One final heave from Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks may have alleviated the preceding offensive ineptitude, but UF coach Jim McElwain wasn’t ready to let his young quarterback off the hook despite his last-second heroics.
“He had some plays he would like to have back,” McElwain said of Franks’ performance. “I think he’ll just continue to get a little better.”
Franks, who completed 18-of-28 passes for 212 yards in Saturday’s 26-20 win over Tennessee, didn’t have a completed pass travel farther than 10 yards in the air until the decisive 63-yarder to Tyrie Cleveland. Despite a 2-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, Franks continually forced throws into double coverage and repeatedly missed the open wide receiver by zeroing in on a target.
But success or failure on offense won’t solely be determined by Florida’s redshirt freshman quarterback. In McElwain’s eyes, the entire offensive unit has to improve in order for Franks to reach his potential.
“Playing with some consistency, playing with some energy. Get to the line and go,” McElwain said, when asked in what areas the offense can improve. “When they do that, they go play pretty good.
“Sometimes in life, it’s not about being afraid to be wrong, but rather think what it is to be right. And we just wait to shoot ourselves.”
If there was a unit that didn’t shoot UF in the foot, however, it was the offensive line.
After opening with a dud in Arlington, Tex., senior wide receiver Brandon Powell credited Florida’s offensive line with giving Franks ample time to run the offense.
“Our offensive line was pumped the whole game. I’ve never seen them have that much juice before, blocking and giving Feleipe time to throw the ball,” Powell said. “He was getting the ball in our hands and making plays.”
But even though Franks saved his best throw of the night for last, and the Gators likely won’t face a defensive line as weak as Tennessee’s on a regular basis, the game-winning pass exemplified the potential UF’s offense possesses with Franks in command.
And in Franks’ eyes, the offense can only continue to progress as Florida’s season does.
“We have, and I still believe, some of the greatest players in the country,” Franks said. “And when we all put our chemistry together and we’re all communicating and we’re all on the same page then we’re really lethal at offense. And I think towards the end it showed that. We’re only going to improve.”