Franks used to competition at Florida

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Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks. [File]

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.

 

32 COMMENTS

  1. Well said G-6! And Merry Christmas to all Gators everywhere! I am so hopeful that Franks balls out so well that E. Jones takes over with a 28 point lead. Redemption is a beautiful thing, and Franks has been redeemed from last year already. 4-7 to 9-3, ’nuff said. But dang it is past time to chomp down on some Wolverine meat! Go Gators!

  2. How Mullen handles the quarterback situation will be interesting to see. Can he keep all of these talented qbs happy enough to stay with the Gators while they are waiting? Maybe EJ will win the competition for next year’s starter and the issue will be keeping Franks in the fold, but I have a hunch it will be hard to unseat FF. What does EJ do in that case? It could be a challenging situation to handle, but it’s a far better problem than not having the qbs you need.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays (for those Gators who don’t celebrate Christmas)!

        • Freudian slip or unfortunate typo? I’m sure it was the latter. It’ll be interesting to see which Jones performs better. Hard to know what to think based on recruiting rankings, because EJ was supposed to be the 6th best dual threat QB in his class and JJ is supposed to be the 11th best in this class if I’m remembering correctly. Still would like to see FF do well enough to keep the job and lead the Gators to a breakout season. Go Gators!

          • Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, Joe, but other times you have to take a leak? Or, Leech as the case may be. I don’t know — I’ve been off ever since we went out for Chinese food today — must be all the MSG interacting with my brain! But we sure sang, “Deck the harrs with barrs of horry, FAR-A-RA-RA-RA…and all that!

            I would love for Franks to shine next year. I don’t know tho — that Jalon guy just strike me as the man! Hope you guys had a good Christmas, we sure did.

          • Ha!!! That’s the best part of the movie. Cracks me up every time even though I know it’s coming! Hope you enjoyed your Chinese Christmas Turkey, hopefully without the head. Glad to hear you guys had a good Christmas; we did as well. Go Gators!

      • Its more than a hunch, that guy, JJ, can throw and ball! Look at his body, he’s a beast! I fully expect he will be the QB in his 2nd year, 2020. I just dont see mullen starting a freshman. I hope Franks does well against MI for the teams sake but once again, Trask showed he was a better QB in his extended playing time but I dont think, other than thru injury, he will ever get the chance to take the job! I think EJ is going to be just one of those QB’s that came at the wrong time, not quit good enough to push out the experienced QB and ultimately skipped over by a better QB that comes at just the right time, at the end of the existing starters time!

  3. It would rightfully seem Coach Mullen has Franks’ back and also seemingly, I might add and only fair to all QBs, that Coach will try to give each a chance to prove their value to the team. After all, players and families were recruited with that as an expectation. That said, it means QBs will be developing for several years and get their lead role as juniors and seniors. Remember though, they are honing their skills whether starting or not. This will help ensure the program performs at a championship level without so many lows and will keep the Gators consistently at the top of college football. Merry Christmas! Go Gators!

  4. Since EJ kept his redshirt that will put him 2 years behind FF, so as long as he is willing to keep working and wait his turn he would still potentially have two years as a starter. Mullen has preferred to devil guys, so I would think he would stick it out even if he doesn’t win the job this year.

    Frank’s made huge strides this year. He improved drmatIcally as a passer and a runner. If he keeps working he will keep getting better, and he has top 1% physical talent, plus he has shown solid leadership skills. I think he is poised for a break out year. The one question is whether he can keep his own motivation high and do the work in the offseason and in the film room to take it to the next level.

    • Jaws and Nassau, I am absolutely in the same thought as you guys. EJ will be a Redshirt Freshman next year, while FF is a Junior. In a perfect world that Mullen is trying to develop and have, Jalon J. will redshirt as well, leaving FF to start the next two years, EJ taking over as a Junior, and then so on and so forth. Of course, depending on how much better FF gets with his accuracy this off-season, the biggest QB battle we’ll see will be in two years when Franks is done, leaving EJ as a Junior, and JJ only a year behind him battle for the starting job. Both guys will have the time and experience under Mullen, and hopefully Johnson if he’s still here then, to make a serious battle for the starting job. I agree that Franks has grown exponentially this year in leadership and QB decision making. I think his biggest growth now needs to be his accuracy and knowing when to wing-it, and when to touch the ball in there. Should be a fun Spring Practice to see.

