Summer blockbuster: A closer look at Florida’s quarterback competition

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Florida Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks throws during Spring Practice. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

With no apparent separation occurring among the three players this spring, Florida’s heavyweight quarterback battle has carried over to August, where eventually Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask or Emory Jones will be named the starter.

All three have obvious talent. All three also have aspects of their game they need to improve on.

In anticipation of an epic QB competition in preseason camp, here’s an early look at the three leading men for the starting role:

FELEIPE FRANKS

Height: 6-foot-5

Weight: 227 pounds

Class: Redshirt sophomore

Hometown: Crawfordville

High school resume

Franks was a three-year starter at Wakulla High School, where he combined to throw for 6,857 yards and 81 touchdowns for his career. He emerged as a four-star prospect heading into his senior season and lived up to the hype, throwing for 2,776 yards and 35 touchdowns and rushing for 245 yards. He also was a standout kicker and punter. He had a long field goal of 47 yards and a long punt of 63. Most of his kickoffs went for touchbacks.

What he’s done at UF

An early enrollee in spring 2016, Franks had a poor spring game, an indication that he was somewhat lost in the offense, and ended up redshirting that season. During his time on the scout team, he began performing so well that the coaches considered taking the red shirt off him late in the season and playing him. They didn’t, but then Franks became a serious challenger for the starting role the following summer, something he eventually secured by beating out Luke Del Rio, Malik Zaire and Trask in preseason camp. In the second game of the 2017 season, Franks threw a 63-yard TD pass to Tyrie Cleveland with no time remaining to beat Tennessee, but a week later he was benched in the second half of the Kentucky game and replaced by Del Rio. The following week, Franks returned as the starter after Del Rio suffered a season-ending injury against Vanderbilt. For the season, Franks started eight games, throwing for only 1,438 yards and nine touchdowns with eight interceptions. His second-biggest offensive highlight in a 4-7 season was a 79-yard run against Texas A&M.

Possible strengths

He has a very strong arm and can make all the throws, and has enough athletic ability to extend plays and make something happen with his legs. He also has great size that allows him to see over opposing defensive fronts and take some physical punishment in the pocket or on the run. His experience seems to have given him a slight edge so far in the QB competition. He also has emerged as a team leader in the weight room and on the field.

Possible weaknesses

Franks has been very inconsistent during his time at UF. He appears to have trouble recognizing coverages at times and has shown a tendency to lock in on his primary receiver instead of going through his progressions to find the open man. He has too often tried to force passes into coverage, which has led to interceptions. He’s also struggled with accuracy. At times, it has appeared he does not have a natural feel for the position.

Quoting Franks

“I’ve improved as a game manager. Just being able to manage the game, knowing when it’s third-and-six, third-and-four, knowing how many yards you want on first down to get into a third-and-manageable. It’s those little parts of the game that I’ve really (gotten better). I have a season under my belt, so the experience is kind of there, but it’s just taking that next step to being a championship team is what we really need to bring that back to Gainesville. Being a game manager, me helping out with the guys around me and me just making everybody around me do great and play to a higher level than they think they can play at.”

Florida Gators quarterback Kyle Trask signs autographs for fans. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesvil­le Sun]
KYLE TRASK

Height: 6-5

Weight: 239

Class: Redshirt sophomore

Hometown: Manvel, Texas

High school resume

Never started a game. Backed up D’Eriq King who threw for about 6,000 yards and 90 TDs his junior and senior years combined. When Trask did play, he produced, throwing for 759 yards and 10 TDs his senior season and completing 73.4 percent of his passes. Passed for 786 yards and six TDs with no interceptions his junior season.

What’s he done at UF

Not much. Like Franks, Trask was an early enrollee in spring 2016 who struggled when he first got here and ended up redshirting his freshman season. He was in the thick of the QB competition last August, but fell out of the race and missed the entire 2017 season after undergoing knee surgery just before the opener against Michigan. Statistically, he was the most productive QB in the spring game in April, completing 12-of-24 passes for 178 yards and a TD.

Possible strengths

In the time he’s been here, he’s shown he has a strong arm and can make all the throws. He’s also athletic enough to buy some extra time in the pocket and make some plays running the ball. He seems to have a good feel for the game and showed last spring that he knows the offense and knows how to manage it.

Possible weaknesses

He simply has not played much. He never started a game in high school and has yet to see the field at this level except for two spring games. No one can be certain how he will react once he’s put on the big stage in a game against an SEC opponent.

