Quarterback Kyle Trask had an amazing year to end one of the most remarkable careers in Florida Gators history. He led the nation in passing touchdowns and yards, setting program records in both.
Trask was, unquestionably, a great player who embodied everything that’s right about college football.
He was not, however, one of the three best players in the country — at least not in my eyes. He did not get one of the three spots on my Heisman Trophy ballot.
Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith was my easy No. 1 choice. He was second nationally with 17 receiving touchdowns (at the time ballots were due), led the nation in yards, catches and, unofficially, how-did-he-do-that plays. I entered the SEC championship thinking he was the best player in the country. After watching him catch 15 passes, recover an onside kick and pounce on a pivotal fumble in the win over UF, I was sure.
Trask, then, joined teammate Kyle Pitts, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Alabama’s Mac Jones as the final contenders for my other two spots.
The best argument for Trask is that his statistics were incredible. And they were. His 43 touchdown passes were 11 more than anyone else, and he was the only 4,000-yard passer in the country.
But those figures are not the only ways to measure a quarterback’s success. Jones had the highest passing efficiency in college football history and the second-highest completion percentage ever. The Jacksonville native also threw for more yards and touchdowns with a higher completion percentage than Trask did in their head-to-head matchup (which Jones’ team won).
Although Lawrence couldn’t match the numbers of Trask or Jones, the award is supposed to go to the most outstanding player in the country, not necessarily the one with the best stats. Lawrence is a generational talent NFL teams want to tank for.
His excellence was evident by how the Tigers lost when he was sidelined against Notre Dame but crushed the Irish with him on the field in the ACC championship. Give any college coach the chance to trade his quarterback for Lawrence, and the coach wouldn’t think twice about making the deal for the Clemson phenom’s golden arm and good mobility — two clear edges Lawrence has over Trask.
UF fans have made other arguments for Trask. He carried the team to the SEC East title despite not having Alabama-caliber talent around him, and he conducted himself with grace and class.
Both statements are true but irrelevant here. The Heisman is an individual award, so I only consider team success in rare, specific instances. The ballot says nothing about a player’s integrity — only that it goes to the most outstanding player in the country — so character has never been a factor in my voting.
When I submitted my ballot on the Monday after conference championship weekend, I decided Lawrence’s overwhelming abilities topped Trask’s stats. After nitpicking the numbers of another Clemson superstar, Deshaun Watson in 2015-16, I decided not to make that same mistake again with Lawrence. His transcendent talent made him my No. 2 choice.
Trask could not get my final spot because he wasn’t the best player on his team. Pitts was. That became clear watching Trask and the rest of the offense struggle against a depleted LSU defense, when UF’s mismatch of a tight end was out with an injury.
But Pitts missed three full games and averaged only 5.4 catches per game. Although numbers aren’t everything, they matter. And Pitts’ production couldn’t stack up against Jones and his historic efficiency and accuracy.
That left Pitts in the same spot as Trask — two sensational teammates ranked among the most outstanding players in the country.
Just not in my top three.