UF quarterback Zaire will start vs. Missouri

Florida quarterback Malik Zaire will start against the Tigers. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

A coaching change has led to a quarterback change at Florida.

Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire is replacing redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks as the Gators’ starting quarterback for Saturday’s game at Missouri, interim head coach Randy Shannon announced Thursday.

“This is his opportunity to get this team where it needs to be and not to be satisfied just because he’s the starter,” Shannon said.

“Today is an opportunity for him to run the offense and understand the expectations that we have for him. This is not a time for him to feel comfortable and feel like he’s made it. We want him to keep grinding and understand that competition is very good.”

Zaire takes over for the struggling Franks, who threw for only 30 yards in a 42-7 loss to Georgia last Saturday.

Zaire relieved Franks in the fourth quarter of that game and led the Gators on a 71-yard touchdown drive.

In two appearances this season, Zaire has combined to complete 12 of 23 passes for 142 yards.

At Notre Dame, Zaire missed most of the 2015 season because of a broken ankle and lost his starting job to DeShone Kizer last season. Zaire threw for 816 yards and six touchdowns in three seasons with the Irish.

Zaire’s ability to make plays with his legs brings the read-option aspect of Florida’s offense into play.

“He’s a good quarterback,” senior running back Mark Thompson said. “That’s one of my best friends on the team. I’m excited to see what he can do for the rest of the season. I’ve always been excited about what he can do. And it will be a positive outcome no matter who’s lined up at quarterback.”

Franks has started six games this season. He’s completed 60 percent of his passes, but thrown for only 830 yards and four touchdowns along with four interceptions.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or robbie.andreu@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.


  1. I have a renewed interest in watching this game. I hope he brings energy and timely execution to the offense. Both have been sorely missing with Franks at QB this year. He simply was not ready to play in the SEC. Hopefully, the new HC will be able to coach him up better.

  2. No doubt Franks missed seeing a number of open receivers this year. Much of that due to his inexperience. I can’t put 100% blame on him as some receivers are better than others at getting open and Lord knows, with a pathetic Offensive Coordinator calling plays for him he didn’t stand a chance of success.

  3. Coach Shannon is doing what coaches do. He’s mixing it up & making the best decision to win the next game. He likes what he’s seeing with Zaire. The young man transferred here to play & now gets a better chance. Hope Saturday’s the start of a winning streak. Franks has great potential imo & did ok coming on in relief of Luke. All our QBs need better OC play calling & receivers that get separation. Hope we get that W on Saturday. Go Gators!

  4. I’m hopeful, but trevor sikkema’s analysis was that he wasn’t much different than franks, and neither had the vision downfield a successful qb needs. the schedule the rest of the way isn’t very strong so he may get some wins. either way, the one qb we have that can see is toney. BTW Toney has been arguably our #3 player or more when healthy. my vote is to give toney a shot, but I do think #8 will be good enough the rest of the way.

  5. You know, I like this decision. Who knows how it will end up, but what does Florida have to lose at this point? Feliepe isn’t there right now, who knows if/when he will be, let him learn some more and let Zaire use his ability to run to create some problems for defenses, because right now, our offense doesn’t have many options to create problems for defenses, especially with Malik Davis out (get well soon), and the other obvious issues (see knucklehead 9). Whether you think he’s a talent or not, he had other choices of schools he could go to, and here’s the reality. He’s nearing the end of his college career, if he helps to pull off a miracle for UF and makes this dumpster fire of a season respectable (beating FSU would help a lot), then all Gators will remember him with affection, he will have enjoyed the decision he made, and maybe the kid gets a chance to play at the next level, even if it is not in the NFL. I say go for it. The outcome can’t be worse than what we have seen so far. Good call, RS. Good luck Malik.

  6. Zaire deserves a chance now. At this point in his development, Franks is better coming off the bench. He did his best when he came in when Del Rio was injured. When he’s starting, I think it too much pressure for him at this stage.