Early Entry Review: Trask showcased his worth at quarterback this spring
It's not every day that a Power Five conference school offers a quarterback who served as a backup in high school. So when two-star prospect Kyle Trask received his first Division I offer from the Gators and soon committed to UF last summer, the move was met with some initial skepticism by those on social media and message boards.
However, as an early enrollee this spring, Trask proved he belongs at Florida.
At 6-foot-4, 227 pounds, Trask was one of UF's most accurate passers during practices and often impressed with his arm strength. He certainly didn't make the number of mistakes you'd expect from a freshman early enrollee - and at the same time arguably outperformed fellow freshman signal-caller Feleipe Franks, a four-star signee.
“We beat Houston Baptist or somebody on this guy?" Florida head coach Jim McElwain said during the spring. "Are we surprised the way Kyle has played? No. We saw those things when he kept coming back to camp, putting him in situations. I mean, that's the beauty of getting guys to camp because you're able to kind of see how they react in different environments. He's a guy that answered all the questions. Between he and Feleipe they do a great job of studying and working and you can see that those guys have gotten better and better as practices have gone on.
"Gotta learn when to throw the ball away a little bit, can't force, and yet when you have a big arm ... well, it's not too big for him. The guy like to compete and it's fun to watch."
At Manvel (Texas) High School, Trask was part of one of the country's better programs - and a quarterback position with plenty of talent. D'Eriq King, a dual-threat quarterback and Houston commit, earned the starting nod because he was ultimately a better fit for the system Manvel ran on offense than Trask, a pro-style passer.
“I just happened to have another kid who was really, really good, too," Manvel head coach Kirk Martin said. "The other kid fit what we do more. We’re not a pro-style team, we run a lot of option-type stuff and zone-read stuff.”
Added Trask's personal quarterback coach, Brian Thiebaud: "Very few programs have a situation like that where you have two legitimate D-1 kids who have very different styles of play. For him, he would have started at any other place."
However, Trask was never one to back down from competition during his time at Manvel.
“He said, 'Coach, I was born and raised in Manvel, Texas. If the other kid is better than me, he’s going to have to prove it,'" Martin said. "That’s the one thing I told (Doug) Nussmeier about Kyle – he’ll never transfer. I guarantee you that he’ll never transfer. He’ll come in, compete and try to beat out whatever five-star guys you guys sign. But he’ll never transfer, regardless of the situation. That’s great insurance. That gives a coach a warm, fuzzy feeling on the inside knowing you’ve got a real quality guy right there."
As a backup in high school, Trask wasn't on many college teams' radar like some other passers of a similar caliber. However, Nussmeier had a connection with Martin - he recruited and offered his son, tight end Koda Martin, while he served as Alabama's offensive coordinator - and soon enough Trask landed on Nussmeier and UF's radar.
Once Florida did its homework on Trask, it fell in love with his tools, especially when he worked out for coaches in Gainesville numerous times last summer. After he participated at UF's Friday Night Lights camp in front of McElwain, Nussmeier and other UF coaches, he received an offer from Florida to the surprise of many.
“Well, you know we had a relationship there at the high school," Nussmeier said. "I say this about that guy – every time you tried to say ‘Well, I’m not sure’, he did something that said you are sure. I can’t say enough about the kid – he’s an Eagle Scout, he’s close to a 4.0 student. A guy when he played, if you look at his production when he played, if you just turned on the film when he played in the games and looked at his production, it’s pretty darn good now. And you look at the decision making, you look at the size, arm strength, accuracy, and you say ‘What box aren’t you checking, what are we missing here?’"
Throughout the spring, often alternating snaps with Franks on the second unit, Trask continued to check all of those boxes. Martin, who spoke with Nussmeier recently about Trask, said the Florida offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach was really pleased with Trask's spring.
"He said Kyle is a hardworking kid," Martin said. "He said he grades out really well percentage-wise with a lot of the throws he was making. The thing is, in high school in three years, he never threw an interception. He threw for about 1,000 yards all three years and never threw a pick. He was double-digit touchdowns every year and zero interceptions. I told that to Nussmeier and he said, ‘Well, not much has changed. I think he had five picks all spring on over 800 throws.’ So that’s pretty good.”
In the spring game, Trask put his skillset on display in the second half of action. He completed four of his seven passes for 67 yards, including completions for 34 and 23 yards. His 23-yard throw to Alvin Bailey was perhaps his prettiest throw of the night, as he fit an absolute laser into a tight window with Bailey working against junior cornerback Jalen Tabor.
“I feel like he looked good," Thiebaud said. "He looked like he had been there before. He didn’t look like he was overwhelmed. One of the biggest adjustments that high school kids have to make, especially in the SEC, is the speed of the game and just making the throws and getting the ball off on time. There was a throw he made vertically up the field – I think to the slot receiver on the right side of the formation – and threw the ball down the field and into a very tight space. He showed a lot of maturity for making that type of play with the experience he has had. He showed that he has a lot of tools and he’s obviously a very impressive kid physically and throws a great ball."
Trask's tools are certainly intriguing, but he does have room to grow. Throughout the spring, exchanging snaps under center proved to be an area where Trask needs to improve. Stepping up from a vocal standpoint leading the offense - Trask is naturally a soft-spoken, humble kid - is another area where his former coaches feels he can develop.
"Obviously, when he gets his opportunity to play, being able to handle being in that moment," explained Thiebaud. "That was one of the encouraging things about the spring. He showed that he could handle that. But you go on the road at Alabama and all these other places that they’re going to play, there’s an adjustment there. But I think he’ll make those transitions.
"I think he can make all of the throws. To play in a league as fast as the SEC, you’ve got to put a lot of velocity on the ball and he can throw with touch. He makes a lot of different throws. Having a sense of timing and being able to deal with the rush and being able to move in the pocket, get his feet set and get the ball out in time, he has a pretty great feel and an understanding of when the ball has got to get out. As he gets a greater grasp of the offense, a greater comfort level that’ll come with experience, I think he’s going to make a push to be the guy at some point.”
Tabor shared a similar sentiment during the spring.
"I love Trask," Tabor said. "Pretty ball. He has the prettiest ball. I feel like if he can take the next step and become a leader. It's different when you get under the live bullets in the SEC. Guys like Dante Fowler, Jarvis Jones coming after you. Can you still step up in the pocket and deliver a ball to help your team win? That's the only question I have for him, but as far as his like just the eye test, the kid is big and he can throw. I tried to bait him into one play in the scrimmage and he baited me. He threw it right over my head, I'm like, 'Oh, I thought I had it,' but he put it right on a dime. He can definitely drop dimes."
It'll be interesting to see how Trask's freshman season pans out - whether it's served by redshirting or perhaps on the field as a true freshman backup possibly to Del Rio. However, Trask's coaches think he'll make a significant impact in Gainesville once it's all said and done.
"I believe Kyle will be a starter at Florida before it’s all over. He’s got all the tools and he’s an extremely hard worker," Martin said. "I told every big-time recruiter that came here, ‘I’m going to tell you what – they’re going to do a 30 for 30 on this kid when he wins his second Pro Bowl in a row about what a dumb butt his high school head coach was for not starting him.
"I’ll be that guy that cut Michael Jordan or skipped over Brett Favre. That’s OK. I’m fine with that, I’ll own that, I’ll wear it."
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