Last weekend, Kyle Trask received a call from the locker room via FaceTime from Danny Wuerffel who congratulated him on breaking his high school touchdown record for one season.
In other circumstances, the profession would have attracted more attention, an unofficial initiation into the elite quarterback club of Florida, if you will. But the Gators lost amazingly to LSU at home, and that achievement was a footnote.
Instead, all anyone wants to talk about for Saturday’s SEC championship game between Florida and Alabama is how the Gators can make up for their worst performance of the season in their biggest game of the season.
Oh, and a shoe. There’s a lot of talk about the shoe.
Florida coach Dan Mullen made an effort to put what happened this week in a 37-34 loss behind the Gators, saying: We have the opportunity to participate in a championship. I think our boys would like to go play.
But one wonders how such a brutal loss, and the handful of poor performances that preceded it, will affect the Gators against the country’s undisputed number one team. Trask threw his 40th pitch. The season pass against LSU, which beat Wuerffel’s record in 1996, but he also threw two interceptions. Mullen pointed out that several errors in the red zone contributed to this loss.
Despite all this, there is an important reason why alligators get a chance on Saturday: Trask himself.
Forget the current Heisman Watch listings and what happened last weekend. Trask has one last chance to get his Heisman moment with a micro-drop action against the current.
Florida fans are ready. A few weeks ago, someone left a poster next to the three Heisman images of Steve Spurrier, Wuerffel and Tim Tebow in front of the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with Kyle Trask, the quarterback who won the Heisman trophies of 2016 and 2020.
Someone is ready for a fourth member…. #Alligators pic.twitter.com/XILwJsszsu
– Scott Carter (@GatorsScott) 26 November 2020
Trask himself would never say he would reject a discussion about the Heisman Trophy and hand it over to his teammates. But he saw the sign that led to the soccer hall.
I thought it was pretty funny, he told ESPN. In the end, of course, I don’t focus on that, but on what the team needs right now.
What the team needs is the best performance of his career and a little help from defense. (OK, a lot of help from the defence.) If Trask succeeds, his chances of winning the Heisman increase. It’s currently ranked #3 in the latest edition of ESPN.com’s Heisman Watch. Two players above him: Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith and Alabama quarterback Mack Jones.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Floridian Kyle Trask scored several touchdowns by passing in 10 consecutive games, the longest active streak of the FBS. Tim Casey/College Images/Getty Images
The fact that he even participates in the discussion about Heisman is in itself a victory, given the way his career started.
As a child, Trask grew up in Texas in a house where people loved football and where his grandfather played for the Houston Oilers. He became a quarterback and at one point in high school, he decided to go with the number 15 because he saw Tebow, the Gators quarterback, win the national championships in 2006 and 2008. Watching Tebow inspired him to one day become like Tebow, although that goal seemed almost unattainable in high school.
Trask spent his high school years as a replacement and only received offers from the FCS when Florida defensive coordinator Randy Shannon told coach Jim McElwain to take a look at Trask after doing some recruiting work in Texas. Florida desperately needed help with the quarterback position, which has become a performance desert since Tebow’s departure. All players who followed, from John Brantley to Jeff Driskel, Tyler Murphy and Treon Harris, gave the impression that the standards set by Florida with Tebow, Wuerffel and Spurrier winning the Heisman Trophy are in an alternate universe. The attack of once flying alligators has turned into a chaos without identity.
With a solid offensive background, McElwain was hired in December 2014 to overthrow the funk of the Florida quarterback and restore one of the only acceptable traditions for a football team – elite signal calls and many (and many) points. It looks like he ran over that Will Grier, who led the Gators to a 6-0 start in 2015 and finished in 11th place in the standings. But Grier was suspended for the season after testing positive for a banned substance in October and eventually being transferred, prompting Gators and McElwain to rebuild the quarterback system with the 2016 class.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Game
Florida’s head coach, Dan Mullen, takes the podium to talk about the SEC 2020 championship game against Alabama.
Felipe Franks, an ESPN 300 four-star recruiter, was transferred from LSU in Florida at the end of the recruitment process. But McElwain pointed to a player far below Kyle Trask, who was just above striker Eddie Pineiro. Keep an eye on this guy, McElwain told a reporter on the day of the signing in 2016. It’ll be something special.
