete at the highest of levels so he can remain in that position. I think our guys now going into a couple years (of our program) know how guys handled last season much better in their preparation — knowing what to expect and knowing how to prepare going into an offseason.”
The way Mullen tells it, he prepares each of his quarterbacks in the spring as if they are the starting quarterback of the team. The method obviously paid off for Trask, who was forced into action after Feleipe Franks was lost for the season against Kentucky, last fall. While most teams would have struggled to replace their starting quarterback, Florida’s offense got better the moment Trask stepped into the huddle.
That’s a lesson learned in the Gator locker room, according to Mullen.
“I think at this point, those guys are looking at, ‘Hey, I’m trying to win the starting job.’ I think the guys understand what we do and one of the things that makes us develop the quarterbacks well is how we handle the rotations and all the opportunities that everyone gets,” the Florida coach noted. “Everybody basically gets to be the starter going through spring… as far as spring ball, I think they understand what they are getting into and as far as the offseason goes, they understand these are things I need to do to put my myself, if I want to be the starter, things are the things I need to do to be the starter.”
So what are the things Trask needs to improve to keep his job as Florida’s starter?
“I think there’s a big part for him in the understanding and management of the offense,” Mullen answered. “How fast he makes decisions, and how good he makes decisions. I think there’s so much to that, the decision-making process of the quarterback – of anticipating, where to go with the ball, the ability to get us into the right play and really utilize the offense to his advantage.
“Whether it’s checking protections, whether it’s using snap counts, whether it’s how you are throwing guys open, when you want to take a chance, when do you not want to take a chance? It’s all of those things are the next step progressions.”
Finally, when asked how open the quarterback competition really is in Gainesville, the Gator coach did not hesitate to answer that question.
“Every position is open,” Mullen answered. “There’s not a position on our team that’s not that way.”
While many will read into that how they will, you have to appreciate the fact that Mullen is willing to push a player like Trask to improve or get passed up on the depth chart. We’ve reached a point in Gainesville where there’s enough talent at every position on the roster that if the presumed starter doesn’t put in the work, he can easily be passed by the player listed below him on the depth chart.