As former Gators star Kyle Trask went through the scrutiny of the NFL draft process, ESPN analysts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. both pointed to something outside his control.
“He had talent around him,” Kiper said before the draft.
Not just talent. A lot of talent.
Florida’s sensational supporting cast led to fair questions about Trask’s success: How much was because of his talent? And how much was because of the stars around him?
“He had a lot of players there at Florida he’s thrown the ball around to,” general manager Jason Licht said. “He’s had a lot of success.”
Aside from Alabama and perhaps LSU, the Gators’ offensive skill talent over the past two drafts was as good as anyone.
Three receivers from Trask’s first year as a starter (Van Jefferson, Freddie Swain and Tyrie Cleveland) were drafted last year while another (Joshua Hammond) made the Jaguars as an undrafted free agent. Running back Lamical Perine — UF’s third-leading receiver in 2019 — was a fourth-round pick to the Jets.
Trask’s receiving corps didn’t dip in 2020, either. Tight end Kyle Pitts (fourth, Falcons) and receiver Kadarius Toney (20th, Giants) were both first-round picks Thursday, and receiver Trevon Grimes entered Saturday as a likely Day 3 pick.
No matter how talented a college quarterback is, he’ll look a lot better when he’s throwing to at least eight future NFL players.
But having so many great players on one offense can be a challenge, too. Trask could only pass it to one player at a time. Egos can be tough to keep in check.
“He’s had to manage keeping them all happy,” Bucs quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen said. “That can be a tough transition for some guys when they get to the NFL. He’s done it.”
And he did it well.
In Trask’s first year as a starter (2019), nine different Gators caught at least 10 passes, with none catching more than 54. Last season, seven players caught at least 19 balls. In one of Trask’s crowning achievements — a 44-28 triumph over Georgia last fall — his 30 completions went to 10 different receivers.
All of that is relevant in Tampa because of the roster he’ll be joining. The Bucs have three Pro Bowl receivers (Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown) and one of the best receiving tight ends in NFL history (Rob Gronkowski).
“We,” Licht said, “have a lot of great players here, too.”
Trask’s success will depend on how well he is able to handle them. If his college career was any indication, he won’t have any trouble spreading the ball around and keeping everyone happy.
Trask rarely forced throws. Instead, he processed information quickly and fired an accurate pass to the right read. If one of his top targets was double-teamed, Trask knew another one was being under-covered.
“As the quarterback, you’ve just got to be able to take what the defense gives you,” Trask said during the season.
It’s a boring cliché, but it was the right, winning approach with an elite group of receivers in Gainesville. The Bucs expect it to work in Tampa, too.
Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.
• • •