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.”