Comfort zone: Gators quarterbacks more confident a year into Mullen’s system

Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks has more confidence in his game this spring. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Unlike a year ago at this time, when dazed and confused seemed to be the early QB theme, Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask and Emory Jones showed in Florida’s first spring scrimmage Thursday that they are now confident, competent and certainly capable of moving the offense.

All three got reps with the No. 1 offense. All three threw touchdown passes. All three were sharp at times moving the offense down the field and into the end zone.

“Last spring about this time, we were still learning the offense,” Trask said. “This is all new to us. Now that we’ve been here for a whole year, we’ve taken tremendous amounts of big steps in the right direction.

“It went pretty good (today). You’re always chasing perfection; there are a couple of things we can clean up. But, overall, the quarterback room did a good job today.”

It certainly did, starting with the starter (even though Franks has not officially been named yet).

Franks, who really came on strong in the latter half of last season, had a five-yard touchdown run, threw a 52-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Josh Hammond and finished the day with nine completions in 14 attempts for 138 yards, one touchdown and an interception.

He appeared poised, confident and very much in command of the offense, often going through his progressions to find open receivers.

“I do think this has been my most productive offseason,” Franks said. “No.1, I’ve been more comfortable in everything I’m doing. Watching film, up there learning from coach (Brian) Johnson and coach (Dan) Mullen. And out there on the field, being more comfortable being a leader, more comfortable making throws and just knowing the offense. Comfortable all around.”

Franks said he’s been working hard on his accuracy, and that effort appeared evident in the scrimmage. He was on target with most of his throws.

 “I’m more confident,” Franks said. “There’s always something I want to work on. I’ve always wanted to work on accuracy. I’ve gotten better with accuracy, giving the receivers a chance to make a play on the ball, not over throwing, giving them a 50-50 chance.”

Trask was also on target most of the afternoon.

 He threw a three-yard TD pass to Tyrie Cleveland, an eight-yard touchdown pass to Kadarius Toney and completed 11 of 21 passes for 123 yards.

“They say every job is open right now,” Trask said. “I’m just focusing on what I can do to help the team, working to the best of my ability.

“We’re all getting better. We’re all taking big steps in the right direction. We’ve made a lot of progress.”

Of the three quarterbacks, Jones was the one who was the most lost last spring, which was expected because he was a true freshman who still could have been in high school.

Although Jones struggled some with his accuracy (and with a few drops by his receivers), he threw an 11-yard TD strike to tight end Kemore Gamble and had electrifying runs of 20 and 24 yards. His overall numbers may not look all that good — five-of-16 for 79 yards and a TD — but he’s clearly much more polished and much more confident than a year ago, when he was underwater.

“It’s like night and day,” Franks said of Jones’ improvement. “He’s learning the offense, learning how to manage a drive, just ultimately being a better quarterback. It comes with time, you just keep getting better and better.”

And the better the quarterbacks get, the deeper Mullen can dive into his playbook. More of it certainly will be revealed in the fall because the QBs appear ready to handle it.

“As you learn the offense, you’re able to utilize it more to your advantage,” Franks said.

The quarterbacks certainly weren’t in this position a year ago.

“Last year, we were just learning,” Trask said. “We really couldn’t get into, I don’t want to say the fancy part of the playbook, but we were very basic. Now that we have the basics, we can take the next steps and keep the defense off guard in certain things.”

NOTES: The defense also produced multiple impressive plays in the scrimmage. Sophomore defensive end Zachary Carter was dominant at times and had three sacks and numerous hurries. Safety Brad Stewart was all over the field making plays. He intercepted a Franks pass and returned it about 40 yards. Linebackers James Houston, Lacedrick Brunson and true freshman Mohamoud Diabate all recorded sacks. Linebacker Umstead Sanders recovered a fumble, while true freshman linebacker Jesiah Pierre had a big tackle for loss.


  1. Boy, if the screen format used today for Gatorsports is anything but an electronic anomaly, it’ll be sad. It’s not just like other sites — it’s worse! Thanks, now I’ve got a headache from simply having to try to navigate my way thru it……….there’s got to be a better way to get some advertisement revenue than this. Color me dizzy at present — what’s next, pop-ups right in the middle of writing something?

  2. I was reading another Gator site and they were high on the defense and this was high on the offense. As mentioned yesterday it is hard to judge when we are scrimmaging against our own team exactly where we stand though the offense appears to have begun to grasp the nuances of the game that begin to give them command of the situation. Looks like QB won’t be an issue as there appears to be good from all of the QB’s. The other guys said there were some sacks and the question is was the OL beat or is the defense that good. IF and that is a big IF our D is that good our OL may be better than last year and the ramp up not as long. The OL will likely be more an issue of depth and how fast the 2’s and 3’s come along in the event of injury. Brad Stewart intercepted Franks and returned it for a big gain the other way. I am wondering if it was because he was too focused on the receiver or a great defensive play. Regardless GATOR FANS while I know there are some pessimists among us this still feels better than last year, which felt better than the many previous years combined. The gut is telling me we are going to be capable of winning against any opponent. I didn’t say we win out though that would be the bomb! I does however look like they are going to BRING ON THE CHOMP!! Just over 2 weeks to O&B game.

    • I hear you 65, nice post…definitely feels better, plus Franks returns with a better conditioning program, and knowledge of the offense under his belt. I am hoping that this experience will allow him to trust his preparation and not stare down receivers as much. His running is vastly improved and with his size, he can be a force. He also knows that he will have one of the better Running back groups to lean on.

      Usually defense is ahead of the offense, especially early on. I also believe we may have an elite D Line with Zuniga poised to have an All American campaign. One thing we know is CDM is an elite signal caller and will definitely play to our strengths while hiding deficiencies.

