The Big Surprise Is No Surprises
Perhaps the biggest surprise of Kyle Trask's four starts as the quarterback at the University of Florida is that we're about to run out of things that surprise us. He doesn't seem the least bit fazed by big game pressure, loud crowds like the one he quieted so many times Saturday night in Baton Rouge or by opposing defensive coordinators doing their dead level best to daze and confuse him.
Wide receiver Josh Hammond, who arrived in the same recruiting class with Trask, doesn't see a whole lot of difference in the Kyle Trask who has handled the Auburn and LSU defenses than the one who arrived in Gainesville in 2016, an unheralded recruit who never started a varsity game in high school. Since he barely played his first three years at Florida, we're just now learning how calm and collected Trask can be when a game is on the line or when the bulk of a Tiger Stadium crowd that has been drinking since Wednesday elects to shred a few vocal cords. Hammond says that's the Trask he's seen “from day one.”
We're also learning that Trask is a pinpoint passer capable of making every throw in the book accurately and on time. He threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns against LSU while leading the Gators down the field on four sustained drives. He is able to do that because he never saw himself as a second class citizen on the Florida football team even when he kept getting passed over as the starter. Trask simply waited his turn, calm, cool, collected and ready when opportunity finally knocked.
Noted quarterback whisperer and Florida head coach Dan Mullen said Monday, “He's prepared himself to be the starting quarterback since the day that we got here and that shows in, 'Now, we need you to go be the starter.' 'OK, I've been preparing for that moment since the day you got here, I'm ready and give me the ball, I'll go do it.'"
What he has done is impressive, but if you think we've seen everything from Kyle Trask, think again. In addition to the kid who is proving he's very definitely a Southeastern Conference caliber quarterback, there is a Jekyll and Hyde kind of guy that Hammond and teammates see even if fans watching in person or on TV don't. Just when teammates least expect it, the wild and crazy Kyle Trask makes his presence known.
“Probably the first time he did that it did surprise me just because I did not expect it to come out of him,” Hammond said. “You know it’s football, guys get excited for football, so like when it happened, it was like oh it’s Kyle, but like after that I expected it out of him. He brings that switch when it’s time to go.”
Like Saturday night when Trask drove the Gators to the tying touchdown before the end of the first half, then the go-ahead TD for a 28-21 lead on UF's first second half possession.
“He handles adversity really well, whether we are high or low, he tries to stay medium and just keep everybody’s head above float and keep everybody on the same page,” Hammond said. “Now if we go down and score and go up 28-21 then that Kyle, the excited Kyle comes out and is ready to go. But by the time we get back on the field, he will be back calm and poised again.”
Trask has an explanation for it.
“I'm just a laid back kind of person but once it's time for business, it's time for business,” he said.
It's that guy who knows how to handle Florida's business on the field that we are growing accustomed to seeing. There doesn't seem to be any situation or circumstance that will overwhelm Trask. The tougher the situation, the more likely he is ready to handle it both emotionally and physically.
We were surprised at first, probably because we had no idea how hard Trask had worked to be ready when it was his moment to shine or how capable he was of performing at the highest levels. Now that he's won a game coming off the bench and is 3-1 as a starter with impressive performances against Auburn (win) and LSU (road loss), maybe it's time to stop being surprised by Trask and expect bigger and better things every single game.
SEC FOOTBALL STUFF
#1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC): Despite four touchdown passes, Tua Tagovailoa's performance against Texas A&M is his most inconsistent of the season against a Power Five opponent. Tua completed 21-34 passes (61.8%) for a season-low 293 yards and also threw his first interception of the season. For the season, Tua has completed 73.6% of his passes for 2,011 yards and 27 touchdowns. Saturday: vs. Tennessee (2-4, 1-2 SEC)
Arkansas (2-4, 0-3 SEC): The news keeps getting worse for the Hogs, who lost to Kentucky 24-20 after blowing a 13-0 lead. Monday it was announced that linebacker D'Vone McClure is leaving the program and corner Devin Bush, the highest rated defensive signee in the 2019 recruiting class for Chad Morris, has entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal. McClure was running second unit. Bush was a 4-star recruit out of Louisiana. Saturday: vs. #11 Auburn (5-1, 2-1 SEC)
#11 Auburn (5-1, 2-1 SEC): With Boobee Whitlow out, Auburn might turn to freshman DJ Williams to take the bulk of the running back snaps. At 5-10, 216 he's a more between the tackles runner than senior Kam Martin who is 5-10, 189. Martin has run for 174 yards and two touchdowns while Williams has seven carries for 32 yards. Saturday: at Arkansas (2-4, 0-3 SEC)
#10 Georgia (5-1, 2-1 SEC): Running back De'Andre Swift, who had 113 yards on 23 carries against South Carolina, says Georgia needs to open up the offense more. In a video that was posted by 960 The Ref, Swift said, “I think we need to take more shots down field, try to get the ball to our playmakers in space.” Saturday: vs. Kentucky (3-3, 1-3 SEC)
Kentucky (3-3, 1-3 SEC): Lynn Bowden Jr. could actually finish the season as Kentucky's leading passer, rusher and receiver. Currently, he's the leading receiver with 30 catches for 348 yards and a touchdown but after Saturday's performance as the quarterback (196 yards rushing) he's third in rushing with 295 yards. He is only 10-15 for 117 passing yards but he might end up being the starting quarterback even after Sawyer Smith is healthy again. Saturday: at #11 Georgia (5-1, 2-1 SEC)
