Despite Emory Jones’s obvious gifts, every credible report about Florida’s spring practice said that the starting quarterback race came down to two guys: Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask. Franks has a body of work as a college quarterback that we can evaluate thanks to him seeing the field 2017.
Trask, meanwhile does not. He redshirted in 2016 to get up to college size and speed, and he missed all of last year after foot surgery.
There are a lot of reasons why spring games can’t be relied upon for much, but they’re literally the only source of college tape we have on Trask. He is a real contender to appear behind center on UF’s first offensive play this year, so I’ve cut up every snap in every spring game that Trask has taken that didn’t end up a handoff.
I’ve done my best to pull out what solid information there is to be found on Trask from these three outings. Here is what can be scouted solely from those games — and, as importantly, what can’t be.
Trask was the fourth quarterback to appear in his first Orange and Blue Debut, and he mostly spent time out there with freshmen and walk-ons despite going up against some of the team’s better defenders. Frankly, it shows.
This series of cutups has 12 plays in it. Fully half of them have Trask getting pressured in the pocket to the point of scrambling, throwing the ball away, or both. On one other play, he fumbled the under-center snap and merely fell on the ball.
The best play by far was his second. He finds Alvin Bailey on a vertical route and fires it to him on the inside so that Teez Tabor, who’s covering the receiver from the outside, couldn’t make a play on it. It’s a little high, so Bailey has to jump to get it, but it’s pretty close to being right on the money.
That said, something that’s a little evident on the first play but is more noticeable on two later deep passes is that he doesn’t completely transfer his weight and follow through. He does complete a pass to Case Harrison on the sideline at the 1:45 mark, but it’s badly underthrown and Harrison has to come back for it despite loads of free grass ahead of him.
On the following play, Josh Hammond has a step on Marcus Maye deep. Trask throws it for him, but again, it’s underthrown and Maye almost picks it. Trask does slip in his drop, but his feet are stable when he throws.
Not following through and trying to rely on arm strength alone is to be expected for a guy right out of high school. It’s something to be fixed as a part of maturing into a college quarterback.
Trask again mostly played with backups against the top defense, and it is just as evident. His first pass is dropped by a early enrollee freshman, and he has to scramble out of a collapsing pocket on the second.
The underthrows are largely gone this time, though he tosses one into the grass two yards in front of the receiver while on the move at 1:33. What plagues him this time is throwing to guys when they look open without anticipating that the receiver may not continue to stay open.
The first such play begins at 0:58. He has a receiver on his left who will run a vertical route against a linebacker, and that receiver predictably beats that linebacker. Trask does slightly underthrow this one again, but the bigger issue is that Marcell Harris was lurking in almost the exact spot that the ball went to. Harris dropped back to play centerfield and Trask threw it right to him like he never saw him.
The second big example is at 3:48. Trask will have a receiver get open on an intermediate crossing route about 13 yards upfield. If he threw it to the guy right on the break, it’d likely have been a completion, but he throws it late. The ball goes directly at Duke Dawson, who was camping out in an open space by the sideline. Dawson tips it up and Vosean Joseph snags an interception.
Trask does eventually get a drive with the offensive starters, but both of his throws go to receivers who have no defenders within five yards of them at the time of catch. I will say, though, that the first toss of them on the run to Brandon Powell near the sideline is a genuinely good throw.
The issue that showed up in Trask’s first spring game was mostly absent from the second, which is a good sign of progress. However, he wasn’t making good decisions about where and when to throw. Perhaps he was just having an off day — remember, this was one outing and not as representative as an entire spring or fall session of practice — but it’s the kind of mistake you’d expect to see from an inexperienced quarterback. Throwing deep over the middle without knowing the safety’s location is a rookie mistake.
The good news for scouting purposes is that in this year’s game, Trask is no longer mostly working with guys who are buried on the depth chart.
The bad news is that the teams were split evenly due to a draft, which meant that there was no guarantee of continuity with the units on the field and the groupings that had worked together during the whole practice session. Plus, there were a few shenanigans with former players catching touchdowns and the assistants running the teams being allowed to draw up plays that weren’t installed and drilled.
Dan Mullen said during an on-field interview that Trask and Franks both were “very up-and-down all spring long”. In that sense, the game was a microcosm of the practice sessions as a whole.
Trask had a few impressive throws. Ones that stood out to me include the crossing pattern to Rick Wells (2:38), which required a good throw in rhythm with the receiver, and his back shoulder throw to Tyrie Cleveland (4:08), which rivals the 2016 throw to Bailey for his best in any spring game.
I also finally didn’t see any underthrows due to his motion or mechanics. If anything, he had more of a problem with overthrows. He had three tosses that were just way too far out to be catchable that didn’t appear to be related to miscommunication or confusion with the receiver. His first pass of the game on a bubble screen was too high as well.
Following up on 2017, he didn’t have any throws where he appeared to completely miss that a defender was in the area. There were some where a guy in tight coverage got a hand on the pass, but none seemed to be cases of not seeing a defensive back hanging out in the area where the ball was going. As a note of caution, I wouldn’t be surprised if a fair bit of this apparent improvement comes down to what (fairly vanilla) defensive coverages were being employed, though.
To be clear, these three outings don’t tell us whether Trask is an SEC-caliber quarterback or not. They don’t tell us whether he can be a team leader, and they say nothing about his ability to perform in real game situations. Spring games simply can’t convey that kind of information.
What I do see is a raw freshman in 2016 with some promise but also some mechanics to iron out. In 2017 the mechanics were almost fixed, but his ability to read defenses was really in doubt. This year, the mechanics issues from 2016 were entirely gone and his decision making looked better, but he had a few issues with accuracy and with timing in a new system.
To me, that does look like he has progressed from year-to-year so far. Again, no one can tell solely from spring games whether or not a player will excel on the field in the fall. I do feel comfortable in saying, though, that I saw fewer disqualifying things with Trask this time around than in past years. As that’s about all we can ask to see from a spring game, it’s as encouraging a takeaway as can be had.