Whittemore makes leaping grab, records first TD in UF's home-opener
Kyle Trask’s pass may have been high, but that didn’t mean it was out of Trent Whittemore’s reach.
The Florida wide receiver made a leaping two-handed reception on a crossing route that split the Gamecocks coverage and set up UF’s second touchdown of the afternoon in the process.
The 26-yard snag elicited praise from spectators and teammates alike, the latter of which have seen the Gainesville native diligently work his way into the wide receiver rotation this season.
“Oh yeah, just a play that we’ve been repping in practice all week and I got man coverage and Kyle (Trask) just put it in a great spot. I praise the Lord I was able to come down with it,” Whittemore said. “I just credit Kyle for a great throw, putting it in a spot where it was going to me or nobody. So, credit to him and praise the Lord I was able to come down with it.”
And that display of athleticism? It was hardly a surprise to those who have been closely following his ascension.
The son of Buchholz High football coach Mark Whittmore, and the younger brother of Troy University wide receiver Luke Whittemore, Trent’s athletic abilities aren't a secret around Alachua County.
It’s well-known he’s been able to dunk a basketball since he was a 13-year-old at Cornerstone Academy, and his talents on the hardwood have only improved in the time since he was a budding Gainesville-area prospect and a former Buchholz High standout.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Whittemore was seen on video performing a between-the-legs dunk in UF’s basketball complex, much to the joy of countless teammates in attendance at the time for his feat.
So, when Whittemore was told after Florida’s 38-24 victory over South Carolina that it appeared as if he were going up for a dunk, it was in earnest rather than in jest.
“Basketball is a great little pastime for me. I played a lot of basketball in high school and I think me and Ant [quarterback Anthony Richardson] are two of the best basketball players on the team, so representing Gainesville there,” Whittemore said. “I don’t know if I was quite high enough (to dunk it on the catch) though.”
Whittemore, who said his family and several friends were among those in attendance for Saturday’s contest, wasn’t done just yet as it would turn out.
After a three-and-out on UF’s first drive of the second half, Whittemore would cap Florida’s four-play, 37-yard drive with the first receiving touchdown in his Gators career on a four-yard catch.
“I just felt blessed to be back in The Swamp. It feels great to be playing football again,” he said, “and to get a TD with my family there, friends there, it's just a blessing, huge blessing.”
With a multitude of options in Florida’s passing game –– five different Gators have a receiving touchdown already this season –– it means players like Whittemore often have to remain patient and capitalize on opportunities when they come.
In a college football world where the transfer portal remains a desirable option for players not at the forefront of the depth chart, patience is often lacking with many highly recruited prospects.
In a sense, Whittemore’s the opposite; it’s no secret his offer list pales in comparison to many others on Florida’s roster, and he’s had little choice but to work his way to this point, even as players such as former five-star Justin Shorter have transferred into the program and furthered the competition at his position.
Seeing Florida’s prior pass-catchers put in the effort and forbearance required to reap the rewards has helped Whittemore stay the course up to this point, as has witnessing the benefits of Dan Mullen’s offense.
The Gators have shown a tendency to spread the ball around through eight quarters of play this season –– Whittemore’s performance Saturday exemplified why he’s among the list of potential recipients.
“Definitely I’m a lot more comfortable, I got to see a lot of seniors in front of me and learn a lot from them, whether it was Freddie (Swain) and Van (Jefferson) or Tyrie (Cleveland) or Josh (Hammond) or any of those guys, I just got to take a lot from them and I feel a lot more comfortable this year, this time around,” Whittemore said. “I just tried to do my job every play. If I’m a bit of a change of pace, I understand that. But it’s all about breaking guys down and winning. I think just finding my role and taking it play by play, don’t try to break the game open every single time. Just do your job every play, and you’ll find a job I think.”