With no apparent separation occurring among the three players this spring, Florida’s heavyweight quarterback battle has carried over to August, where eventually Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask or Emory Jones will be named the starter.
All three have obvious talent. All three also have aspects of their game they need to improve on.
In anticipation of an epic QB competition in preseason camp, here’s an early look at the three leading men for the starting role:
Weight: 227 pounds
Class: Redshirt sophomore
High school resume
Franks was a three-year starter at Wakulla High School, where he combined to throw for 6,857 yards and 81 touchdowns for his career. He emerged as a four-star prospect heading into his senior season and lived up to the hype, throwing for 2,776 yards and 35 touchdowns and rushing for 245 yards. He also was a standout kicker and punter. He had a long field goal of 47 yards and a long punt of 63. Most of his kickoffs went for touchbacks.
What he’s done at UF
An early enrollee in spring 2016, Franks had a poor spring game, an indication that he was somewhat lost in the offense, and ended up redshirting that season. During his time on the scout team, he began performing so well that the coaches considered taking the red shirt off him late in the season and playing him. They didn’t, but then Franks became a serious challenger for the starting role the following summer, something he eventually secured by beating out Luke Del Rio, Malik Zaire and Trask in preseason camp. In the second game of the 2017 season, Franks threw a 63-yard TD pass to Tyrie Cleveland with no time remaining to beat Tennessee, but a week later he was benched in the second half of the Kentucky game and replaced by Del Rio. The following week, Franks returned as the starter after Del Rio suffered a season-ending injury against Vanderbilt. For the season, Franks started eight games, throwing for only 1,438 yards and nine touchdowns with eight interceptions. His second-biggest offensive highlight in a 4-7 season was a 79-yard run against Texas A&M.
He has a very strong arm and can make all the throws, and has enough athletic ability to extend plays and make something happen with his legs. He also has great size that allows him to see over opposing defensive fronts and take some physical punishment in the pocket or on the run. His experience seems to have given him a slight edge so far in the QB competition. He also has emerged as a team leader in the weight room and on the field.
Franks has been very inconsistent during his time at UF. He appears to have trouble recognizing coverages at times and has shown a tendency to lock in on his primary receiver instead of going through his progressions to find the open man. He has too often tried to force passes into coverage, which has led to interceptions. He’s also struggled with accuracy. At times, it has appeared he does not have a natural feel for the position.
“I’ve improved as a game manager. Just being able to manage the game, knowing when it’s third-and-six, third-and-four, knowing how many yards you want on first down to get into a third-and-manageable. It’s those little parts of the game that I’ve really (gotten better). I have a season under my belt, so the experience is kind of there, but it’s just taking that next step to being a championship team is what we really need to bring that back to Gainesville. Being a game manager, me helping out with the guys around me and me just making everybody around me do great and play to a higher level than they think they can play at.”
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Hometown: Manvel, Texas
High school resume
Never started a game. Backed up D’Eriq King who threw for about 6,000 yards and 90 TDs his junior and senior years combined. When Trask did play, he produced, throwing for 759 yards and 10 TDs his senior season and completing 73.4 percent of his passes. Passed for 786 yards and six TDs with no interceptions his junior season.
What’s he done at UF
Not much. Like Franks, Trask was an early enrollee in spring 2016 who struggled when he first got here and ended up redshirting his freshman season. He was in the thick of the QB competition last August, but fell out of the race and missed the entire 2017 season after undergoing knee surgery just before the opener against Michigan. Statistically, he was the most productive QB in the spring game in April, completing 12-of-24 passes for 178 yards and a TD.
In the time he’s been here, he’s shown he has a strong arm and can make all the throws. He’s also athletic enough to buy some extra time in the pocket and make some plays running the ball. He seems to have a good feel for the game and showed last spring that he knows the offense and knows how to manage it.
He simply has not played much. He never started a game in high school and has yet to see the field at this level except for two spring games. No one can be certain how he will react once he’s put on the big stage in a game against an SEC opponent.
“My mindset is just to continue to get better. The coaches aren’t going to be around (this summer), so we have to take it upon ourselves to get our timing down, keep our head in the playbook and just keep getting better. I feel like I’ve gotten comfortable with this offense very quickly. I really like the spread offense. It’s a lot like what I did in high school. I feel like it’s something I’m catching on to and something I’m going to keep working at.”
Hometown: LaGrange, Ga.
High School resume
This is a young man who knows something about competing for a job — and winning it. His last quarterback competition came when he was a freshman at Heard County High School, where he beat out two older players to become the starter, a role he held for all four years of his career. In those four seasons, the dual-threat quarterback rolled up 7,250 total yards and 66 touchdowns, 48 through the air and 18 on the ground. In his senior year, he threw for 2,270 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 891 yards and 13 TDs. A four-star prospect, he emerged as one of the nation’s elite dual-threat quarterbacks and committed to Ohio State. Once Dan Mullen took over at Florida, a connection was re-established and he flipped to Florida
What he’s done at UF
An early enrollee, he’s gone through 14 practices and played in the spring game. In that game, Jones threw only seven passes, completing three for 93 yards and a touchdown. He also had an interception. Because he was wearing a non-contact jersey, one big aspect of his game — the ability to run — was not on display.
Of the three QB candidates, the dual-threat Jones seems to have the skill set best suited for what Mullen has done with his offense over the years. He has a strong arm, seems comfortable throwing seam routes and, as he showed in high school, is a dynamic runner and scrambler. The coaches think he has a tremendous upside and is capable of challenging for the starting role in August.
Just out of high school, he’s still raw and has a long way to go in terms of knowing the offense and getting comfortable in it. He struggled with his accuracy in the spring game.
Quoting Dan Mullen
“I think Emory’s got a great future in front of him. The key is making sure we’re developing him and developing him the right way and putting him in positions early in his career where he can be successful. Because that gets to building the confidence. What I did with a Tim Tebow, what I did with a Dak Prescott … what you do is you protect those guys and put them in certain situations that they’re going to succeed in and then they’re going to have the confidence to handle more situations. We’ll keep evaluating that in fall camp as it keeps going and see where he’ll be at.”