Trask for Heisman? The experts like his chances

Nov 23, 2020 | 0 comments


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Florida Gators quarterback Kyle Trask continues to blow minds with his pinpoint accuracy and decision-making, and he’s shattering school and conference records seemingly every week.

He threw at least four touchdown passes in six consecutive games to start the season, an SEC record. His 31 touchdown passes through the first seven games are also an SEC record. Among all Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks, only BYU’s Ty Detmer in 1990 and Houston’s Andre Ware in 1989 threw for more yards than Trask through seven games, and none of them threw more touchdown passes. Trask is one of only five quarterbacks in league history to throw for six touchdowns in a game twice in a season.

Trask’s Heisman campaign seems to be gaining some momentum, as evidenced by the fans breaking into a “Trask for Heisman” chant multiple times in the second half against Arkansas.

Still, Trask doesn’t seem to be the overwhelming favorite for the sport’s most coveted award like Gator fans want him to be. Commentators often refer to him as one of the co-favorites, along with Alabama’s Mac Jones, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. Even after Trask’s regular-season school-record 474-yard performance against a top-ranked Georgia defense, ESPN still had him at No. 4 on its Heisman Watch the following week.

According to Mr. College Football, Tony Barnhart, a longtime writer, and on-air personality, and a former Heisman voter, Trask isn’t the runaway favorite despite his torrid start to the year because of preseason projections. Lawrence and Fields were considered the favorites heading into the season, and some voters entered the season expecting to vote for one of them in December. So, Trask faces a bit of an uphill battle to change their minds. He’ll need to continue to play extremely well and leave no doubt that he is the right player for the award.

“A lot of people were not familiar with Kyle Trask before this season started, even though I thought he played really well last year,” Barnhart said. “It’s like anything else. The Heisman Trophy has their favorites when the season starts, and, when the season started, it was Trevor Lawrence and it was Justin Fields. Kyle Trask has played his way into that discussion.

“One of the problems I’ve always had with the Heisman Trophy is that too many people vote on it, and, when 900 people vote on an award, a lot of times, it’s based on what you look like in the preseason. Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields were at the top of the Heisman list before the season started. Kyle Trask has had to play his way onto that list, and therein lies the difference.”

The perception of Trask as a Heisman sleeper appears to be steadily changing. After throwing six touchdowns against Arkansas a little more than a week ago, ESPN moved him to No. 1 on its Heisman Watch, and he is now the favorite to win the award in the betting odds.

First Coast News’ Brent Beaird, a current Heisman voter, thinks Lawrence, Fields, Trask, Jones and BYU’s Zach Wilson have distanced themselves from the pack, with Trask safely in his top-3 as of now.

“I think Kyle is among the leaders, if he is not the leader at this point,” Beaird said. “With the year he has gotten, which is putting up video game numbers, which is just amazing, [31] touchdowns to lead the nation. He’s spreading the ball around really well; 10 different guys, even at halftime of the Georgia game, had caught passes. Nine players caught passes in the win last week [over Arkansas] and doing it even without his favorite target in Kyle Pitts, who’s out obviously for a little bit. I think the thing that amazes right now [is] that he is probably going to be breaking Danny Wuerffel’s regular-season record of 39 touchdowns before the season is over, which a lot of us never thought that would happen.”


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Frank Frangie, the play-by-play announcer for the Jacksonville Jaguars and a Heisman voter, has the same top-five as Beaird and thinks Trask has as good a chance to win it as anybody.

“Trask is going to have unreal stats,” Frangie said. “He already does. The touchdowns are the big thing. He's way ahead of the field there. He also, unlike winners of past years, is doing all of it against SEC opponents. Others are in similar situations, but, of them, only Trask and Jones are in the SEC.”

Barnhart has Trask and Jones as his co-favorites right now, though he declined to say who was in the lead. In addition to the eye-popping stats, he’s been impressed with Trask’s consistency and his demeanor.

“He’s been incredibly consistent and the fact that he did what he did [against Arkansas] without Kyle Pitts being there,” he said. “I think he throws an incredible ball. He drops it into places where only his receivers can catch it, and he’s just very calm under fire. He’s come so far since he got to Florida, but he can do all the things you want out of a great quarterback.”

Trask’s backstory may also help his cause. While Heisman voters try to be objective and vote for the most deserving player, they’re also humans who love a good underdog story. Trask’s journey from a lightly recruited high school backup to one of the best players in the country could help sway some undecided voters.

“I would certainly say right now that what Trask has done and where he’s come from in the pecking order of Florida quarterbacks is one of the more phenomenal stories I’ve ever seen,” Beaird said.

“That might be very possible that it would go in as kind of a data point as they look at him and see what he’s come up from and how he’s come back from injury. He’s putting the ball right now just where it needs to go. He’s leading these receivers. He’s hitting them between the numbers. He’s basically throwing the ball before these guys even get out of their break. It’s just an amazing situation. I think his career track and also the way he’s playing, all that adds up. That’s impressing the voters a lot.”

Frangie agrees with him.

“The truth is it's not supposed to matter,” he said. “We're supposed to vote for the most outstanding player in college football, period. I've done this a long time, and I hope that is what I do every year. But, yes, people are human, and I can't imagine that doesn't factor in with some. It's a remarkable story.”

Barnhart, however, doesn’t completely subscribe to that theory.

“It’s a great story,” he said. “It’s an incredible story. I think that always helps. Now, will it ultimately decide how you vote? No, probably not. But it does get your attention for a guy who had never started a game until last year at Florida. The fact that he played behind D’Eriq King, who’s now at Miami doing great things, I think it helps draw attention to what he’s doing, and then people will look at the way he’s played and go, ‘Wow. I really need to seriously consider this guy.’”

Ultimately, the Heisman Trophy may be decided in Atlanta on Dec. 19. Trask and Jones will likely both be Heisman finalists, and their teams will almost certainly meet in the SEC Championship Game. Heisman votes are due two days later. This game will be the last game most voters watch before casting their votes, so leaving a strong lasting impression is crucial.

Beaird and Frangie view the game as an incredible opportunity for Trask. There will be Heisman voters watching this game that might not have watched him play live all year, and beating Alabama would make it very hard for voters not to vote for him. However, they stopped short of calling the game a must-win for Trask’s Heisman chances.

“You may have a situation where Alabama is able to win the game, and, for whatever reason, Mac Jones either doesn’t play well or goes out for a bit, and Trask even in a losing effort is just phenomenal, so I think that’s very possible,” Beaird said. “I don’t think it’s a requirement for Kyle Trask to win the SEC Championship in order for him to get the Heisman.”

Barnhart, however, believes the Gators will need to beat Alabama for Trask to win the Heisman. It seems extremely unlikely that Trask can outplay Jones and still lose the game.

“I’ve always believed that you win the Heisman Trophy in late November, early December,” Barnhart said. “It’s how you play in the big games. To play the way he did against Georgia was big because everybody was watching. As they play down the stretch, people are going to be watching because they know that Florida’s very likely to play Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, and I think it comes down to that game, to the SEC Championship Game. Voters want the Heisman Trophy winner to perform well on the biggest of stages, and Kyle Trask still has a chance to do that.”

If he does, those “Trask for Heisman” chants will no longer be a wish and a prayer. There will be a new statue in front of the Swamp for millions of fans to take pictures with for the rest of time.

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