The Back Nine: Proving time for Gators’ starting QB

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Florida coach Dan Mullen slaps quarterback Feleipe Franks with a foam block as part of a drill during practice last month at the Sanders Practice Fields on the UF campus. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

The Back Nine comes at you and it’s Game Week which already feels different. The food tastes better, the drinks are colder and the clubs go into storage. Time to focus.

10. If you had stopped just about any Gator fan walking out of The Swamp on Nov. 25 and told that fan that the starting quarterback the next time he or she saw the Gators play was going to be Feleipe Franks, well, you might have been committed on the spot or been kicked in the shins. That was a dreadful day in an uneven year for the quarterback who was benched three times during the season and scorned on social media. (In that FSU game, in case you erased it from your memory, Franks was 18 of 39 with three interceptions including one returned for a touchdown). But when Dan Mullen made the announcement Monday that Franks will get the start against Charleston Southern, I think most fans said, “OK, let’s see what you did with him.” It’s clear Franks embraced the role of both quarterback and leader during workouts and camp, but let’s face it, it’s all about what he does in the games. He won the job last year and it didn’t go well except for that one play against Tennessee. The thing is that it’s easy to fall in love as a coach with a guy with a cannon for an arm, the ability to scramble and the experience only Franks can bring to the position that the other contenders cannot. As Mullen said, all of the quarterbacks are works in progress. We’re about to find out how much Franks has progressed.

11. I understand why Florida wears different uniforms during a season. I know that it helps in recruiting and players like to switch things up and the supplier wants different looks. But it’s nice that Mullen is going traditional in the opener with the blue jerseys and white pants. “First game here, you see that uniform combination and you know who that team is,” he said. “Everyone knows it’s the Florida Gators.” Bingo. It doesn’t mean there won’t be different uniforms in the future. But at least for one Saturday night, there is no question which team is on the field. And that makes this old man happy. By the way, the shoes the Gators will wear are beyond sweet.

12. Now that some of the dust has settled on the Urban Meyer fiasco and I have my computer back (I go through laptop batteries like Nick Saban goes through offensive coordinators), there are a few things I would like to say. The first is that if you know Meyer, you know that it has always been about his legacy. And that’s why he fought so hard not to be suspended at all. This is a guy who once asked what his overall record was minutes after a big win over Georgia. The reputation is tarnished and his statement and subsequent answers that followed the other night were like a big mustard stain on his legacy. Which is why he was so indignant that night and had to be shamed into a Twitter apology two days later. There are only two people who are qualified to go into Florida’s Ring of Honor. Tim Tebow goes in this year. I don’t think Meyer ever goes in. It was dicey before because UF was concerned at the reaction of the fans. Now, not a chance. The second thing is that this was a good example of why we need a different system. The NCAA can only enforce its rules, not morality. When it got involved in the Penn State scandal, it botched it so badly it had to come back and rescind some of the penalties. It would be great to have a college football commissioner or at least a commission to make personnel decisions, but that’s not going to happen. What we have now is such a conflict of interest when it comes to discipline, whether it be coaches or players, that it’s embarrassing. If you read Ohio State’s report, it was an invitation to get a new coach. Deleting old phone messages? Who is Meyer’s director of operations, G. Gordon Liddy? But Ohio State wasn’t going to get rid of a guy with Meyer’s record. It’s not like there are coaches like him growing on trees. And because of our system, the Buckeyes are still a playoff contender.

13. But I can’t help but wonder if it’s close and Ohio State is one of the teams in the argument, does the committee look at the fact Meyer was suspended and give the Buckeyes a plus the way it would if a player were injured or a minus for the obvious reasons. Anyone?

14. It was a bad August for college football all around, especially in the Big Tenish. But the games started last weekend and really crank up Saturday. We couldn’t be more ready. I did watch the Hawaii-Colorado State game Saturday and it was highly entertaining. Which is all football is supposed to be. Keep us distracted from everyday life, football. We need it. We need spectacular plays and stunning upsets and arguments about play calls and officials’ mistakes. And we know they are all coming. It’s going to be fast and furious for a few months here so grab something and hang on.

