He has fought long and hard to get where he is today, starting quarterback at the University of Florida.
But sophomore Feleipe Franks has been around long enough, experienced enough, to know that the fight isn’t over. It never ends. Not at his position. Not at this school.
“It’s tough to play quarterback at the University of Florida,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “Everybody’s got pretty high standards.”
Franks knows all about it.
Over the past two falls, he’s been benched, booed, berated, jeered — and cheered.
It’s a tough job. And the competition never ends.
Franks gets it.
Just a few days after turning in perhaps the best performance of his career in a 41-14 rout of arch-rival Florida State, Franks had to sit back and watch while Mullen and quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson started drawing up a plan to get true freshman Emory Jones more involved in the offense — and on the field in the Peach Bowl on Saturday.
Not only that, but Kyle Trask, who replaced him in the second half of the loss to Missouri, has returned from a foot injury, and just last week the Gators signed one of the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks, Jalon Jones, who will arrive in January and start competing for playing time in the spring.
Franks is OK with all that. It comes with the territory.
“I’ve told you guys this many times, I’ve never shied away from a competition,” Franks said. “It doesn’t matter to me. It won’t be the first time, probably won’t be the last time.
“I’ll be in a competition. I think it’s fun, to be honest with you. It’s going to make me better and it’s going to make them better. We’ve got some good quarterbacks in our room. Me playing at my best level will help Kyle play at his best level and Emory at his best level.
“Same for me as well. Them playing at a high level is going to help me play at a high level. Personally, if you’re asking me if I’m ready for a competition, yeah, I’m ready for it. Wouldn’t be the first time.”
The competition for the starting role will not officially begin until the spring, when Jalon Jones is added to the mix. But, in a way, it’s gotten off to an unofficial start during bowl practices the past few weeks.
Franks, of course, is the clear starter. But the coaching staff is getting Emory Jones, the apparent QB of the future at UF, ready to play in Saturday’s game in some capacity.
What transpires against a stout Michigan defense could be an early indication of what to expect in the spring at the position.
This is pretty much the same Michigan defense that throttled the Florida offense in the season opener a year ago and led to Franks getting benched in his collegiate starting debut.
In the 33-17 loss, Franks completed just five of nine passes for 75 yards before giving way to Malik Zaire in the second half.
That performance came under a different coaching staff and in a different offense. And, one could say, Franks was a much different quarterback back then, a raw rookie — and it showed.
His steady development under Mullen and Johnson has been undeniable over the course of this season. Franks finished the regular season with 2,284 yards passing and 23 touchdowns to go along with only six interceptions.
He’s been on somewhat of a roll after being benched in the second half against Missouri.
He’s a much different QB than the one the Wolverines humbled last season.
“I don’t want to say I wasn’t ready (in last year’s game), but at the same time, I don’t think I was as smart about the game as I am now,” Franks said. “Making smarter decisions, things like that. I don’t think I was ready in that case.
“It’s a learning point for me. Going through the trials and tribulations I went through helped me become who I am today. That’s the good thing about it. It’s made me a stronger person.”
And a better quarterback.
He’s making quicker and better decisions, and he seems much more comfortable and confident leading the offense.
There were times that he struggled this season, and a few times where he appeared to take some steps backward. But Mullen’s patience with him has paid off.
Mullen let it be known fairly early that Franks had a long leash.
“That’s something that I needed, somebody that’s going to be there through the ups and downs,” Franks said. “I think it’s a good thing for me him being always there by my side whether I was doing good, whether I was doing bad. It’s just something that’s helped me get through the season.”
The leash will grow much shorter in the spring, when the competition is opened at quarterback. That’s just the way it is at that position at this school.
Franks gets it.
“I’m ready for it,” he said.