The consensus among the college football preseason magazines, talk radio and social media is that Florida has a chance to be good in 2019 if steadily-improving quarterback Feleipe Franks takes the next step under Dan Mullen in year two.
And what exactly is the next step?
Franks has a clear idea what he expects it to be.
“I want to hopefully be one of the best quarterbacks in college football next year,” Franks said. “I do feel like I’m heading in the right direction.
“Coach Mullen and coach (Brian) Johnson are doing a great job of paving the way for me and helping show me what to expect and how to do things. I follow them and soak it all up. Being under their wing has been the best thing for me.”
Mullen and Johnson do appear to have Franks on the right path, a path that eventually could lead Franks to elite status among college quarterbacks (and perhaps pro QB prospects).
Since his arrival on campus three years ago, Franks has always been viewed as a player with limitless potential because of his great size, strong arm and athletic ability.
But following a two-year struggle under Jim McElwain and his offensive staff, many were beginning to wonder if Franks would ever turn his potential into production.
Then Mullen, with his excellent track record for developing quarterbacks, came along and everything started changing for Franks. His mechanics improved. He gained a better feel for reading defenses and where to go with the football. He emerged as a leader. His confidence grew.
Then he went out and had an impressive first season under Mullen, improving from week to week and helping lead the Gators to a 10-win season and a top-10 final ranking. Along the way, he threw for 2,457 yards and 24 touchdowns with only six interceptions. He also rushed for 350 yards and seven touchdowns.
“Once he started to learn the offense toward the end of the season, he took the leadership role of the offense and drove the ship,” senior wide receiver Josh Hammond said. “He’s a competitor. He wants to win. He’s a guy that’s going to fight until he can’t fight anymore. That’s what I admire about him.
“He’s gotten so much better from a mental standpoint, dealing with social media, fans, things of that nature. Just growing up and being the guy to drive the ship for us. He’s been really good for us and he’s going to continue to be that way.”
The way Franks closed out the season — 862 yards passing and 12 overall touchdowns over the final four games — has many thinking that if Franks can take the next step under Mullen, he has a chance to become one of college football’s top quarterbacks this fall.
He’s spending this summer working on that next step.
“It’s an important summer coming off a 10-3 season, not to get complacent, to keep working and getting ready for what’s awaiting us in the fall,” he said. “Me and the other quarterbacks are always out there keeping chemistry with the receivers every day. We’re always in the indoor (practice facility) throwing and getting our timing down.
“For me, (taking the next step) is becoming more of a leader and more of a personable guy. That starts with putting the team first, never being selfish. And continuing to work on my aspects of the game, just the quarterback being the leader, helping my teammates when they need me the most.”
Back in the spring, Franks made improving his accuracy a priority, and that has carried over to the summer during player-run practices and pitch-and-catch opportunities with the receivers.
“You want to be as accurate as possible,” he said. “It starts with other parts of your body, like where your feet are, where your arm angle is. It comes with practice. I continue to work on it with game-type situations.
“The pocket is not always going to be clean, you’re going to have to throw balls kind of sidearm, over this way, over that way. It’s one of those things I continue to work on. And I’ve been watching a lot of tape, most just self-reflection tape.”
This is the time of the year when the players can have little contact with the coaches. But when Franks does have an opportunity to talk with Mullen and Johnson, he takes it, and he listens to their advice and applies it to what he’s working on to get better this summer.
Franks said being developed by Mullen and Johnson is “the best thing that’s ever happened to me at the quarterback position.”
His development is an ongoing process.
“They continue to help me grow as a person, as a leader, as a football player and a quarterback,” Franks said. “Every day, it’s something new. I try to learn from them. I’m going to continue to learn and to grow.
“I think I’ve come a long way. It’s always a scary thing a player goes through when there’s a coaching change because you never know how things are going to play out.
“Since they got here, they’ve helped me out a lot. It’s been something different. The whole program has changed. They continue to help everybody grow as a person.”
Franks has clearly grown as a player under Mullen and Johnson, and the process will continue. Pretty soon, it will be time to see if he’s ready to take that much-anticipated next step.