15. More than anything, I think we are all tired of speculation and what might happen and are ready for what will happen. We want to see something, not just hear about it. We want to be able to sit back on Saturday night and talk about what we saw, not what we were hoping to see. Just don’t get too excited or too worried about what happens because it’s Game 1 of an era. That goes for fans of any team with a first-year coach. It’s a process and we all know how patient fans are. Not.

16. I keep asking myself this question — if Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were playing a winner-take-all match for $9 million on CBS on the same day as a boatload of college football games, would I watch? And the answer is that I would flip it over or maybe have it on the third TV with the sound off. Wait. I have to pay $40 to watch? Does it count as a major? OK, would I pay $40 to watch one round of a major? I think you see where I’m going with this.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com and pretty much sums up the way I feel about voting on the Associated Press college football poll —

“If I had an AP vote

25. Preseason

24. Polls

23. are

22. meaningless

21. but

20. fun

19. So

18. quit

17. Whining

16. and

15. Lighten

14. Up

13. Sports

12. Should

11. function

10. To

9. Distract

8. us

7. From

6. our

5. miserable

4. also

3. Meaningless

2. existence

1. Bama”

Except I had Clemson No. 1.

18. Many thanks to Joe Cirulli and Gainesville Health and Fitness because I have shoes again and no excuses. And many thanks to Sara and Ironwood and the Phoenix Fox Foundation for putting on a wonderful golf tournament to help research for Muscular Dystrophy. No excuses there either. My comeback to tournament golf didn’t quite get the attention that Tiger Woods did, but I had more to overcome. Because it’s game week, here are the five songs you would hear walking in to the stadium if I was in charge of music:

• “Gator” by Jerry Reed.

• “Gator Country” by Molly Hatchet.

• “Dreamville” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

• “A Little Like Heaven” by Drew Copeland.

• “Boom” by P.O.D.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

72 COMMENTS

  1. Paragraph One is a good summary. Its final time we get to find out how much better a coach and system builder Dan Mullen is (Franks last chance). Part of the drama this Gator year. I quit watching NFL 20 years ago, because its too boring with all teams running the same plays, etc. College ball has got a different look for almost all teams. Now that a good many NFL players don’t understand why its bad to protest at work, it just helps seal their fate. I feel for the ones who don’t protest. I play golf in a competitive two day tournament monthly tour, REAL Golf, with real knowledgeable golf fans. Most of us would watch “some” of Phil vs Tiger, but will not pay. It will go down in flames like the ole skins games. I agree Pat, Thanksgiving weekend, do the promoters not understand that’s prime time College/end of the season games their competing against. LOL.

  2. Like Chucky Mullins said, “it’s time.” It’s time to see what Mullen has brought to UF as a football coach. It’s time to see if we can throw the ball more than 5 yards down field. It’s time to see if we can score points! (early and often). It’s time to see if Florida has regained a killer instinct. A mentality of strike first, strike fast, and destroy the opponent. Time for aggressiveness at all levels. Time for receivers to go make plays and go get the football thrown to them. Time for the quarterbacks to make quick decisive decisions, and throw the ball with authority and precision. Time for the offensive line to dominate from start to finish, opening holes large enough for Raymond Burr to dance through with Orson Welles as his partner! Time to hand the ball to one running back 20-25 times a game and let him wear down the defense as he gets the feel of the game, and runs stronger! Simply put, IT’S TIME! It’s time to see what kind of coaching staff, and what kind of program we have at Florida. The hope and the hype are done with. It’s time!

    • By God, I couldn’t agree more. Something told me today, before I started reading comments, to see if Grump had responded. Don’t know why, just a feeling. I’m glad I listened to myself, because now the culmination of every thing we’ve been waiting for is at hand. Damn fine, Grump.