The special Heisman trophy?
God, no, McElwain said laughing in a recent interview with ESPN from his office in central Michigan, where he is now the head coach. I don’t think any of us ever thought about it, but it wasn’t even in our heads.
When Trask arrived on campus in the summer of 2016, the coaches saw that he had the physical size (1.80 m, 211 pounds as a rookie) to play as a quarterback. He needed the right system and a chance he didn’t get in high school. The number he accidentally got when he arrived? Number 11, that belonged to another Heisman quarterback in Florida: Spurrier.
That’s right. At one point in his life, Trask wore two of the most iconic songs in the history of the school in Florida. Although he has roots in Texas A&M, Trask says Florida has always been a dream school for me.
You’re a kid, you see Tim Tebow win a national championship and you want to be like him when you grow up. To be able to play on this pitch where so many legends have played and wear the song of Steve Spurrier is really great, Trask said.
Tebow Channel and Spurrier aren’t exactly his plan. Trask just wanted a chance to win the starting position. In his early years, Mr. Trask often showed his potential in practice. I knew I could take all the pictures, he said.
But the injuries have marred those efforts. When McElwain was expelled halfway through the 2017 season, Trask remained in reserve. For her second consecutive recruitment, Florida turned to another former offensive coordinator with extensive experience in quarterback development. This person – Mullen – worked as a coordinator in Florida and developed Tebow before leaving in 2009 to become the head coach for the state of Mississippi.
In a nod to the school’s most successful seasons in history under former boss Urban Meyer and Spurrier, Mullen said at his opening press conference that he would bring the Gators back to their top-of-the-line offensive philosophy.
Last season, Trask became a fixture at the event due to a Franks injury that ended the season, and everything was ready to go. Florida reached the New Year’s Six Bowl and defeated Virginia in the Orange Bowl, indicating that 2020 could be the year of the Gators. When Trask and his teammates returned to campus after months of absence due to the coronavirus pandemic, they took advantage of the chemistry that began to emerge in the second half of 2019.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Florida coach Dan Mullen has been critical of the Gators’ attack in recent weeks, complaining of a lack of reading at the start of the games. Matthew Maxey/Sportswire Icon
The 51-35 victory over Ole Miss in the season opener is proof of that, with Trask throwing for 416 yards and six touchdowns, including four for the tight Kyle Pitts. Florida accumulated 642 yards, a school record for the total number of yards in an intra-conference game. Trask, Pitts and the offensive continued from there, in a historical turn that is not quite over yet. Florida currently leads the country in yards per game (386.4 yards) and Trask leads the country with 40 touchdown passes. He also set the school record for most 300-yard passing games with eight SEC teams, and joined Rex Grossman, who did so under Spurrier in 2001. Trask is the only quarterback in the history of the school with four 400-metre passes.
I expect a lot from our quarterback, Mullen said. We are an offense based on what we ask them to do, what we ask the quarterback to do, [it’s] very similar to a professional style offense in that sense. He’s had a great year, and I know this will definitely excite the fans in Florida. The only thing you know about Gators fans is that they love the points and the explosive attack. I know they liked the results we’ve achieved this year.
So with an achievement worthy of a Heisman, Trask can put himself in a position to win the Heisman and possibly put Florida in the university football play-offs. Despite two defeats, the Gators have lost only one place, no. 7, in the current ranking, and it could be difficult for the committee to overtake the SEC champion with a victory over Alabama’s no. 7. 1.
Our main goal at the beginning of the season is the championship, the SEC championship, the national championship and we have a large group of guys and we’ve all taken that to heart,” Trask said. For me, a focus on individual pricing would not be a good standard.
At least it helped set the standard. McElwain has had a chance to see Trask play at home this season. Although he is no longer with the team, McElwain was directly involved in the return of the Gators to Atlanta, bringing players like Trask and Pitts into the team.
You know, what interests me when I look at Kyle [Trask] is how he’s progressing, Mr. McElwain said. You could almost see the action, the reaction and the validation. He understands exactly what is expected of him. I’m sure they train him better. I completely understand. More than anything else, I’m excited about his success and that of the whole team. I think it’s great.
McElwain said he was planning on watching popcorn on the couch Saturday night. He will join millions of viewers to see if Trask can embarrass the alligators with another historical performance.
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