With the final FBS matchup of the year set for the 11th, the first week of 2021 saw a heaping helping of awards and recognitions doled out.
Tuesday night was the Heisman presentation and on Thursday fans saw other national award winners plus the Walter Camp All-America Team announced. I did my best to aggregate all the end-of-the-year recognitions and honors Florida football players earned with their play this season.
Kyle Pitts took home the only national honor for the 2020 season when he received the John Mackey Award Thursday night. He’s now the second in school history recognized as the nation’s top tight end.
Not only that but Pitts also found himself as a finalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award, for the nation’s most outstanding receiver. Unfortunately, he lost out to Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith. Although, he’s the first player nominated for both the Mackey and Biletnikoff since Missouri’s Chase Coffman in 2008.
While Pitts didn’t play a full season, it was evident when on the field why he’s garnered top-10 NFL Draft pick appeal. He was practically un-guardable. He tallied 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in just eight games including a seven-catch-129-yard farewell performance against Alabama.
Kyle Trask was the only other Gator to finish as a finalist for national awards. The Texas native mystified fans and lit up almost every defense he faced in his second year as a starter. Trask set the school records for single-season passing touchdowns (43), yards (4,238) and completions (301) in 2020. More so, he became the first SEC quarterback with five consecutive games with four passing touchdowns and broke the record for most TDs through seven games by an SEC QB.
That kind of season performance landed him in a finalist spot for the Heisman Trophy and Davey O’Brien Award. However, he ended up fourth in Heisman voting and was beat out for the honor of nation’s best quarterback by Alabama’s Mac Jones. Although, Trask was the school’s first O’Brien and Heisman finalist since Tim Tebow in 2009.
There are about one million entities that name All-America teams. Let’s stick with the main group: the Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America, American Football Coaches Association, Sporting News and Walter Camp Football Foundation.
Pitts is the only first-team All-American from the 2020 Florida squad. This means he’ll get a nice brick outside the team complex. In fact, he earned unanimous first-team All-American honors. Meaning he earned first-team honors with all of the five selectors above. He is the eighth Gator, first since Joe Haden in 2009, to earn such an honor. Not only that, the freak from Philly is the first offensive player named unanimous first-team All-American since Jabar Gaffney in 2001.
Despite his big year at the helm of the Florida offense, Trask didn’t receive any first team recognition. However, both the AP and Sporting News chose him as the second-team quarterback. Wide receiver Kadarius Toney joined Trask on the AP’s second team at the all-purpose position. Dangerous with the ball in his hands, Toney did damage at wideout (984 yards, 10 TDs), as a receiver out of the backfield, a runner, a punt returner and a kick returner.
Lastly, let’s look at all-conference recognitions. The AP and Coaches teams released three days after the SEC title game.
Guess who landed on both first teams? Some guy named Kyle Pitts.
Meanwhile, Toney joined Pitts on the first team as the all-purpose player plus a spot as a second-team wide receiver on both the AP and Coaches teams. Not to mention a designation for return specialist on the Coaches All-SEC first team. Trask, on the other hand, landed on the second-team for both selectors.
Two defenders made these respective lists too. Cornerback Kaiir Elam made first team for the Coaches and second team for the AP. Unquestionably Florida’s best corner, the Riviera Beach native posted 39 total tackles (28 solos), one tackle-for-loss, two interceptions and 11 pass breakups in his sophomore campaign.
Transfer linebacker Brenton Cox Jr. earned a spot on the AP’s defensive second unit. Cox racked up 41 total tackles (21 solos) along with 9.5 tackles-for-loss including four sacks in his first year starting. Additionally, he led the team with 18 quarterback hurries.
Much like the actual season itself, this year’s college football award season left some Gator fans disappointed. Likely that disappointment stemming from a lack of recognition or respect for Kyle Trask’s unbelievable year. Trask was never one for individual accolades anyway. He just wanted to win no matter how well he played. And, despite no yearly awards coming his way, fans won’t forget Trask’s contribution to Gator football.
However, it still had bright spots. The Gators can add their first All-America brick since 2015 when Vernon Hargreaves III covered receivers at Florida thanks to Pitts. Plus, Pitts became the school’s first Mackey winner since Aaron Hernandez in 2009 and UF’s first Biletnikoff finalist since Jabar Gaffney. Even Toney’s breakout year didn’t go unnoticed either with his multiple All-American and All-SEC spots.
Let this be evidence that, despite ending the year losing three straight games and missing out on any College Football Playoff consideration, the 2020 Florida Gators gave fans a lot to be proud of.