GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Kyle Trask waited nearly seven years between starts, an unusual path that could have prompted the backup quarterback to leave Florida long ago.
But Trask stuck around despite a coaching change, the emergence of Feleipe Franks and the increasingly popular use of the transfer portal.
Now, he’s finally getting his shot.
Trask will make his first collegiate start — and first since his freshman year in high school — when the ninth-ranked Gators (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) host Tennessee (1-2, 0-0) on Saturday.
“This is one of the best schools in the country, so I figured why leave when I have a top-10 education, friends I love dearly, a football team that’s very supportive of me,” Trask said Monday. “And really I was just preparing every day as if I was the starter, as I should be.
“I took advantage of the opportunity I’m given.”
Trask replaces Franks, who gruesomely dislocated and fractured his right ankle in a 29-21 victory at Kentucky last weekend. Franks will have surgery next Monday and be sidelined at least six months, coach Dan Mullen said.
Mullen said Trask and redshirt freshman Emory Jones will each get snaps against the Volunteers. Neither has seen much more than mop-up duty with the Gators.
Trask’s role was mostly the same in high school.
Trask served as a backup at Manvel (Texas) High for three seasons. He completed 72% of his passes for 1,545 yards, with 16 touchdowns and no interceptions, over his final two years with the Mavericks.
“I didn’t start in high school, but I definitely got a lot of reps,” said Trask, a redshirt junior. “I was around a lot of talent, and our coaches here have done a great job of preparing me for this moment.”
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Trask was last a starter when he played for Manvel’s Freshman A team in 2012.
He nearly ended his backup streak last year, though. Franks was benched in a 38-17 loss to Missouri in early November. Trask replaced him in the third quarter and completed 10 of 18 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown.
Trask was expected to take over the job the following week against South Carolina. But he broke his left foot practicing a trick play three days before the game, essentially handing the job back to Franks.
Franks played well down the stretch and entered this season as the unquestioned starter.
Trask could have bailed after the season, or after spring practice or even after fall camp — but he insists he never even considered leaving.
Mullen even met with Trask in January, asking him two main questions: Do you want to be here? Do we need to help you go somewhere else?
“That’s kind of the in thing in college football,” Mullen said. “If I’m not playing, how fast can I transfer? If I’m not going to start, if I’m not going to get this. Me, me, me, me, me. I, I, I, I, I. I have to do this. I have to be in the transfer portal.′
“Kyle’s not that. He’s a graduate from the University of Florida. He’s going to get a master’s degree from the University of Florida, sees the bigger picture in life, understands he’s being developed really well here as a quarterback and was waiting for it. He loves the team, loves the program, has been working really, really hard and was ready for his opportunity when his number was called.
“That’s kind of a throwback, right?”
Trask has completed 13 of 18 passes for 166 yards, with a touchdown and no turnovers, this season.
He rallied the Gators from a 21-10 deficit in the final quarter at Kentucky, setting up one touchdown with a pitch to Lamical Perine and keeping the ball for another.
He’ll be in a slightly different spotlight against Tennessee.
“This guy’s plenty capable,” Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “You saw it the other night. Very efficient in what they did. They didn’t really change much in who they are, the guy’s plenty capable. He’s a big, strong guy that’s got a good arm, and he’s physical in the run game.”
NOTES: Florida is preparing to play without CB CJ Henderson (ankle) and DE Jabari Zuniga (ankle) against Tennessee. … Pruitt said he hasn’t decided yet whether CB Bryce Thompson will travel to Gainesville. Thompson, a starter last season, was arrested last month on a misdemeanor domestic assault charge. He returned to practice last week. … The Gators will be without elusive WR Kadarius Toney (shoulder) for the second straight week.