      • Hey guys, all of my comments now have to await moderation before they are posted. This was the case when I first began posting, but that went away. It’s back again. I don’t think I said anything too offensive. Just seeing if this is happening to anyone else. Sorry 6, for piggybacking off of your post, I just wanted to be near the top.

        • SoCal Gator–nothing personal about your trouble getting posted. It’s that the people here on the east coast think that you folks in California are insane. Except you, of course. Once a Gator, always a Gator. In some cases, that’s bad news because I sure would like to get rid of some of them.

          Good luck in getting near the top. I was first two or three times, and I can’t express the feeling. Pure ecstasy!

          • Thanks for the reassurance. I’ve been out here for 2 months. It’s defi a different breed out here. They’re not all crazy though(most are). You guys hit me up if you’re ever in the area).

          • SoCal — I can’t tell if you’re a member or not, but back when I decided this was the site for me, I became one and those problems virtually disappeared. Plus, you have a way to communicate with another member directly and not publicly; comes in handy. Anyway, if you are a member and this is happening, get ahold of Arnold and he’ll straighten it out most ricky ticky.

            I went to school out there last time around, lots of fun and some real nice people….but those who are nuts, either politically or mentally, are really off their chains! Must say it is a beautiful place tho.

          • 6. I became a member a week or 2 ago. I’m not logging in every time though. I’ll see if that solves the issue. Thanks for the insight.

    • Grump you need to slow down a bit, I mean reading your post it sounds like you are ready to judge Mullen’s competence by the end of the first game. You can’t do that bud. Now I agree it’s time for the players to step up, specially the starting QB. Him you can judge by the end of the first couple games since we already have last season to go by. If Mr Franks looks anything like last season then he must go to the bench sooner rather than later.

      • I didn’t get exactly that CO, but I see your point after having had a cup of coffee. I think Grump sounds hypercritical of Mullen because he’s in that group of Gators who feels like he has been burned one too many times by preseason hype, and is rather….well, grumpy about it. Definitely in that “show me first” group, for sure, but I’ve never been put off by that, per se.

        Anyway you slice it tho, this Saturday we get at least a glimpse of what’s in store this year and beyond. Like Rog has said from Day 1, tho, this will be a work in progress as CDM molds a silk purse out of what has been a sow’s ear. And if that ain’t some sort of metaphor, I’ll be a suck egg mule! Go Gators….😜

        • Why did you wait until 10:57 for that cup of Joe, I had mine at 7:30 and I need another about right now.
          We’ve all been burned by the pre season hype for the past 9 years or so and we should all be in show me mode BUT not with Mullen, rather with
          players like Franks. I believe Mullen is the real deal but he ain’t gonna be throwing to Jefferson or handing off to Scarlett, now he needs to find the guy that can do that. Franks has to show me, right now I don’t trust him, and the only reason I have not “lost all hope” is one, I trust Mullen and two, I believe we have other options if Franks fails.
          Now if I can only get that second cup………

          • Well, we’re an hour behind you guys on the east coast, but today has been whacked out anyway.

            Some guys are so burned out — and pissed off about it — that they don’t really think thru WHO they’re really angry at. I mean, I can’t really blame them — we’ve been to the mountain and now have been wandering in the desert for 7 years or more — and it has been a horrible ride for a proud Gator. Thing is, like you say, don’t throw rocks at the guy here to solve all that before he even starts!

            Next time you’re in Ybor City, pick up some of that cafe Cubano….you’ll only need one cup, believe me!

    • Wow, Grump! You sure know how to stir ’em up. But I’m with you; I’m ready to see if we can throw the ball more than 5 yards downfield, and I don’t just mean lobbing it up down the sideline. I’d like to see them work downfield in the 10 to 20 yard range. It’s a higher chance of success than the deep ball, and you get a first down with a catch, even if the receiver is tackled immediately. Like you said, “It’s time”. Go Gators!

