Trask poised to carry offensive load for Florida

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Florida quarterback Kyle Trask looks to throw Saturday against Tennessee at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The Gators beat the Volunteers 34-3. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

For as much as he’s harped on tailoring the offense around the personnel, Dan Mullen, like most collegiate head coaches, seeks stability.

From his rotations to his playcalling, the Florida coach is constantly in search of balance, while remaining impartial when it comes to putting playmakers in the right position. 

In a perfect world, however, the Gators would be a run-heavy team rather than a pass-happy one, and Kyle Trask’s emergence in Florida’s 34-3 win over Tennessee was an indication that Mullen is set to lean in to the latter. 

If Mullen does call for Trask to air it out, he seems more than up to the task. 

“Absolutely, always. I love airing the ball out,” Trask said before crediting those in charge. “It just goes back to Coach Mullen and his staff, they are just really good at preparing for whatever moment presents itself.” 

Trask’s enthusiasm over the potential offensive adjustment has to be an encouraging one for his head coach, yet it’s a move being done out of necessity rather than to please the long-awaited starter.

The Gators enter Saturday’s 4 p.m. kickoff against Towson ranked No. 11 in the SEC in rushing, as the Gators are averaging 136.8 yards on the ground per contest this season. But it’s the yards after contact — a measly 1.9 yards before contact, according to a report in The Athletic — that has Mullen re-evaluating the game plan as the midpoint of the season approaches. 

Considering the skill position talent in Gainesville combined with Kyle Trask’s impressive debut as a starter — his 293 passing yards ranked as the most for the Gators since Luke Del Rio eclipsed the 300-yard mark against Kentucky in 2016 — and it seems logical for the Gators to keep calling on Trask and the passing game to step up to the task. 

If it happens, the Manvel, Texas, native pointed to his preparation over the last four years as to why he’s capable of shouldering the bulk of the offense. 

“In order to be an elite quarterback, you got to be consistent in your performance. So the biggest thing for me is just treat every rep like it’s your last, and overall consistency,” Trask said Wednesday. “I wasn’t nervous or anything like that (against Tennessee). Coach Mullen and his staff do a great job of preparing us for those moments.”

While many have pointed to Saturday’s matchup serving as a potential trap game for Florida, seeing as though Towson arrives with a 3-1 record and a No. 11 ranking in FCS competition, that notion is hard for Trask to accept, and that’s before factoring in Florida’s “next game is the most important” mantra. 

How can a quarterback, one who has waited seven years for the opportunity, overlook any opponent?

It seems unlikely, but the motto doesn’t change just because the quarterback does. 

“Definitely it’s one game at a time. Really it comes back to consistency and maximizing every rep. We want to be an elite team. In order to do that, we have to maximize every rep and be the most consistent team possible,” Trask said. “Coach Mullen told us a lot about Towson. They are a great team that are really sound on defense. We got some plays that we think should work in our advantage. But overall they are a great team and we have to come out swinging in full force.”

An ideal gameplan undoubtedly, and one that seemed to work to near-perfection against the Volunteers. 

Trask led Florida’s offense to a quick six points on the team’s first drive of the game, his 19-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Kyle Pitts helped set the tone and gave the Gators a cushion that would only grow over the ensuing 57:31 of action. 

“He played well. He put us in position and he made some big time throws and helped us move the ball,” UF quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson said of Trask’s first start. “As always, some stuff that he’s got to continue to clean up and work, but everything is pretty coachable in terms of mistakes we needed to get cleaned up. I was proud of the way he stepped up to the challenge and performed at a high level.” 

Now, the question becomes one of consistency: can Trask continue playing at a high level, even if the offense needs him to do more? Only time will tell; fortunately for Florida, Trask is used to being patient. 

“He was prepared to go play, and we always talk about that in our room, ‘You have no idea when your opportunity is going to come. When you go in a game, people are going to say one of two things. It’s going to be ‘Oh no’ or ‘Oh yes.’ Fortunately for us, it was ‘yes’ because he did a great job and handled the game plan and knew everything that was in it and let it rip, man, and he was really confident in what he was doing,” Johnson said.

“I think he handled everything well. The only difference was he probably got in a practice probably 30 more reps than normal. We rep all of those guys out there in practice. He just got probably a little more than normal. But, in terms of his approach and how he got ready and whether it was first down, third down, red zone, two-minute, four-minute, understanding all of those situations — none of that really changed. The only thing that changed was Kyle’s getting more reps, Emory (Jones) is getting more reps, and let’s go play.”

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. Kyle Trask has been a pleasant surprise. Quite an upgrade over his predecessor. CDM could do worse than adjust the offense to take more advantage of his passing skills and that stable of great receivers the Gators have.

    Just pass to open up the run. As long as Trask gets time to go through his progressions, there will almost always be an open receiver somewhere on the field.

    • I just want to point out that Mullen isnt adjusting the offense to take advantage of his passing skills but is talking about doing so because of the poor run yardage numbers, due to the o-line not being able to open up holes for the RB’s. If they could, there would be no change, because Mullen runs an spread offense, not a drop back and pass offense. In this case he has to take what the OFFENSE is giving him 🙂

      • Daz, that’s a difference without distinction. I wholeheartedly agree with your diagnosis of the underlying problem. The Gator OL is ineffective when straight up run blocking. Putting Jones in at QB IF he has difficulty regularly finding open receivers won’t work either, since SEC defenses are very athletic and will just key on stopping running plays first.

        When I say “adjust” the offense, I mean rebalancing the pass/run ratio to more like 60/40 than 50/50 in order to take advantage of its passing strength. The Gators still have to run effectively enough to keep defenses from teeing off on Trask, but that can happen via traps, draws and jet sweeps, where the OL can just allow aggressive D linemen to rush themselves out of position.

        I have faith CDM knows what he has this season by now and will make whatever adjustments are necessary to maximize the effectiveness of the 2019 Gator offense.

          • Agree with you there. I’m just glad that option is now viable with Kyle Trask at QB. His predecessor, with his inability to throw medium range passes, would not have been effective throwing the ball 40 times per game.

  2. Certainly nothing wrong with passing the ball. We may have plenty of running backs but we are not built like Alabama or a similar run team. Also, there will be times late in a game where there is no time to run the ball and passing will be required. Personally I am for whatever keeps the ball in the offense’s hands and scores touchdowns. Go Trask and Go Gators!