Mike Bianchi: LSU's Joe Burrow is best QB in college football, but Gators' Kyle Trask is best QB story

Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel
·6 min read

A few nights ago, the best quarterbacks in college football — the transferring trio of LSU’s Joe Burrow, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts and Ohio State’s Justin Fields — all were on the national stage during the College Football Playoff.

On Monday night, the best quarterback story in college football — the non-transferring Kyle Trask of the Florida Gators — got his chance at postseason prominence during No. 9-ranked UF’s 36-28 Orange Bowl victory over No. 24 Virginia.

This isn’t to say that Trask did it the right way by sticking it out at Florida while Burrow, Hurts and Fields did it the wrong way by transferring from their original schools (Ohio State, Alabama and Georgia). To suggest such a thing would be the other side of stupid considering the transferring trio finished 1-2-3 in the Heisman balloting and led their teams into the national championship semifinals.

However, you have to admit that Trask’s story seems a bit more admirable in this social media world where patience, persistence and perseverance sometimes last only as long as it takes to dispatch your next Instagram post.

“If a young person wants a role model, they can look at the guy to my left,” emotional UF coach Dan Mullen said, pointing to Trask at the post-Orange Bowl news conference. “Maybe life wasn’t going the way he thought it would go, but he worked his tail off and, when he finally got that opportunity, he was completely prepared for it. In today’s instant-gratification world, it’s always, ‘I want it now, I want it now, I want it now!’ People forget that the path to success isn’t a quick, short trip; it’s a long journey.”

Trask’s tale seems almost too good to be true. Through four years, two head coaches and one interim head coach, Trask was mired on the bench while Florida's offense mostly struggled behind mediocre to bad quarterback play. He waited and waited and waited while more highly recruited quarterbacks played until, finally, Trask was inserted into the starting lineup earlier this season — but only after starter Feleipe Franks suffered a season-ending broken ankle. Trask stepped in and the offense took off even though he hadn’t started a game since his freshman year of high school.

The fairytale season ended Monday night when Trask passed for 305 yards and led the Gators to a second consecutive New Year’s Six bowl victory and an 11-win season for the first time in seven years. He, of course, didn’t do it alone. Running back Lamical Perine ran for a career-high 138 yards and accounted for three touchdowns, but it was the unflappable Trask who kept the Gators afloat by converting two gutsy fourth-down calls by Mullen that led to scores and enabled UF to withstand an offensive onslaught from Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins (28-of-40 passing for 323 yards and four TDs).

“I couldn’t be happier the way my teammates had my back from the beginning,” Trask said. “Winning the Orange Bowl is pretty incredible.”

Trask has played so well and become so popular that Franks announced a few weeks ago that he is transferring. The next question concerns what will happen with Emory Jones, the highly recruited dual-threat QB whom Mullen recruited to be the quarterback of the future but now is the backup quarterback of the present.

Mullen has hinted that Trask and Jones will compete for the starting quarterback position, but we all know this is ridiculous. Trask, barring injury, should be the starter heading into his senior season. With barely any help from one of the worst running games in America (until Monday night), Trask almost singlehandedly carried UF’s offense this season. He has 25 touchdown passes and seven interceptions while ranking 13th nationally in passing efficiency.

Mullen has tried to keep Jones happy by inserting him into the lineup and giving him meaningful snaps during certain points of each game. For instance on Monday night, he inserted Jones in the first quarter and the redshirt freshman took off on a 17-yard run before Trask came back into the game. Mullen is undoubtedly hoping Jones will tear a page from Trask’s playbook, stick it out and avoid the transfer portal no matter what happens next season.

“Most positions on the field, you get the opportunity that you’re going to rotate or go play,” Mullen said. “So as you’re preparing for the game, you sit there and say, ‘I might only play 15 to 20 plays this week, but if I really play well and work hard, I might get 20 to 25 next week.’ As the backup quarterback you’re sitting there saying, ‘Hey, I don’t know if I’m going to get opportunities, but I’ve always got to be ready just in case.' And one of the most impressive things Kyle did is he continued to do that throughout his career. So when his number was called, he was completely prepared for that moment and that opportunity to go take advantage of it.

"I think one of the great things Emory has learned from looking at a guy like Kyle is seeing how Kyle prepared and how he continued to grow and develop to be ready to go play at an extremely high level."

And maybe, too, Jones will learn from Trask that he’s not just in college to play football but also to — don’t laugh!!! — get an education. Trask never wanted to transfer because he wanted to actually get a college degree (in sports management) from UF. He graduated in December and now is pursuing a master’s degree.

"The transfer portal is a huge deal in college football, but this is a top-10 academic university,” Trask said. “... I had no intentions of leaving. I’ve always wanted to be a Gator.”

Imagine that.

Always wanting to be a Gator in a transient college football era when most quarterbacks would have simply said, “Later, Gator.”

Be true to your school.

Love and loyalty to the university you committed to out of high school.

There may be better quarterbacks in college football, but there are no better stories than Kyle Trask.

Email me at mbianchi@orlandosentinel.com. Hit me up on Twitter @BianchiWrites and listen to my Open Mike radio show every weekday from 6 to 9 a.m. on FM 96.9 and AM 740.


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