One would think redshirt junior quarterback Feleipe Franks, whose curly locks add another inch to his 6-foot-6 frame, would have little trouble feeling like the big man on campus.
Yet Franks admitted that’s been anything but the case. Instead, his three years at Florida have been wrought with unrealistic expectations, subsequent disappointment and, most recently, gradual improvement.
“I just try to play my part. Definitely try to lead people in the right direction,” Franks said. “I’ve always tried to be level-headed, even when things are not going my way.”
With much to prove last season, Franks struggled early despite showing signs of promise, leading coach Dan Mullen to consistently evaluate the quarterback room. However, during a critical stretch in early November, with a third consecutive loss looking likely, Franks — and Florida’s offense as a whole — turned a corner.
Ever since, it feels as if the Gators have yet to slow down.
“I think it was a turning point for our whole team. Just the momentum that we brought into that game, coming back from that big deficit, having that turning point and being able to get that momentum going into the next couple games and just finish out the season the right way, I think it just helped us, all those games just helped us with the momentum coming into this offseason,” Franks said. “Guys coming in with more confidence. It all plays a big role into a player’s development.”
Franks, who finished the 2018 season with 2,457 passing yards and 24 touchdowns, would know, as he’s more often than not been transparent when it comes to his early struggles.
“Like I said, I’ve had a bumpy road since I’ve been here. People learn from my wrongs,” Franks said. “It hasn’t been like a lot of people’s — like it’s hasn’t been straight success, mine has been kind of bumpy — but ultimately that’s what makes me who I am. It humbled me. Coming out of high school, a big recruit and then coming here and not doing too good when I first got here, to now — it just humbled me, matured me at a young age. It continues to mature me and helps me become a better player. Learning from what I did wrong in the past ultimately is helping me become a better quarterback each and every day.”
Now in his fourth Spring, Franks is one of Florida’s veterans. In turn, he’s making the transition to leader and making sure the latest crop of Gators can learn from his experiences.
“I’ve always been the big kid. But it’s kind of settling down now, just trying to help. When it’s my turn to leave Florida, I just want to leave it better than when I came,” Franks said. “That’s ultimately what I want to do and just help the younger guys. So when it’s their time to hit the field and I’m gone, I have something to come back and watch and it’s always something fun to watch. Just trying to be a helpful person, be a leader.”
A more comfortable Franks is a better Franks, say those who’ve watched him toil. Now, for Florida to reach its lofty goals in Mullen’s second season at the helm, Franks will have to once again take his game to the next level.
“Just more comfortable in the offense. Great quarterback. He’s able to make a lot of checks that he didn’t make last year. So I feel like he’s very comfortable throwing the ball there with all the receivers,” senior running back La’Mical Perine said of Franks. “All the receivers we got right now, we had last year. So he’s pretty comfortable.”
What: UF football practice open to the public
When: TBD, March 23
Where: Sanders Practice Fields on UF campus. Bleachers will be set up on the east side along the Indoor Practice Facility. Fans can congregate on the east and south sides to watch practice.