GAINESVILLE — The latest sign of how volatile college football quarterback situations have become happened Monday afternoon when Houston announced star quarterback D’Eriq King plans to sit out the rest of the season. Regardless of whether he returns to the Cougars next season (as he said he plans to do), his absence weakens damages an already struggling team.
Given that backdrop, No. 9 Florida and rival Florida State should consider themselves lucky. Their depth at the game’s most important position was pivotal last weekend and will be on display again Saturday.
In his first start since his freshman year of high school, UF’s Kyle Trask led the Gators to an easy trouncing of Tennessee. Trask could have transferred repeatedly, including last month after his graduation. But he stayed, just as he stayed at Texas’ Manvel High when he was stuck as a backup behind … D’Eriq King.
Trask delivered last week against the Volunteers with a 20-of-28, 293-yard performance. Coach Dan Mullen said Trask graded out well, and the Gators were encouraged by the experience their new starter gained — how he managed the game, how he monitored the clock, how he checked plays and how he communicated with his teammates.
“All of those things are a lot of experience things, so the more experience you get, the better you're going to be,” Mullen said.
Experience figures to be one of the only things Trask will get out of Saturday’s matchup against Towson. The Division I-AA Tigers shouldn’t be able to challenge the Gators, but Trask can still gain valuable reps for the upcoming matchups against much tougher Tigers — No. 7 Auburn next week and at No. 4 LSU the week after.
The Seminoles’ situation is much less clear-cut.
Starter James Blackman remains day-to-day after leaving last week’s win over Louisville with a lower-body injury. The good thing for Willie Taggart and FSU is that his backup has plenty of experience, which was evident against the Cardinals.
Wisconsin grad transfer Alex Hornibrook was in the game plan, anyway, but took over for Blackman and finished 15-of-20 for 255 yards and two touchdowns in a gritty victory the ’Noles needed before this week’s against North Carolina State.
“He comes to meetings like a pro, like a vet, like he's done it before…” Taggart told reporters Monday. “So putting him out on the field, I don't think anyone on our staff or our players felt like we had to worry about anything because we know that Alex was going to be prepared. That's for sure. He's going to know exactly what to do.
“And he showed it.”
Gouraige coming on
Although UF offensive lineman Richard Gouraige hasn’t yet earned his first start, the Cambridge Christian product is seeing more playing time. He has played three consecutive games and got as many reps last week as many of the starters.
“Richard's obviously done a really great job,” Mullen said. “Really talented young player for us that I think has a great future…
“I really wanted to get him going, get him out there on the field and get him playing for us."
Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks had successful surgery Monday to repair his dislocated/fractured ankle. Franks is expected to miss six months, which would have him returning sometime around spring practice.
FSU linebacker Jaiden Lars-Woodbey will miss the rest of the season with a lower-body injury, Taggart said. Lars-Woodbey was a five-star recruit in Taggart’s first class and has started all 16 games of his college career.