Quoting Trask

“My mindset is just to continue to get better. The coaches aren’t going to be around (this summer), so we have to take it upon ourselves to get our timing down, keep our head in the playbook and just keep getting better. I feel like I’ve gotten comfortable with this offense very quickly. I really like the spread offense. It’s a lot like what I did in high school. I feel like it’s something I’m catching on to and something I’m going to keep working at.”

Florida Gators quarterback Emory Jones throws as part of a drill during spring practice. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]
EMORY JONES

Height: 6-2

Weight: 192

Class: Freshman

Hometown: LaGrange, Ga.

High School resume

This is a young man who knows something about competing for a job — and winning it. His last quarterback competition came when he was a freshman at Heard County High School, where he beat out two older players to become the starter, a role he held for all four years of his career. In those four seasons, the dual-threat quarterback rolled up 7,250 total yards and 66 touchdowns, 48 through the air and 18 on the ground. In his senior year, he threw for 2,270 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 891 yards and 13 TDs. A four-star prospect, he emerged as one of the nation’s elite dual-threat quarterbacks and committed to Ohio State. Once Dan Mullen took over at Florida, a connection was re-established and he flipped to Florida

What he’s done at UF

An early enrollee, he’s gone through 14 practices and played in the spring game. In that game, Jones threw only seven passes, completing three for 93 yards and a touchdown. He also had an interception. Because he was wearing a non-contact jersey, one big aspect of his game — the ability to run — was not on display.

Possible strengths

Of the three QB candidates, the dual-threat Jones seems to have the skill set best suited for what Mullen has done with his offense over the years. He has a strong arm, seems comfortable throwing seam routes and, as he showed in high school, is a dynamic runner and scrambler. The coaches think he has a tremendous upside and is capable of challenging for the starting role in August.

Possible weaknesses

Just out of high school, he’s still raw and has a long way to go in terms of knowing the offense and getting comfortable in it. He struggled with his accuracy in the spring game.

Quoting Dan Mullen

“I think Emory’s got a great future in front of him. The key is making sure we’re developing him and developing him the right way and putting him in positions early in his career where he can be successful. Because that gets to building the confidence. What I did with a Tim Tebow, what I did with a Dak Prescott … what you do is you protect those guys and put them in certain situations that they’re going to succeed in and then they’re going to have the confidence to handle more situations. We’ll keep evaluating that in fall camp as it keeps going and see where he’ll be at.”

31 COMMENTS

  1. ”The only way to do something about it was take our frustrations out on our opponents.”
    -Florida Head Coach Steve Spurrier. (after the ’90 season heading into the ’91 season.)
    Different circumstances, but frustration is frustration. That is until it’s turned into MOTIVATION! Go Gators!

  2. Sounds like the plan is Franks with a few chances for trask and situational substitution for Jones with hopes he becomes the starter. At the end of the season Frank’s and trask Will move on if they don’t become solid starters.
    Trask may find success elsewhere as a qb if he and Jones both do well and he moves on. I hope Franks proves me wrong. He is a great kid in a hard situation but he plays like treon harris.

  3. Right now, Jones is about 30 pounds lighter than Franks, and almost 50 lighter than Trask. And that may be an issue for a running QB in the SEC, especially if our OL continues to play the part of matadors.

    • He will be over 200 lbs once the season starts. Although it may seem that Franks is the guy you would expect to start bc of his experience, the experience has not been good. Given Trask’s lack of experience, he is about on an equal footing with Jones. Jones flipped bc he has less competition here than at Ohio State. It would be ideal for Mullen to take some lumps this year with Jones , hopefully to only see him get better as the season progresses, given it is the first year for coach and QB. Coach can establish his O with a player not tainted by the old regime and who is more suited to what he likes to do with the QB. Your first year as a coach at a new school is your best year to take advantage of the fans’ patience, even otherwise impatient ones like ours. I just don’t see Trask and Franks being so good that we don’t give the Frosh a serious shot early in the season if he improves this summer and all things are relatively equal.

      • I would normally agree with you but I think this is a bit of a unique first year for Mullen. He gets a beatable schedule (by Gator standards). He has some key players who decided to return (Ivey & Cece Jefferson), a WR room that is more talented and deep then it has been in a decade, a RB room that is more talented and deep then it has been in 2 decades, and a defense that should be significantly improved. Even the OL might be middle of the pack in the SEC. He is coming into a significantly better situation than the previous two head coaches and he needs to take full advantage of it. No one is expecting a championship but he needs to take advantage of his breaks and contend for 10 wins and the SEC East. These are hard asks, I know, but the biggest thing Mullen needs to turn around is recruiting and you need a modicum of success to make that happen.