  3. Most people don’t realize when Mullen took over at Ms state, his first year was bad, like really bad. He won one more game that year than the previous coach.. I think that total was 5-7, one up from 4-8 the year before. Here’s to hoping this year turns out better than his first year at Ms state did!

    • Yeah but he won 9 games his second year and had them at #1 in 5 years and did all this while learning to be a head coach and how to run a program. It’s safe to say he inherited far better talent here than he did there when he took over and has 9 years of head coaching experience and knows exactly how he wants to run the program. I don’t think we really need to worry about him having the same results, unless all the QBs and O-line lay an egg.

    • This year I am hoping to see some offense, some discipline, and overall progress. Anyone who thinks Coach Mullen is going to turn this thing around in year 1 is delusional. He is playing with players that Mac recruited (Franks, Trask, etc.). Most of the players on this team are not his guys. I have confidence that he will create schemes that work around the players he has. However, I’m reading a lot of posts that have set the expectations entirely too high. Some folks need to throttle back and look for progress. I think we are looking at a 7 win season. 9 wins would be overachieving but who wouldn’t take that. There is nothing wrong with grand expectations but folks need to realize this is a rebuilding project. Year 3 under Coach Mullen will be where we see what he has built. Again, in year 1 & 2 I think the expectation should be looking for progress. He’s not as fortunate as Kirby Smart who landed in Athens with a stacked roster. I hope Mark Richt got a nice Christmas gift from him.

      • I don’t think anyone thinks they’ll be a championship team, conference or otherwise. Even if Mullen wins 8 games, that’s a big turnaround, so thinking he’s going to turn it around in year 1 is hardly delusional. I mean if Mac can win 10 games with a depleted team with half the talent this team has, you’d be dumb to think Mullen couldn’t have similar success. These guys on this team may not be “his” guys, but you can bet for damn sure he recruited a lot of them at MSU and would’ve taken them in a heartbeat. Maybe not the QB’s but the rest of the players for sure. I think most fans know the talent this team has and that they very well could turn it around even more so than anyone thinks.

  4. ”If you work harder than somebody else, chances are you’ll beat him, though he has more talent than you.”
    ”The measure of a Q.B. is HOW WELL he plays when you HAVE TO WIN.” -Bart Starr.
    And don’t give me (Pat Dooley, talk-radio, etc…) this, ”these kids were barely alive when Coach Spurrier was winning in the Orange & Blue.”
    Well, I wasn’t EVEN ALIVE when Bart Starr was tearing it up in the Yellow & Green, but I KNEW WHO THE HELL HE WAS back when I wore football pads and a helmet. So, damn, please, please stop MAKING EXCUSES for these kids, today, and DEMAND & EXPECT from them!
    Represent like Gators, players, or get the hell out of the program!
    We haven’t sucked as bad as we did last year (4-7) since I was a 11 yr. old kid (and STILL I REMEMBER IT!). So it’s TIME to ”JUST DO IT!” (Yea, I am FIRED-UP!) Game week! Go Gators!

  5. The past eight months have had a completely different vibe than the past eight years combined. It finally feels like grown ups are back in control. Let’s hope the product on the field shows the same improvement and maturation. It’s Great, to be , a Florida Gator!

  6. ”If you work harder than somebody else, chances are you’ll beat him, though he has more talent than you.”
    ”The measure of a Q.B. is HOW WELL he plays when you HAVE TO WIN.” -Bart Starr.
    And don’t give me (Pat Dooley, talk-radio, etc…) this, ”these kids were barely alive when Coach Spurrier was winning in the Orange & Blue.”
    Well, I wasn’t EVEN ALIVE when Bart Starr was tearing it up in the Yellow & Green, but I KNEW WHO THE HELL HE WAS back when I wore football pads and a helmet. So, damn, please, please stop MAKING EXCUSES for these kids, today, and DEMAND & EXPECT from them!
    Represent like Gators, players, or get the hell out of the program!
    We haven’t been as bad as we were last year (4-7) since I was a 11 yr. old kid (and STILL I REMEMBER IT!). So it’s TIME to ”JUST DO IT!” (Yea, I am FIRED-UP!) Game week! Go Gators!