      • Yeah. Mullen has made it clear he does feel it is in the best interest even of the player to come in and start as a true freshman, so anyone who signs here must be coming in knowing they are probably going to be spending time in development. Nevertheless, competition is a good thing, and as you say– it will be interesting!

  5. All I want to see is that the best performing QB gets the job. See Bama and Clemson. If our recruiting gets us to the point where qbs consider transferring if they don’t get the job – so be it. See Georgia. I don’t see where you can say that EJ is the qb of the future when the staff is so high on JJ (see Fromm and Tua) and a qb is recruited every year, and you never know about injuries.

    • Well, we’ve had a pretty good glimpse of EJ — that’s one reason — and I think we’ll soon get some confirmation of sorts as to if we’re right or wrong. But from my very limited, and certainly non-scientific vantage point — I agree that my “gut” says JJ. Wish I could pin it down, but I’d sure love to hear some other views too.

      As to the 80% factor, Steve — my son the smarty pants Mr Big Shot MBA describes his career as “mobile”. He goes from company to company every couple of years…..granted, for pay, authority, and responsibility increases……but which he tells me is “normal” anymore. Guess times have changed, so as far as QBs I guess that’s just a fact of life too, now.

  6. Dan Mullen and Brian Johnson demonstrated their QB development skills this season with Franks. While I expect Franks will be a confident QB with a leg up on the competition entering spring practice. He is going to have to continue running with the passion he has shown since the 2nd half of the USC game. I think Mullen took it easy on Franks running the ball earlier in the year because of depth concerns. I don’t expect he will take it easy on the QB position going forward. There will be more called QB runs.

    The point is that I don’t believe it really matters who is the starter. You know you are going to have a QB who is going to execute their game plan and be a winning, not willing, runner. Mullen’s offense depends on it for success. Given Mullen’s statements, I don’t expect Jalon Jones to be a starter at the beginning of next year. Not to say he wouldn’t be part of the offense. Emory Jones hasn’t had enough playing time in games for fans to really know his capabilities. Regardless, everyone just needs to repeat, “In Mullen we trust.” and not worry about who is starting. Going forward Mullen will make sure Florida has 3 or 4 QBs competing to be the starter.

    The Justin Fields transfer drama reveals the flip side of recruiting 5-star QBs who expect to start as a freshman. Georgia is now scrambling to develop a backup QB for next in the event Fromm gets hurt. They didn’t sign a highly ranked QB recruit this year.

    • The ironic thing about the Justin Fields situation is that he toyed with the idea of signing with the Gators before he chose the Dawgs instead. That was a masterful sales job on the part of Smart.

      Consider that Fields, the #1 dual threat QB in the 2018 class. He KNEW that his competition at UGA would be Fromm, a star sophomore QB that perfectly fits their pro style offense, while his competition at UF would be Franks, an erratic pro style QB that poorly fit Mullen’s spread option offense.

      How cocky does a kid have to be to believe that a team that was one play away from a NC would change their entire offense and bench their returning star QB so HE would get to start in his true freshman season? There had to be some serious miscommunication or misunderstandings there somewhere.

      I’m just glad it happened to the Dawgs. They can use coming down a peg, or two.

      Go Gators!!!

  7. In good streaks or bad, I never imagined going to a rival school’s website under some pseudo . Maybe I was wise enough to know things can change for better or worse in a hurry. Maybe because I thought I’d be admitting a worse defeat than a single game. Be happy when it happens to us. It signifies we have already mentally defeated them. Tougher schools don’t do that .FSU and Tenn do. A girl’s school and a squirrel’s school.