Florida Football 3-2-1: Trask for Heisman?

Sep 28, 2020 | 0 comments

After a season-opening defeat of Ole Miss that was both beautiful offensively and painful to watch defensively, the No. 5 Gators look to play a more complete game on Saturday in their home opener against South Carolina. The Gamecocks opened their season with a 31-27 loss at home against Tennessee.

Here are three observations, two questions and one prediction as the Gators enter week two.

Three Observations

1) Quarterback Kyle Trask lived up to the Heisman hype. You know the stat line by now: 30-for-42, 416 yards and six touchdowns. As gaudy as those numbers are, the amount of improvement he showed from last season to this one without much of a structured offseason program might be even more impressive. He wasn’t very accurate at throwing deep balls or passes outside the numbers last year. His game was to get rid of the ball quickly to an open receiver over the middle of the field. On Saturday, he completed the 71-yard throw to Kyle Pitts down the seam and perfectly thrown back-shoulder touchdowns to Pitts and Trevon Grimes. He doesn’t make those throws last year. When he got pressured, he calmly found a way to extend plays with his legs and either find a completion or throw the ball away. Yes, going Ole Miss’ defense was about like throwing routes on air in practice, but the accuracy, decision-making, poise and intelligence he displayed will carryover to any opponent. If he plays like he did against the Rebels, he’ll be in New York in December for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

2) Running back Malik Davis is back. The redshirt junior running back gained 49 yards on seven carries and 33 yards on three receptions. It seems that he’s finally put his major injuries of 2017 and 2018 behind him, as he looked like the explosive and confident player that we saw as a freshman in 2017. He’s the Gators’ best pass-catching running back, which should be a really important role on this team given Trask’s prowess through the air. With Lorenzo Lingard apparently further behind the other running backs than we thought, UF needs Davis to stay healthy and explosive this year to take some of the load off of Dameon Pierce. So far, so good.

3) Transfer defensive end Brenton Cox played an under-the-radar good game. He made eight tackles, including 2.5 for losses and a sack. Those are statistics that you would normally see from a linebacker or a safety, not a defensive end. He also deflected a ball that was intercepted by Gervon Dexter. He was one of the few players on defense who seemed to always be around the ball and playing with a ton of energy. If there was one blemish on his performance, it’s that all of his stats came in the first half. He disappeared in the second half. Dan Mullen said Cox knows that he’s capable of more after the game, and having a more consistent impact is probably at the top of the list of things to improve.

Two Questions

1) How many of the defense’s problems are easily correctable? The answer to this question could be worrisome. The defense didn’t struggle with tackling, taking poor angles and miscommunications like you would expect in a season-opener. Those usually get cleaned up naturally as the season progresses. Instead, they had massive coverage breakdowns and an alarming lack of awareness of when the ball was in the air. Those are some bad habits that likely can’t be broken by flipping a switch. Unfortunately for the Gators, the defense has the looks of a unit that will be a season-long work in progress.

2) Is the offense really that good, or is Ole Miss’ defense exceptionally terrible? The answer is likely somewhere in the middle. The Rebels gave up a ton of separation to the Gators’ receivers, but, as mentioned before, Trask did a great job of making some tough throws that he probably wouldn’t have completed last season. The offensive line also dominated in a way that they didn’t against anybody last year. The Gators averaged 6.8 yards per rush; the only game they averaged that last season was the Orange Bowl against Virginia. They couldn’t even push around UT Martin or Towson like they did Ole Miss on Saturday. So, the progress is definitely there, but just how good they are in comparison to the rest of the country remains to be seen.

One Prediction

1) Tight end Kyle Pitts will win the John Mackey Award, which goes to the nation’s best tight end. This is about as much of a certainty as there could possibly be after the first game of the season. He was only the third FBS tight end since 1996 to compile 150 or more receiving yards and four touchdowns in a game. Mullen described it perfectly after the game; Pitts is too physical for a defensive back to cover and too fast for a linebacker. Even when he was double-teamed in the fourth quarter, Trask still found him for a touchdown on a jump ball. He’s blocking with a visible anger after he was left off of the semifinalist list for the award last year after the selection committee thought he was more of a wide receiver than a true tight end. The only way you can cover him is if you have a clone of him on defense. Nobody has one, so Pitts will continue to rack up the yards and touchdowns this season.

Tags: Player

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