  7. Chubs Mickelson is #20 in the World rankings and Maimed Tiger is not in the top 75 — NOT in the top 75!! You aren’t going to tell me SOMEONE, ANYONE… is stupid enough to PAY to watch this! Come on, no one can be that stupid, right!?

  8. Pat, I wonder what the Gators’ records are with different unis. I have to say, I think of white pants and blue jerseys and I remember us dominating the SEC in the 90s under Spurrier. I think if orange jerseys and I think of the 1980s when we either underachieved or were on probation. That and losing to LSU when the entire stadium knew they would fake the FG. Just saying.

    • There’s not a lot of first year starting QBs that don’t struggle and have some questionable decision making under pressure. I think it’s pretty safe to say even Fromm would’ve struggled in this offense with Mac and Nuss coaching him and that o-line blocking for him. I mean even Jacob Eason, who was the #1 QB recruit in the nation, struggled his first season. He threw the ball 141 more times than Franks, so he had a few more yards and TDs, but their completion percentage and rating were almost identical and they had the same number of INTs. Franks pretty much did exactly what most first year starters do, he was just doing it for a team that was severely depleted by injury and suspension, which compounded the issues. I don’t think people realize how complicated Mac’s offense was either and he certainly didn’t try to dumb it down at all. It’s asking a lot for a first year starter to master that offense with a depleted team and then try to perform up to the expectations of the fans, who expected him to be playing like a 3rd year starter. Time to erase last year from our memories and get behind Franks to keep his confidence up.

      • Hey Joe (where ya goin with that gum in your hands…) one thing, over the course of last season, Franks did not get better, it could be argued he regressed. His decision making was less than stellar. That is my fear, he may not possess the “it” factor.

        • I don’t think Frank’s progressed because McLweenie wasn’t actually coaching him. He may have been the worse coach in Gator history and was the real reason the team regressed … not just the QB … as the season(s) went on. When you’re at a game and players were called to take the field and they just sit there not moving until they were told the third time, then you have a coaching problem. Mullen should solve this issue so we will see as the season progresses just how much he has to work with.

  9. everybody relax…. we’re going to dominate….. i can’t wait to be 7-0 heading into the off week…. every football expert is going to be scratching their heads as we trickle into the top 10…. “how did we sleep on the gators?” … i can see it now ….. ok all, need your prediction, and be serious…. 5-2, 6-1, or 7-0….

      • I like 6-1. Not sure if MSU is the loss though. I could see it being to UK or Tenn. Mullen is extremely familiar with just about every player on that roster, and should know how and where to expose them. That’s just my humble opinion. I’m really hoping we’re 7-0 though. Go Gators!

          • 6 Mullen left them MSST loaded and well trained. Unlike Mac who left us empty (in heart) and drained (emotion and more). We do have talent and depth here and now coaching. Sometimes this year we are going to have to do what people do when they are facing a seemingly hopeless situation and rise to the occasion rally around the leaders and get the wins we aren’t supposed to. Heart, courage, drive. GO GATORS!

          • 6, my guess is that it’s based on the return of Fitzgerald and, as 65 said, the perception that Mullen left them with a lot of other talent as well. However, I don’t see Fitzgerald as a great QB. I think the only reason they hung with Bama last year is that Bama had no passing game with Hurts behind center. I suppose also that most think UF should fear the Bulldogs because of the revenge/motivational factor of going against Mullen. I think the home field advantage is probably worth more than anything else, though.

