Kyle Trask for Heisman? It's becoming more possible every week
Before Steve Spurrier revolutionized SEC football with his southern swag and swashbuckling Fun ‘N’ Gun offense, he wore No. 11 for the Florida Gators. Spurrier won a Heisman Trophy in that jersey, playing so well that no Gator would wear No. 11 again until Spurrier “un-retired” the number when he returned to Gainesville as a head coach.
In the Spurrier era at Florida, the number was reserved by Spurrier for a special player who not only asked for it but earned it by embodying the work ethic and on-field excellence the Ol’ Ball Coach demanded. Ben Hanks, an All-American linebacker, was the first to be awarded the number again after Spurrier. Other Florida leaders, from special teams stars to All-SEC defensive ends to the late Neiron Ball, a former captain and Gator linebacker, earned the right to don 11. The number has special meaning at Florida, and the players who wear it understand they are part of a sacred trust.
But after Spurrier, the number had been reserved mostly for non-quarterbacks.
Then came Kyle Trask.
A season ago, after he became the starter, I asked Trask what he thought about the significance of wearing that number at Florida and playing quarterback.
“I wore No. 18 in high school,” he said. “When I got here, the old staff just gave me a number. They gave me 11 and told me that around here, the person who wore that number was always a person who worked pretty hard. I thought that was pretty cool. What I learned is it’s even more than that, with (Coach) Spurrier wearing it when he played here. Obviously, it worked out pretty well for him.”
It’s working out for Trask too.
Spurrier won a Heisman in 11, and Trask looked Heisman worthy in the number Saturday night in The Swamp. The senior threw for 356 yards and 6 touchdowns in Florida’s convincing 63-35 win over Arkansas.
Playing without star tight end and favorite target Kyle Pitts, Trask didn’t skip a beat, connecting with 9 targets and tossing touchdowns to 4 Gators. Facing an Arkansas secondary that entered the game ranked No. 1 in the country in interceptions, 15th in the country in yards allowed per attempt and 2nd in the SEC in pass efficiency defense, Trask was more than up for the challenge. He eviscerated the Hogs for 12.3 yards per attempt, over 5 yards per attempt more than the Razorbacks season average, while avoiding the types of dangerous throws Barry Odom’s defense has feasted on throughout the 2020 season.
Time and time again, Trask made big-time throws into tight windows, like this one where only Justin Shorter could catch it for 6 points late in the first half.
This pass and catch from Kyle Trask and Justin Shorter was phenomenal pic.twitter.com/MO5tGU5OhL
— Unnecessary Roughness (@UnnecRoughness) November 15, 2020
Trask beat man coverage and then he used his eyes to freeze corners in zone coverages, like on this touchdown pass to Jacob Copeland.
You want touch? How about this dime to tight end Keon Zipperer to make Trask the first quarterback in SEC history with 28 touchdown passes in his first 6 games of a season.
Kyle Trask with a casual 6 TD night
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 15, 2020
It was that kind of night for Trask, who backed up an epic performance against Georgia a week ago with an even better one against Arkansas. Coming off an emotional win over a rival, a lesser football team might have had a letdown, especially facing a confident Arkansas team with a strong secondary playing good football. Lesser football teams don’t have Trask.
The senior quarterback isn’t just an effective system quarterback. He’s a difference-maker, the reason this Florida team will have more than a puncher’s chance when it arrives in Atlanta for the SEC Championship game next month. It’s been over a decade since a Florida team went to Atlanta truly capable of winning the game. With Trask, the Gators could.
Those Florida teams, of course, had a Heisman winner in Tim Tebow under center. A 5-star recruit who nearly signed with Alabama, everyone knew Tebow was a difference-maker. Folks are still learning about Trask.
Before the season, I wrote at SDS that if Trask took the typical jump a 2nd-year player makes under Dan Mullen, Trask could be a sleeper Heisman candidate, The piece was met with cynicism and plenty of social media critics, who felt Trask was a system guy with a limited ceiling who had already maxed out under Mullen. The critics, who included the typically outstanding analysts at PFF, were wrong.
Trask hadn’t maxed out. Instead, he was just beginning to dip into who he could be as a quarterback. Now, as he continues to grow as a quarterback, especially in his expanding understanding of coverages and defenses, Trask has put championship possibilities back into Florida’s football vocabulary.
Much like Spurrier, Trask has also put fun back into Florida’s brand of football. He’s made Florida’s offense must-see television again, something that hasn’t been true since Urban Meyer departed over a decade ago.
Football fans are demanding at almost every SEC program. That’s one reason the league is so special and so successful. But they are a special kind of crazy at Florida, where they demand basically two things: a coach with a clever offense widely perceived as a villain and a high-octane offense that scores at will.
With Darth Dan Mullen and Trask, Florida again is checking both of those boxes. That’s one reason the fun may just be getting started under Mullen in Gainesville. And it’s a huge reason Trask may be the second No. 11 at the University of Florida to have a statue built outside The Swamp Steve Spurrier built on Gale Lemerand Drive.