Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks’ comments after the Chick-fil-A Bowl win about losing his confidence during a troubled 4-7 season in 2017 did not come as much of a revelation.
Because everyone who watched him over that difficult time saw it happening.
The body language (head bowed, shoulders stooped). The indecision. The negative plays that only led to more negative plays. The turnovers. And then there was that final act — a four-turnover meltdown in a 38-22 loss to Florida State that included a pick-six and lost fumble returned for a touchdown.
So, yes, it’s obvious his confidence was shot by the end of the 2017 season.
Franks finally felt comfortable talking about that after the win in Atlanta because, well, he’s obviously a much different quarterback than he was under Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier.
“He’s got his swag back, his confidence back,” rising senior linebacker David Reese said. “I’m happy to see that.”
As are Gators everywhere.
In what was a huge turnaround season for the Gators (going 10-3 and finishing in the top 10 in the nation), the biggest turnaround of all probably belonged to Franks. In one year under Dan Mullen’s tutelage, he went from dysfunctional to functional, even highly functional at times, especially coming down the stretch.
After throwing for just 1,438 yards and nine touchdowns with eight interceptions in 2017, Franks threw for 2,457 yards and 24 touchdowns with only six picks. He also rushed for six touchdowns.
“I wasn’t here on Coach Mac’s team, so I don’t know what he was,” rising senior wide receiver Van Jefferson said. “But from what people have told me, I can see the change that he’s made and the work he’s put in to get better and accomplish his goals.
“He wanted to improve on what he did last year. You can see that he did that. He had an amazing season and led his team all the way to a New Year’s Six bowl game.”
Franks never seemed comfortable in McElwain’s offense and what he was asked to try and do in it. If anything, he appeared lost and out of sorts most of the time. It’s been a completely different story in Mullen’s offense and with the coaching he’s been getting (and accepting) from Mullen and quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson.
“It’s crazy how Coach Mullen came in and turned him around in one year,” rising senior running back La’ Mical Perine said. “Coach Mullen had a big impact on him.”
His teammates say Franks has grown a lot as a player and a person over the past year under the new coaching staff.
“He’s matured a lot. He’s gotten more confident,” Reese said. “A lot of things have changed about him. He’s always been a competitor, but he’s started to mature and become more serious, become a leader of men.
“It’s good to see that in your quarterback.”
Perine and Franks were part of the same recruiting class and have grown close over the last three years. Perine said Franks is no longer the quiet, unassuming kid he was when he first arrived on campus.
“He was more of a quiet guy when he first came in,” Perine said. “He’s a leader now. You’ve got to be a leader if you’re the quarterback. He’s a vocal guy. He’s more of a vet now. He knows he has to speak up to the young guys and keep them ready at all times.
“He’s a great guy, a great leader.”
As a player, Franks made a big jump in Year One under Mullen. His teammates seem excited about the possibilities in Year Two.
“The sky is the limit for him,” Jefferson said. “He can go beyond what he’s done. He’s going to excel more this upcoming season because he’ll be in his second year in the offense.
“He has the potential to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country. As he puts the time and effort in, the hard work, there’s no doubt he can be one of the best.”
Said Perine: “He should be ready to make that next step to being a great quarterback.”
Franks’ first priority this spring will be retaining his starting role. Even though he seems to have already established himself as the guy at quarterback, Mullen has said the competition at the position will be wide open.
So, Emory Jones, Jalon Jones and Kyle Trask are going to be coming after him.
That’s a good thing for everyone, Reese said.
“Feleipe is on the up,” Reese said. “He’s going to put in the work and continue to get better. Emory is going to continue putting in the work. He’s going to continue getting better. He’s going to be great competition for Feleipe. That will motivate those guys to get better every day.
“It’s only up for both of them.”