        • “Matadors”…LOL!!
          I think the coach just made it clear that his plans for Jones are what he did with Tebow…so he wont be starting but will be playing in certain situations that the coach feels he does best at. i sure wish Trask gets the start, I believe he’s a hidden gem that will prosper on the field. The one thing you cant teach and so few have is, calm under pressure! I think Trask will give us that. All the great QB’s have it to one degree or another.

          • You just hit the crux of the matter right there, daz. Assuming relative parity among basic skill sets and that the OL basically does it’s job, calmness under pressure is the variable that really matters (assuming the receivers get open, which I somehow think won’t be a problem next year). Good read, bud.

      • Jones starting is not going to happen. In 19 years since Mullen started coaching QBs or was an OC or HC, he has never started a true freshman QB. He’s already made several comments about Franks being thrown into the fire before he was ready and that caused him to lose confidence. This is being said about a guy who wasn’t thrown in till his second year. Unless Jones absolutely destroys everyone in the Summer or everyone in front of him gets injured and Mullen has no choice but to start him, there’s no way he’ll start. Mullen likes to ease the young guys in and not force anything on them. He’s certainly not going to change that philosophy now.

        • Joe. Here is my perspective on the QB situation. Mullen had Leak when Tebow arrived as a freshman. There was no need to rush Tim. Mississippi State also had experienced and good QBs that allowed for the development of Prescott and the current outstanding QB at MSU. Those scenarios do not currently exist at Florida. If Franks does not get a lot better this summer and in fall practices, and he did not seem to get much better this spring from what I witnessed at two practices and at the spring game, then the inexperienced, Trask, or the totally inexperienced freshman, Jones, will play and play a lot this coming season for Florida. Gator Nation will not stand for another season of QB play that we witnessed last year from Franks and in previous years since Tebow. If Franks does not execute the offense well early, the crowds in The Swamp will demand a change to Trask or Jones.

    • This could be a blessing in disguise. Makes the competition prove who should be the starter. Gator Nation is due for a great QB to bring us back to prominence. Let us hope he is on the roster now. GO GATORS!!!

  4. Nothing new here. Franks “appears to have trouble recognizing coverages.” Gator Nation saw that last year. If Franks starts next fall, opponents should blitz every down, because it confuses Franks and he panics (uh, Kentucky!). We want to hear that the QB’s are leaders in the film room, because that will help with confidence on game day. The focus needs to STAY on the QB, because the Gators desperately need a Field General.

    • DrG8r. I saw the same (can’t make quick reads) with Franks in the two spring practices I attended. Also saw poor decision making and holding onto the ball too long. All the same things he did poorly last year. But the strong, inaccurate arm was still there. I also saw Trask make quick decisions, but those decisions were not always good ones. And when he had to come of his first read, there was never enough time for either Franks or Trask to make a second read because the OL could not protect for more than a couple of seconds. Havesty was going nuts on the practice field because the OL could not block anyone on pass plays, and especially when the defense blitzed or came from different directions that expected. I think we saw a lot of the same things last year. The OL simply has to get a lot better in pass protection if any of the three QBs expect to improve much this coming year. If the OL does not get better, then Mullen might be forced to go with the very mobile QB who could escape a quick collapsing pocket and also run on read option plays, eventually. That would be Jones.

      • Coming into this a couple days late due to a road trip, I don’t really have an opinion other than what I’ve always believed: Mullen will make the best estimate of the situation that he can, based on the data available to him up to Game 1. It will become clear right soon after that, probably before Game 3, and that will be the starter from then on (barring a catastrophe, that is).

        But I have to say, regardless of our personal differences, your posts on this subject are what I mean by “football savvy”……damn good analyses.

  5. Still think Trask beats out Frank’s for the starter job. Jones will still play in at about a 20% snap count in key situations. Frank’s can still be a 70 yard bomb surprise on key plays with staff pegging a defensive weakness. As long as a least 2 of the 3 stay healthy there a chance of 8-10 wins. Still say not picking up Rector was a mistake.

  6. Its hard to wrap my head around why so many people don’t understand including talking heads writers and coaches, but what every top shelf program needs to compete for titles is a intelligent reliable QB not Treon, or Franks. If you have a keen eye for football you know he’s not the anwser for a top shelf program. There’s Thee statues out front that give clarification. Mean wile I heard Trask was an eagle scout. A 4.0 grade average at some point 6.5 239 can through all the passes, doesn’t have two left feet and shined with a clear disadvantage in the spring game… ps. Sec fans the talking heads were saying at the early part of last season that the sec is down no longer the conference, acc was better Auburn, Georgia, Alabama fighting for the crown…

  7. On one point I agree with MKFGator in that this might be a good time to just take your lumps and play Jones and let him learn on the job. His natural athleticism can help compensate for normal freshman weaknesses. He’ll have lots of skill players at RB and WR to make plays and his running ability will come in handy if the OL doesn’t show marked improvement.

