By Zach Abolverdi, Correspondent
If he wasn’t already, Florida quarterback Kyle Trask is now the most popular man on campus.
The redshirt sophomore replaced starter Feleipe Franks in the Missouri loss Saturday and played well in the first extended action of his collegiate career. The homecoming crowd cheered when Trask took over for Franks in the third quarter.
At times this season, Franks has sulked on the sidelines after a bad series or a turnover. But UF coach Dan Mullen didn’t see those emotions from Franks when he was benched.
“I don’t think his attitude was bad,” Mullen said. “It wasn’t a halftime discussion, at all. Feleipe handled it well. We’re here to win the game, we weren’t playing well in the game, so let’s try something different.
“And, I know it gets a lot of attention at quarterback, but it doesn’t (with the staff). We’re going to put in different guys and see if someone can get in there and go make a play.”
Trask did just that with his first possession, leading the Gators on a 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive. He capped off the series with a 7-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Josh Hammond on fourth-and-goal.
The reaction from Franks? He signaled TD as the players were coming off the field and stopped Trask to give him a hug.
“Feleipe’s a very high-spirited dude and he knows what’s going on,” running back Jordan Scarlett said. “He’s not one of those dude’s that’s going to be in the dumps about not playing. He’s going to cheer Kyle on and cheer the team on.
“Even afterward when we were in the locker room, he was still telling everybody good job, way to run hard, keep doing your thing. So I’m not really worried about Feleipe being down in the dumps or anything.”
Trask finished 10 of 18 for 126 yards and a touchdown, while Franks completed just nine of 22 for 84 yards against the Tigers, who came into the game with the SEC’s worst pass defense.
Florida tight end R.J. Raymond admits Franks played poorly, but feels the entire offense did as well.
“Feleipe was just struggling tonight, it is what it is,” Raymond said. “We’ve seen that with people. It’s just because it’s the quarterback that it’s such a magnified change. You see running backs struggle all the time or right guard struggle or right tackles, and they get pulled.
“But because it’s the quarterback, it’s such a big issue. … Yeah the execution was bad, but the media and people out there are going to blame it all on Feleipe. But at the end of the day, it’s all of us. It’s a team and that execution comes down to our preparation.”
That preparation must improve in practice this week as Franks and Trask duke it out for the starting nod against South Carolina. Scarlett expects that battle to fire up the offense.
“It definitely will be very competitive between those two guys,” he said. “I think it’ll be a good thing for us because it’ll bring some juice back to us and that’s something we need.”