#2 LSU (6-0, 3-0 SEC): After his 21-24 passing performance against Florida, which was good for 293 yards and three touchdowns, Joe Burrow is now very much in Heisman Trophy contention. This season Burrow is completing 79.6% of his passes for 2,157 yards (11.6 per attempt) and 25 touchdowns. Saturday: at Mississippi State (3-3, 1-2 SEC)
Mississippi State (3-3, 1-2 SEC): At his Monday press conference, while trying to explain how Mississippi State was dominated by Tennessee, HBC Joe Moorhead said, “Coaching in the SEC for about a year-and-a-half now in a lot of ways has been a humbling experience. I don’t think you get to this point where I am without a certain level of success, and of confidence, but this game and the SEC, it has a way of keeping you honest.” Saturday: vs. #2 LSU (6-0, 3-0 SEC)
#22 Missouri (5-1, 2-0 SEC): The Tigers have scored at least 31 points in all six games so far (averaging 38.8 per game). Saturday they'll be going up against a Vanderbilt team that ranks 124th nationally in total defense (480 yards per game) and 120th in scoring defense (36.8 points per game). Saturday: at Vanderbilt (1-5, 0-3 SEC)
Ole Miss (3-4, 2-3 SEC): Ole Miss plans to use both Matt Corrall and John Rhys Plumlee at quarterback against Texas A&M. Corrall has the big arm and will be used mostly in passing situations while Plumlee is an outstanding runner who has three consecutive games with more than 100 yards on the ground. Saturday: at Texas A&M (3-3, 1-2 SEC)
South Carolina (3-3, 2-2 SEC): Sophomore corner Israel Mukuamu (6-4, 205) was selected Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week after intercepting Jake Fromm three times in South Carolina's 20-17 double overtime win over Georgia. Prior to facing South Carolina, Fromm had not thrown an interception this season. Saturday: vs. #9 FLORIDA (6-1, 3-1 SEC)
Tennessee (2-4, 1-2 SEC): Quarterback Brian Maurer is under concussion protocol so his status for Saturday's game with #1 Alabama is up in the air. In the win over Mississippi State, Jarrett Guarantano came off the bench to complete 6-7 of his passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. Saturday: at #1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC)
Texas A&M (3-3, 1-2 SEC): Among his comments on the state of the Aggie program midway through year two of his tenure as HBC, Jimbo Fisher said, “I still feel very good on where we are at and what’s going on and in the direction we are going.” Saturday: vs. Ole Miss (3-4, 2-3 SEC)
Vanderbilt (1-5, 0-3 SEC): After the Commodores blowout loss to Mountain West bottom feeder UNLV, Tommy Deas of The Tennesseean wrote, “It’s time to drop anchor at Vanderbilt ... The ship was afloat but adrift. Now it’s sinking .. But is it time to abandon ship on Derek Mason?” Saturday: vs. #22 Missouri (5-1, 2-0 SEC)
GOOD QUOTES FOR TUESDAY
From Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports on what Southern Cal could do to solve its vacant AD problem and then get the football coach it wants after Clay Helton is pink slipped:
“To bring in Foley, 66, would provide exactly what USC’s beleaguered athletic department so desperately needs – an accomplished outsider who can rebuild credibility and accountability within the department. And, yes, by hiring Foley, USC would have the best chance to hire Urban Meyer or another established and accomplished coach. Foley hired Meyer at Florida from Utah in 2004 and traveled lockstep with him to the highest levels of college football. That included two national titles together in Gainesville.”
Paul Finebaum of the SEC Network on WJOX in Birmingham, speaking out about CBS coverage of SEC football: “I have to say the CBS approach to the game is getting tiresome. There’s no comparison to that primetime game on Saturday night, then you flip over and watch the Alabama-Texas A&M game. I still forget that Verne Lundquist is not doing the games. Brad Nessler is a very professional broadcaster, but he doesn’t distinguish himself like Verne did, or Keith Jackson did. Gary (Danielson), what can you say about Gary that hasn’t already been said by 1,000 of your callers. (ESPN’s Chris) Fowler has grown into the preeminent voice in college football and Kirk Herbstreit’s been that way for a long time.”
John Talty of Al.com on Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead, who just lost to Tennessee and is 11-8 since replacing Dan Mullen as the Bulldogs' head coach: “Moorhead walked into a particularly difficult situation in Starkville having to replace a coach who raised the bar on fan expectations. Mullen guided the Bulldogs to their first-ever No. 1 ranking in 2014, eight bowl games in nine seasons and a reputation for always being ready to compete even against good opponents. Mullen wasn’t perfect at MSU and could never completely get the Bulldogs over the hump but he let fans dream bigger. They could let their imaginations wander about all the great things they could achieve with the right coach and right players.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: If you catch any of the National League Championship Series between the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals, play close attention to Juan Soto, who plays left field for the Nationals. He's 20 years old and has 56 homers and 180 RBI in 266 career Major League Baseball games … Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack made a donation to pay the electricity and water bills for 31 elderly customers of Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) who couldn't afford to pay their bills … Responding to claims of sexual discrimination by a former associate athletic director at the University of Saint Joseph in Connecticut, Hall of Fame basketball coach Jim Calhoun issued a statement claiming he has never mistreated any woman or knowingly treated a woman unfairly due to her gender … The Washington Nationals are within a game of the World Series after knocking off the St. Louis Cardinals, 8-1, Monday night.