          • I guess, Joe….but I just don’t see it. And anyway, isn’t it kind of ironic that the “experts” that pick them over us….you know, on account of all the talent Mullen left there….are the same ones to not give Mullen half a chance with even better talent here? Nope, I don’t get it. And besides, if he’s not a great recruiter, which I’ve heard over and over again, how in the hell did MSU get such good talent in the first place? Yup, we should’ve hired Mr Big Shot Chip Kelly — then we’d beat MSU, I’m sure of it.

            DISCLAIMER: I think I forgot to take my meds. 😂

          • Ironic indeed, 6. I’m with ya. Don’t make sense to think Mullen could recruit to StarkVegas, but not to Gainesville.

  10. You summed up Gator football fans reality. We want to have something positive to say about the offense and not merely hope for it. My dad had a mantra about the Gators in the 1960’s that sounded like a broken record–“maybe next year.” Gator fans are sick of futuristic expectations!

  11. Kaleo sings, “Way down we go”. Lets hope Franks is not the poster boy for the song! I believe in Coach Mullen however. He wont keep a person in if they freak on game week. Hope we surprise everyone. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO GATORS!!!!!!!

  12. I would love to keep the traditional home uniforms for every home game. I grew up seeing only those ones, except for the exception with blue pants(I loved them when we played the Noles in 97). I think we should never wear an orange jersey again.

    • Wally, most of the time I want to beat you to a bloody pulp — in a Christian sort of way, of course — but you actually made a good point there without even realizing it. Like the USMC, those programs that don’t change their uniforms for the fad of the day, week, or year, are indeed way-cool. There’s a place for tradition, and it’s worth remembering. Now go back under your rock, you poser.

    • The top teams (Bama, UGA, Penn St, Ohio State, etc) don’t need the “help” of snazzy new uniforms. But everyone else that kind of get lumped together are all looking for some “edge” … i.e. crazy uniforms, water slides in their athletic center, park avenue locker rooms, etc. It’s all about some little edge that brings in a few more great players.

      We here all hope that the Gators to that first group where the program sells itself, not some gimmicks that appeal to 18 year olds only. I’m old…..and thus probably old fashioned ……but I like traditions and traditional uniforms. They can keep the new uniform trends in the XFL, USFL, or every other FL they can find….just keep them away from Gainesville 🙂

  13. other than a compliment of the university of Georgia’s uniforms, which I disagree with totally, this whole thread of comments can be summed up in one sentence, which is “franks is not tom brady, can we have another qb please.” well tom brady’s first two years at Michigan he couldn’t even get in the game. and even his senior year he took almost the entire year to win the starting job outright. and he never played a down his first year in the nfl, and only got his job when the starter ahead of him got hurt. he needed a sports psychologist, almost transferred, and I don’t remember any Michigan fans saying “we have something really special here.” so, in saying this point different ways, different times, you just don’t know with a young guy, maybe towards his mid 20s tom brady really got established, but all of these guys need time. some they realize themselves that they don’t have it, sometimes the coaches run them off, but if a guy is still in the program, lets not rush to judgment, unless your name is emmitt smith (who needed one game against Alabama to tell America he was really good) or something like that. Franks has earned the job, and the only gripe anyone has is that his vision downfield isn’t all that good, although even that could be him, could be the rest of the guys, could be both. You could make a similar argument about every player in the starting lineup having at least one question mark, which sums up to us being a good team but probably not competitive for a championship. I plan to enjoy this season, and am confident we have a coach I wont be doubting, which hasn’t always been the case since the ole ball coach left.

  14. Hold Franks on a short leash. He’s been a project for years and as of his last game, the fsu debacle, had actually gotten worse. He can either read a defense by now and control his pocket panics or he can’t. Two capable guys are behind him. Good luck Dan

  15. Forgot what is obviously the best gator themed song out there though, Alligator by the Grateful Dead my man!
    But oh lord are we all ready for some football finally after last seasons abortive nature it feels like it’s been years since our gators have run out of the tunnel.