When you think back to the 2020 Florida Gators football season five, ten years down the road, what will you remember?
Some will remember it fondly when they think about Kyle Trask’s storybook career. Some will only remember a championship-worthy season turned sour in the final three games. Some will put a COVID-19 stamp over the entire season and see it as nothing more than one big asterisk.
But no matter what, everyone who experienced this historic season in college football will have a story to tell for decades to come.
After simmering on it for a few days, these are the things I will take away:
Kyle and Kyle reviving the offense
Trask may not get his statue on campus, but he forever left his mark on the program and etched his name onto a short list of all-time great Florida quarterbacks.
As his story ages in the history books, it will likely only become more impressive. There is no need to go back over what it took for him to get to this point, because every telecast this season told it at least 72 times per game.
But his accomplishments would be remarkable even for a five-star quarterback who started from the time he stepped on campus. He shattered school records with 4,283 passing yards and 43 passing touchdowns, all while playing fewer games against an all-SEC schedule.
And five 400-yard passing games weren’t too shabby either.
Though the running game was non-existent, it often didn’t need to be with the receiving corps that accompanied Trask. Highlighted by Kyle Pitts, the Gators were stacked with experience and talent.
Pitts set several records of his own on the way to an All-American season. Watching him on the field was like watching a video game come to life. He often made SEC-caliber defenders look like they were still in high school, which is why he should be the first tight end off the board come draft day.
With Pitts alongside the likes of a much improved Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes and Jacob Copeland, the Gators were loaded with offensive weapons.
Following a season that included a throttling of rival Georgia and a dogfight with No. 1 Alabama, Trask entered the bowl game without every single one of those weapons. Though not every mistake can be attributed to that, it shouldn’t taint all of the good that came before.
It was the year without a defense
Remember that one time when we all simultaneously yelled, “Don’t do it!” just before watching a shoe go flying across the field? That might just be the best summation of Florida’s defense in 2020.
Undisciplined and underachieving.
Todd Grantham entered the season pretty high on the hit list for Florida fans, and after the worst defensive season in school history, there are probably a few gathered outside the stadium with pitchforks in hand at this very moment.
Grantham’s future with the Gators and the speculation surrounding him can be saved for another story, but his defense left much to be desired this season.
Giving up more than 30 points per game (and an average of 48 over the final three games), Florida’s offense had no choice but to be great to salvage a decent season.
Not too long ago, the Gators routinely ranked in the top 10 in total defense. This season? 83rd, while giving up 428 yards per game.
In some games, third down might as well have been first down for opposing offenses. Hello, Texas A&M. And let’s not even get started on fourth down, where teams converted against Florida more than 65 percent of the time.
There were a few bright spots, including the second half against a juggernaut Alabama offense. The stands the Gators made in the SEC Championship Game allowed the offense a real opportunity before ultimately falling just short.
Individually, linebacker Ventrell Miller had an impressive season as he led the team with 88 tackles and earned a pair of SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Outside of him, glimpses of young talent popped up throughout the year. But apparent regression of veteran players was more than a little concerning.
All in all, this is a season Florida’s defense will try hard to forget as it heads into 2021.
COVID sucks, thank goodness for football
At one point, college football in 2020 was just a crazy dream.
Some of us lost jobs, some of us lost loved ones, some of us battled the virus head on. After a long, trying year, football became a form of therapy for thousands of people across the country.
Whether Florida made the College Football Playoff or lost every game, this season was something to be thankful for.
An 8-4 finish is not the Gator Standard that head coach Dan Mullen so often preaches on. There were missed opportunities for greatness this season, but there were also glimpses of what the future could hold.
Emory Jones will likely take the reigns in 2021, and he has all the qualities Mullen needs in a quarterback to run his system. He has a rocket for an arm, improved accuracy and is more than just a “willing runner”.
After the showing against Oklahoma, there is an obvious need for development in Florida’s young receivers. If the Gators can even come close to putting the weapons around Jones that Trask had this season, there is more exciting offense to come in Gainesville.
So, now that it’s over, don’t dwell on the bad or the good. Just be thankful for football and hold out hope for a 2021 that is a little more…normal.