    Playing Jones will also enable the coaching staff to show recruits that they’re putting their money where their mouth is when they tell recruits they have a shot to play early in their careers.

    But…. my money is on Trask being the starter against Charleston Southern and Jones getting a package of plays. As Coach Mullen has been preaching….everything will depend on the effort and progress that Franks, Trask, and Jones show come August…. and beyond.

    • Well, like the rest of us, I hope they all get better and we have a QB whose name is used in the same sentence with the name “Heisman” at some point this season. I don’t care who it is. We need all of them to get better. Next year does set up well, and we need to take advantage. My frustration is this: it seems Trask has been lost in all this and it will either be youth or experience in the end. I love Franks’ attitude and his work ethic. The kid is a Gator and I love that. But I found myself screaming at the TV wondering if he needed a telescope to see the field at times. I agree Mullens would prefer to slowly bring Jones along. He should . but we haven’t had a QB here in 10 years; we’ve seen many successful freshmen QB’s the last few years around college football; and I’m getting psychologically desperate.May the best man win. Go Gators!

    • You guys are both spot on. At least “average”, or God forbid, “above average” OL performance this year will make it a heck of a lot easier to see who emerges. I tend to look at it this way: We’ve got 3 QBs this year, two of them huge guys c big arms but different relative skills, and a new guy who promises to be a slippery and cunning runner, along c a pretty good arm too. No, I don’t think we’ve got a Heisman probably among them, but we don’t need that either tho it would be nice. What we ARE lined up with are some excellent receivers and running backs, all of them apparently with, finally, a winning attitude, and a helluva Gator coaching staff. I’ll go ahead and admit that I’m psychologically desperate too……but I’ve got to tell you that this last 7 years TURNS AROUND NOW. So sayeth NealyBob, anyway. Go Gators!

  8. Wish people would stop worrying about how many plays each of the 3 qbs ran in 2014-15 in HS. None of the three at FL would have started over King in HS do the fact Trask didn’t is irrelevant. So is the fact that he was such a great #2 that the HS head coach put him in a series per qtr with the first team.
    Trask is the best of the three now. I hope he gets his chance. No greater pressure than competing for the starting job and Spring in that situation. He has shown more intelligence and calm than Franks and has similar physical strengths, less some foot speed down field, a not so useful benefit at least compared to decisioning, accuracy and arm strength on midrange and sideline passes.
    He might even be a star. His HS coach thinks so…..

  9. Franks is technically a junior (redshirt sophomore), and he simply has not developed as a QB. He has NO pocket awareness. Of course, the offensive line has been a great deal of the problem. I really question whether the line can improve enough by this fall. Then, will it matter who plays QB? Ultimately, Mullen has to go with what he has, and I trust he will make the right decision, even if it’s Frank. (I hope he has a better alternative though.)

  10. I’m a Gator fan that was watching the championship with two people pulling for Georgia. For fun I pulled for Alabama. At half time down 13-0 and them jerking my chain and laughing, I said they need to take Hurts out he’s hurting them and put a another QB. In and they laughed, well the rest is history ! So you ask what’s my point ? Take Hurts / Frank’s out hes hurting us and put Tua / Trask in and the rest is history. And the Gator fans that know football, crowd go’s wild again like old times… could you imagine if we still had Greir ?

  11. Take Hurts out he’s hurting us meaning Frank’s and put Tua in and the rest is history meaning Trask. Unless there’s someone that plays QB.At Florida that I don’t know about Trask IS the best we got period…

  12. As a dyed-in-wool Gator, I have to say that I just can’t take Franks’ boneheaded play anymore. He would have to make a complete transformation to learn how to stay mentally ahead of the game on the field – good luck with that. Maybe he could be a TE or slot receiver? I have to believe that Trask is the most coachable between the redshirts, and he’s a monster at 6’5″/240. Trask should be able to flatten a DB like a truck and get those extra 3 yards. Jones should be worked in sparingly as right now I see that small body getting hit hard and him getting hurt. Jones needs to build some muscle, add some weight to survive the hits a running QB will take. Eventually I think he’s the starter if we can get him there in one piece.

    • Sure there are, lots of them. First, new coaches. Really good receivers if things work out like they’re supposed to, and great backs too to take the pressure off. If the OL performs even 10% better, it will be a good season for somebody to step up and be a Gator QB.