Florida football: 5 records that could be broken in 2020... and 2 that will never be touched
College football is mostly about the chase.
Chasing the program-changing recruit. Chasing the rival in the national spotlight. Chasing the next special season. Chasing that next championship.
The pursuit of school records and the program standard-bearers and legends that came before is part of the chase, too.
At Florida, that means chasing the likes of Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel, Rex Grossman and Tim Tebow if you play quarterback, or Emmitt Smith or Fred Taylor if you play running back.
If you’re Dan Mullen, you’ve already won more games than any coach but one in your first 2 seasons. Can you win more games than any other coach in your first 3? These subplots make talking season fun and make regular seasons all the more captivating.
With that chase in mind, here are 5 Florida football records that could fall in 2020, and 2 that will never be touched.
5 to chase
Completion percentage, season (min. 150 completions)
The record: Wayne Peace, 70.7% (1982)
A year ago, Kyle Trask completed 66.9% of his passes on 237 completions in 10 starts. That number was good enough for the 3rd-best single-season completion percentage in Florida football history, which is incredible stuff when you consider who has played quarterback at Florida. Couple that with the fact it was Trask’s first year as a starting quarterback since 9th grade and well, you get the idea. Even a modest improvement as a senior means Peace’s 38-year-old record will be in jeopardy.
Here’s betting Trask gets this done in 2020.
Most catches by a tight end, season
The record: Aaron Hernandez, 68 (2009)
Kyle Pitts posted 54 receptions in 2019, the 3rd-highest single-season total in Florida football history.
The main reason Hernandez set the record in 2009 was Florida was a bit more limited at wide receiver after the departure of All-American Percy Harvin to the NFL. Hernandez was forced to be the focal point of the offense.
The thinking here is the same attrition effect benefits Pitts. Last season, Pitts probably breaks Hernandez’s record but for Florida’s quartet of senior wideouts, all of whom caught at least 25 passes. In 2020, there are fewer proven commodities for the Gators at wide receiver — which should be mean more targets for their All-American tight end.
Don’t look for Hernandez’s record to hang around much longer.
Touchdown receptions in a game
The record: 4 — Ike Hilliard 4 (vs. Tennessee, 1995), Jack Jackson (vs. New Mexico St., 1994)
Florida’s passing game produced nearly 4,000 yards and 33 touchdowns last season, with 5 Gators catching 5 or more touchdown passes.
With Florida’s proven options fewer and farther between in 2020, an explosive game from one of the veterans seems a safe bet.
I don’t think a tight end ever catches 4 TDs in a game, but what about a 6-5, 220-pound senior wide receiver who is an elite athlete and has track speed? Yep, this seems like a record Trevon Grimes can at least equal — which hasn’t happened in Gainesville since the Spurrier era.
Field goal percentage, season (min. 20 attempts)
The record: Bobby Raymond, 88.4% (1984)
Fun fact: Evan McPherson would hold this record twice if he had simply attempted — and made — 1 more field goal in either his freshman or sophomore season at Florida.
The No. 1 kicker in the country as a recruit, McPherson has lived up to the hype in Gainesville, making 34 of his first 38 attempts. He’s been easily the most accurate kicker in the SEC the past 2 seasons, despite oddly losing 1st-team All-SEC owners to the less accurate Rodrigo Blankenship of Georgia each of those seasons. Maybe McPherson should get some hipster glasses so he can win some awards.
Next year, look for him to try 20 field goals finally — and for the result to be the end of Raymond’s longtime Florida record for accuracy.
Passes defended, season
The record: Louis Oliver, 19 (1987)
I don’t know if the interceptions in a season record at Florida, set by current UF football analyst Keiwan Ratliff with 9 picks in 2003, will ever be threatened. But Oliver’s passes defended record has been approached on multiple occasions, most recently by All-SEC corner Teez Tabor in 2016 (Tabor came up 1 short).
Kaiir Elam showed himself to be a terrific ball hawk as a freshman, with 3 interceptions and 7 passes defended. Given the limited number of snaps he played until midseason, and the departure of CJ Henderson (team-high 12 passes defended in 2019), Elam seems a prime candidate to put together a huge 2020. I don’t know if he gets to Oliver’s number, but it isn’t out of the question, especially if teams elect to throw at him instead of senior Marco Wilson.
2 records that won’t be touched
Rushing yards in a game
The record: Emmitt Smith, 316 vs. New Mexico State, 1989
Before he became the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, Smith ran for 316 yards against the Aggies on only 31 carries in his homecoming game in 1989. Smith is also 2nd on the Gators’ “yards in a game” list, for what it’s worth, with 224 against Alabama in 1987.
Even in Dan Mullen’s run-dominant spread, it’s tough to see any single back threatening Smith’s 316-yard number. The game is just played differently today, and too many players demand touches.
300-yard passing games, season
The record: Rex Grossman, 10 (2001)
Joe Burrow broke this SEC record in 2019, but it’s hard to see what remains a program record — by 4 games, no less — being touched anytime soon.
Grossman should have won the Heisman Trophy for his 3,856-yard sophomore season but was denied when Eric Crouch was narrowly given a career achievement Heisman in one of the closest Heisman votes in history. Today, no one would have cared that Grossman was only a sophomore, and he would likely have won. In 2001, too many media types felt the Heisman should only go to upperclassmen — and so Grossman lost despite winning the bulk of the 1st-place votes.
Kyle Trask could threaten 3,500 yards next season, which would put him in the company of only Grossman (2001, 2002) and Danny Wuerffel (1996) in terms of a single-season accomplishment.
But if Florida has more balance, as expected, I think Grossman’s 10 games with 300 yards is safe — and likely will be for a long time.