Florida Gators quarterback Kyle Trask finally, formally, shed the label of longtime backup with his breakout 2019.
Midway through this season, Trask deserves to have a new title next to his name.
Heisman Trophy candidate.
As Trask prepares to lead No. 6 UF against Arkansas (and former teammate Feleipe Franks) on Saturday, there should be no more caveats about the passers who kept him on the bench for years or the ultra-talented receivers who boosted his numbers last fall.
Trask is in the middle of a potentially historic season and is worthy of consideration for the most prestigious individual trophy in college sports.
What the numbers say
Trask’s 22 touchdowns are tied for most in the country. But the other three passers with that many (BYU’s Zach Wilson, Memphis' Brady White and Texas' Sam Ehlinger) have all played at least six games; Trask hit that number in five. He’s only the fifth quarterback since 2005 to throw at least four touchdowns in five consecutive games and the only player in SEC history to do so.
Trask has a higher passing efficiency (189.04) than Clemson phenom Trevor Lawrence (178.57) and ranks in the top 20 in completion percentage (68.7) and yards per attempt (10).
His game at Georgia was one of the best performances in the Gators' prolific passing history. He lit up one of the country’s best defenses for a UF regular-season record 474 yards and orchestrated an offense that put up more yards on Georgia (571) than anyone has since 2001.
What the numbers don’t say
Some of Trask’s most impressive traits are hard to quantify, like his decision-making and willingness to pound the defense’s weak spots.
Twelve Gators have caught at least one pass from Trask, including 10 last week. Seven different players have caught at least one touchdown from him (the same number Lawrence has at Clemson and three more than Mac Jones at Alabama).
That’s a credit to UF’s depth, of course, but it’s also a sign of Trask’s ability to read the field and find the right target.
“One of the things Kyle does a great job of, he’s not going to force the ball to somebody,” coach Dan Mullen said. “If you want to take somebody away, it’s okay. He’ll just go on to the next matchup.”
If you want to nitpick, Trask’s ability to make the right, routine play also means he doesn’t yet have a highlight reel full of “wow” plays, as most Heisman winners do.
Joe Burrow’s 2019 season at LSU was arguably the greatest in college football history, and Trask stacks up well against it through five games. Their passing yards are comparable (1,864 for Burrow, 1,815 for Trask). The passing touchdowns are identical, although Burrow also rushed for two scores.
Since 1990, only two Heisman winners (Burrow and BYU’s Ty Detmer) have thrown for more yards through five games than Trask, according to research from UF. Burrow and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson are the only ones to account for more touchdowns or total yards at this point of the season than Trask.
The rest of the field
Ohio State’s Justin Field has as many touchdown passes (11) as incompletions but has only played three games. Fields and BYU’s Wilson are better runners than Trask, which will help their cases.
Jones has the edge in most statistics but could end up splitting votes with teammates Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith, just like Lawrence and Travis Etienne at Clemson. That could help Trask’s chances.
The bottom line
Trask isn’t the frontrunner at the midway point of his season, but he’s definitely in the conversation.
“He’s playing pretty well through five games,” Mullen said.
And if he can do it for five (or six) more, Trask has a legitimate shot at joining Tim Tebow, Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel as UF’s only Heisman winners.