[Updated, 8-27-18, 2:50 p.m.] With the opener now only days away, Florida’s great quarterback question has finally been answered.
Redshirt sophomore Feleipe Franks is the starter, UF coach Dan Mullen announced Monday.
Franks, fellow sophomore Kyle Trask and true freshman Emory Jones had been competing for the starting role since the spring.
In the end, Franks edged out Trask because the coaches feel he gives the Gators the best chance to win this season with his ability to extend plays and make things happen with his legs, Mullen said.
“We have some young quarterbacks that I think all have really bright futures in their development,” Mullen said. “All of them are a long way from a finished product of what we need to see.
“As (quarterbacks coach) Brian (Johnson) and I sat down, we looked at who would give us the best opportunity to win now. Not projecting where they’re going to be or how they’re going to develop, or how they’ll grow throughout the years.
“But right now, we head out on the field running our offense, who’s going to give us the best opportunity to win? A lot of it we felt Feleipe and some of the ability to extend plays, some of his athleticism, right now will give us the best opportunity to win games.”
Franks did little running in high school and was recruited as a pro-style quarterback by Jim McElwain and his staff. But he has the size (6-foot-6, 240 pounds) and athletic ability to be an effective runner/scrambler, and he has shown a willingness to run, something that is imperative for the QB in Mullen’s spread offense.
His size and athletic ability are what slightly separated him from Trask.
“It was pretty close,” Mullen said. “If you go to the grades, they were right there. It was the extra little things of extending plays, the intangibles. I think they were pretty even.
“It came down to just watching what Feleipe can do within the offense right now, where they’re all at in their development stages. He gives us the best chance to win.”
Franks started eight games last season, throwing for 1,438 yards and nine touchdowns to go along with eight interceptions.
He showed the ability to make the spectacular play — the 63-yard TD pass to Tyrie Cleveland on the final play to beat Tennessee — but he also struggled with his consistency and accuracy.
He has intriguing physical tools, Mullen said.
“Obviously, he’s got a strong arm,” Mullen said. “He can do some different things, make throws that a lot of people can’t just on pure talent. I think he’s got very good athletic ability.
“That can show in his ability to run the ball, show in his ability to scramble and extend plays. He’s got good size to be a physical player. He’s not worried, he’s not nervous about being a physical player. He’s got some toughness that way. Those are some things that we’ll build on.”
Mullen has a great track record for developing elite quarterbacks. One trait he has said he looks for is leadership.
Over the past year, Franks has evolved into a team leader in the weight room and on the practice field. His teammates voted him to the team’s leadership council in January. He is one of eight players on the council.
“When things got tough, when things got hard, just his leadership potential really pushed him over the top,” junior wide receiver Josh Hammond said. “Feleipe, I guess you could say, he put himself more in that position and showed that he really wanted to be a starting quarterback more than anybody else. I think that was the biggest thing.
“His confidence is really high. He’s been through the worst and he feels like it’s only up from now. He’s definitely really confident and just ready to get out there and compete.”
Notes: Mullen listed DB Shawn Davis, LB David Reese and DB C.J. McWilliams as questionable for Saturday’s game and WR Jacob Copeland is doubtful. … Mullen said if there are suspensions, they’ll be announced Saturday before the game. … The starting kicker battle is still ongoing. Mullen said that could be a game-time decision. … Mullen said guard Brett Heggie, hampered by injuries during preseason camp, is back healthy and listed as a backup.
Click back for more from today’s news conference.