      • Right on. the conditioning program is probably the single biggest step they needed to improve. Hopefully injuries will be down as a result. Lasting the whole game will be another. MAC was lost on all accounts and one thing I read about and have heard from the likes of my two most hated teams on in the NFL and the other on the other side of our conference is it’s about the “system.” And by and large their ‘systems’ have been successful. Actually the UM era had that too with a slightly flawed moral compass but that isn’t the point here. CDM started putting his system in place and the one thing I like about his coaching is his ‘willing’ ability to adjust to the cards he has been dealt. Saw that a M St and always thought he could do something special if he had a better (maybe not a good word) resource pool, location, program…. He has a good staff but to steal a phrase from a autobody man “can’t shine a t-rd.”
        FF will reach his full potential this year and we will know if he can be that kind of QB that wins on his ability to make all the passes (without looking at the receiver) and the right decisions. His physical ability isn’t the issue. If not there are some capable guys looking for their chance and we won’t be in trouble of being w/o a QB.
        If our defense is as good as it looks I think there are several players set for a crazy good season. Zuniga, Stewart, Taylor, Carter, Chatfield, Reese II, Pierre. No offense to anyone I forgot but these guys are all looking good.
        The offense WR/TE I think are going to be much improved if and only if the QB can get the ball to them.

        • Oh yes….it was fun to see a legit group of receivers making plays after years of bad offense. I always thought we had talented receivers, even in the lean years of production, but they were hamstrung by poor offensive philosophy. We saw Hammond blossom into a reliable threat. Grimes…I believe this guys is about to be big time. He seemed to figure it out towards the end of the year…a 6’5″ gazelle. Exciting times again at the Swamp brother…

  3. Both of you are right on — Smith and 65. I think it’s going to be OK, and better than OK soon into the season. I’m listening to StL when he posts about the OL; he’s pretty objective and not at all pessimistic. I sure wish old Cody Alan would start weighing in about now too, as this is about the time last year, I think, when he started giving some on-the-ground reports.

  4. One thing this article didn’t mention was Stewart’s hit that was called targeting and Mullen removing him from the scrimmage for an extended period of time. Nice to know he’s stressing this in practice to keep it from happening in games.

  5. there has been some argument among the fans as to whether Franks will develop the mindspeed (some call it perception or vision) of a great qb like Brady, or at least will he improve in that category. My thinking is that he will show improvement in that important category; we are seeing reports of increased accuracy and happier receivers already. i have no doubt he has the perseverance etc. to teach himself to be better and the coaching to help.

    • I’d always be careful using Brady as the measuring stick. He and Drew Brees are on a level all their own. But I do get what you’re saying. We saw improvement with Franks last year and the thing to remember is that he never has had the coaching he needed to develop. Obviously that has changed. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and consider that he may show improvement once again. Maybe Trask and Jones/Jones are helping to raise the bar in the Gator QB room.

    • The “mindspeed” is difficult. Perception = sensation + cognition. The missing link is in converting all that to Response, grossly as in Stimulus –> Response. Cognition varies in speed (latency) and is not a function of high IQ. It tends to be a function of wiring, so in the nature vs nurture domain that is very hard to change.

      But I still say that with the right coaching and mentoring, plus already superior mechanics and his obviously high IQ, he can still be a whale of an SEC quarterback.

      Remember when they said Tebow would do better in the NFL as a fullback? I think it’s kind of the same, but I’d love to be proven wrong.

      • im no scientist, but what ive read tells me that the mind can rewire itself somewhat. its not easy, and its not guaranteed, but every once in a while you get a late bloomer in sports.
        As far as tom Brady, he had to be talked out of quitting after his first 2 years at michigan, so development is unpredictable, even for the greats. i agree that odds are against franks being the next tom brady but i am expecting improvement. one newspaper article says he increased loft on his long passes to make them more catchable, and also, he is now showing willingness to throw more 50/50 balls because this looks like the best group of receivers weve had to throw to in a long time, if not ever. both of these could be a reaction to not having enough time to throw due to offensive line inexperience, but the loft thing tells me that he is better at sensing where the receiver is going to be, which is one form of mindspeed.

        • Having lost mine years ago, I don’t know about the mind rewiring itself, Mveal. But the brain sure can, and what you’re referring to is neural pathways re-routing around certain damaged or impaired areas or circuits to re-establish a similar function. Kind of like “alternative facts” if you remember that blast from the past. 😆 I think it could be done in the case of Franks, but he’s perfectly functional as he is — at his God given level (which is obviously better than 90% of us anyway……just not at the level of Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks). Human beings are fearfully and wonderfully knitted, we should never forget that.

          That would probably be very time/resource involved, and very expensive I’m sure. What I like better is the glide path he’s on at present — excellent coaching and mentoring, tons of motivation, a heart that never quits, and refining his other superior mechanics. God knows I’d love for this kid to have a break-out season, and I think he’s certainly on the right track.

  6. “often going through his progressions to find open receivers.”
    WOW! Glad to read that. Thats definitely progress, lets hope he keeps it up. Noticed he had the best completion % of the 3 QB’s. Every QB has his flaws and we know his but I see definite improvement; like I saw with his running with purpose, near the end of the year. Im beginning to get excited when i read these articles now.

    • He’s definitely a willing runner, now running with definite purpose, and as he gets stronger and stronger, he’s like a Sherman tank hitting that line. I’m getting excited too — particularly with the stable we now have in the QB room, with the running backs on board, and the quality of receivers on hand. If the OL turns out to be just “SEC average”, man alive, we’re going to be hard to contend with. If the OL turns out to be “SEC +”, we’ll be something on a stick indeed! BRING ON THE CHOMP — FEAR THE SWAMP! (the one in Gainesville I mean, I’ve always been afraid of the one in DC)