After Kyle Trask led the Florida Gators past Georgia for their biggest win in years, coach Dan Mullen perfectly summed up his quarterback’s four-touchdown day and Heisman-worthy season:
“I think Kyle did a really good job managing the game.”
Managing the game.
Usually, that’s a back-handed compliment to describe a limited passer who grinds out wins in spite of, not because of, his physical traits.
“We don’t view it that way at all,” UF offensive coordinator Brian Johnson said. “It’s our job at that position to manage the offense.”
So put aside any negative connotations for now. The No. 6 Gators consider managing the game well to be a high praise.
And Trask has become a game-managing star.
Under Trask, the Gators have one of the most prolific offenses in the program’s high-scoring history. UF’s 275 points through six games are its third-most ever, behind only the 1996 national title team (315) and the ’94 team (287). And Trask’s squad has done it without any stat-padding games against a Georgia Southern or New Mexico State.
What’s most remarkable, though, is how efficiently Trask is operating the offense. Trask has led 64 drives, excluding kneel-downs. UF has scored on 44 of them (and missed a field goal on another). Only Oregon is punting less often than the Gators (1.8 times per game).
Those numbers are a testament to the entire offense, of course. But Trask has an outsized role in the system.
Mullen gives him the freedom to check in and out of plays at the line of scrimmage. Sometimes even Mullen and Johnson don’t understand what he’s doing.
“And sometimes it’s for show, you know,” Mullen said. “Sometimes he’s doing all that stuff and it really doesn’t mean anything. So I think he just shows his maturity and what he can handle.”
Trask is able to handle it all because of his knowledge of the game and the system. He processes information quickly so he can make the right decision — the right play call at the line or the right player to target after the snap.
Johnson’s favorite play last week was an otherwise forgettable 12-yard check down to running back Malik Davis. Why? Because UF talked about that situation during the week, and Trask turned those discussions into game-day execution.
“I think he’s done a really good job of understanding the offense, understanding how the defense is going to play, understanding how he’s going to attack that type of defense and processing it all really fast to get through all the different reads and get the ball to where it needs to go,” Mullen said.
Trask can manage the game in other nuanced ways, like how to move defenders by looking away from his intended target. It’s not a skill that shows up easily on highlights, but it’s one that can mean the difference between a big completion and an interception.
“He is really good with his eyes,” Arkansas linebacker Grant Morgan said last week. “He really looked us off a lot.”
The result: Trask had as many touchdown passes (six) as incompletions against the Razorbacks while leading UF to its most points in an SEC game (63) in 12 years.
The easiest sign of Trask’s game-managing stardom is easy to overlook because it doesn’t involve him directly. It’s the talent of the personnel surrounding him.
When healthy, the Gators have the best tight end in the country (future first-rounder Kyle Pitts) and a loaded receiving corps. Trask knows this. Instead of forcing throws downfield, he’ll simply (and accurately) get the ball to one of his NFL-bound skill players and let them make a play.
“I think he knows how to utilize those guys,” said Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason, who will try to slow them all down this weekend. "I think any quarterback who’s been in a system, who understands what’s around him and understands how to deploy those weapons — it can put you amongst the elite in the country.
“And that’s where Kyle is right now.”