Despite Mullen's comments, Trask undecided on future

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun

Florida Gators coach Dan Mullen repeatedly noted that Wednesday’s 55-20 loss to Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl Classic was in part due to the team’s desire to jumpstart the development of its younger players.

“I'm really excited about us getting going in the spring and seeing a lot of these guys out here on the field, especially at the quarterback position. We have a couple of young quarterbacks coming in that will be enrolling in school in a couple weeks. I think today you saw the excitement. Both Emory (Jones) and Anthony (Richardson) are very different style quarterbacks than Kyle (Trask), which I think, as everybody knows, we always play to the strengths of our players,” Mullen said. “Emory obviously has gotten a lot of experience. I think Emory has learned an awful lot. Sitting there with Kyle Trask, he has learned to prepare, to develop, to be ready. And I'm really excited to see what he's going to bring to the table within the offense.”

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Yet Trask, Florida’s star quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist, didn’t seem to receive that message. 

Trask decided to play

Trask made the trip as he previously stated he would, started despite the absence of his top four pass-catchers and continued playing even when the game was out of hand and with the result all but final. 

He finished the game with 158 yards on 16-of-28 passing and three interceptions – easily Trask’s worst performance as Florida’s starting quarterback, albeit in a game that was supposed to be a celebration rather than a contest meaningful to Florida’s season. 

But he wasn’t quite ready to call it quits on his collegiate career.

“I still haven't made that decision yet,” Trask said when asked if he’ll return to Florida or enter the NFL draft. “But I'll talk to my family members and talk to Coach (Brian) Johnson and Coach Mullen in the next coming days and get that figured out.”

More:Kyle Trask: Florida Gators quarterback named Heisman Trophy finalist

Did Mullen know?

That may be news to Mullen, who minutes earlier told the media via Zoom that Trask was bound for the NFL — which wasn’t a shock given favorable projections, but in retrospect contrasts with the comments of his current signal-caller.

Mullen was asked if it was “fair” for Trask to be asked to perform with unfamiliar receivers and without ample time to prepare, and Florida’s head coach answered the inquiry by saying it’s something Trask will have to become accustomed to dealing with at the next level. 

“Kyle is a competitor. He wanted to go out there and play. I think a little bit different, but he's going to be playing with a whole bunch of new receivers next year. He's always learning, he's always trying to improve, he's always trying to get better,” Mullen said. “That's just the character and who he is. That's what's going to make him successful in the National Football League next year.”

Only that hasn’t been decided yet, or at least announced by Trask; in a sport that continues to move toward players making their own announcements regarding transfers, signings or NFL draft decisions, Mullen may have slipped up and announced that of Trask, his star player at the position where he’s considered a guru of sorts, ahead of time and without his consent. 

Trask’s comments were even more interesting — and awkward — considering Jones sat just two feet to his right in the post-game interview session. 

What about Emory Jones in 2021?

Jones was asked how prepared he feels to take over the first-string quarterback role in 2021, and he didn’t hesitate to advocate for the job by pointing to the work he’s put in since enrolling a month after Mullen arrived in Gainesville.

“I feel good about it. I've been working my butt off for three years. I've been waiting my turn. I've been grinding. I have some great guys to look up to and just been studying them. They've been helping me out and bringing me along,” Jones said. “So, just — I've just been growing just watching them just do everything the way, like Kyle (Trask) conducts himself, like even just walking around the facility, the way he just like carries himself. He's just been helping me out a lot. So I feel like I'm ready.”

And then there’s Richardson, who completed a 27-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jordan Pouncey on his lone passing attempt. They’ll be joined in the spring by Florida’s two signees in this class, Carlos Del Rio-Wilson and Jalen Kitna, to make up the quarterback room. 

If Trask does end up utilizing the additional year of eligibility granted by the NCAA because of COVID-19, the Gators will easily have as crowded of a room at the position as they’ve had in Mullen’s time at the helm. 

Despite the comments from Florida’s head coach after the contest, we’ll have to wait for Trask’s final word on the matter to find out. 

“It means a lot. It's been a crazy journey here. I got really nothing else to say. It's just been a wild ride, and I've enjoyed every second of it,” Trask said. “Like I said before, this isn't the way you want to go out, but when I look back on all the memories and friendships I made here, it's all worth it.”