Franks a work in progress, Mullen’s top pupil

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Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks avoids a tackle Saturday against Colorado State. [Lauren Bacho/Gainesville Sun]

There were smiles all around as Florida’s players left the field Saturday in sweat-soaked orange jerseys and slapped hands with fans. It was only Colorado State, but after the way these same players felt coming off the same field a week ago it was a necessary tonic.

Nobody enjoyed the caffeine-less jolt more than Dan Mullen.

Because it was another game filled with teachable moments, this one not ending in crushing defeat.

That’s really what this season is all about, building through teaching, no matter how painful it can sometimes be.

So even when Feleipe Franks starts 0-for-6 with a pick, Mullen doesn’t give him the quick hook no matter how loud the noise in the system gets.

“He did complete one,” Mullen joked after the game.

While there may have been boos cascading down a baking Swamp after one failed series, it’s pretty clear this is Mullen’s guy sink or swim. The personal foul penalty was dumb, and Mullen let his quarterback have it. But the interception, the missed reads, the poor throws, they are all part of it.

“He doesn’t have a short leash,” Mullen said.

I still don’t think this team is very good or at least as good as I thought it would be. It struggled to run the ball until the fourth quarter except for Jordan Scarlett’s 30-yard score against a blitz. It still has a banged up secondary, and it still misses David Reese terribly.

But you do see little signs of progress.

Like Freddie Swain. The receiver from North Marion High obviously has a knack for running back punts. His 85-yarder was a thing of beauty.

His timing was just a little off. Swain told Mullen near the end of the third quarter he was going to run one back so there was no need to get a play ready. That kick went out of bounds.

The next one was the highlight of a special teams highlight reel Saturday.

“It was actually safe (meaning Florida wasn’t setting up a return and was looking for a possible fake),” Swain said. “You just have to catch the ball and make a move.”

He did just that and continues to be an example of how a guy who was best known for being uncovered on the winning touchdown (and his only one in 2017) against Kentucky last year is turning into a football player.

Swain now has matched his receiving yardage totals from last year after also catching an 18-yarder for a score.

“My hard work is paying off,” Swain said.

That’s what UF fans are hoping happens for Franks, even though he has already matched his total of touchdown passes from a year ago. They still see the guy who waits too long on throws down the middle and sometimes makes poor decisions.

They see 0-for-6, not the 8-for-9 that followed.

“You have to have some thick skin here,” Mullen said. “If he’s throwing picks, he’s throwing picks. But I don’t want to see him out there pouting and whining about it.

“I might pull him then. But I’m not going to pull him for making a bunch of mistakes.”

So sports fans, he’s your guy whether you like it or not. You can love the perfect strike to Van Jefferson for a touchdown and hate the interception that occurred because he waited way too long to throw to an open receiver.

Because either of the two are going to probably happen again this week.

The goal is for the bad decisions and slow reads to stop eventually.

You want sooner. It sounds like Mullen can live with later.

Because that’s part of the teaching process. You wish it would speed up the way the commitment by the players to special teams has sprinted back into the Florida football personna.

The teaching continues and that includes the psyche of what is still a mentally fragile team.

“Sometimes we’re looking at the guys’ eyes and they’re coming into this program and they fear losing and they’re relieved by winning,” Mullen said. “You can’t be successful that way. You can’t play that way. You can’t act that way. You can’t even think that way. You have to go out and play hard because you love to win. You can’t be nervous or afraid to lose.”

Lesson No. 326.

There are a lot more to come.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

40 COMMENTS

  1. I think he’s a good kid with great skills but I’m worried that some of his deficiencies at QB can’t be taught or acquired. People are saying Trask must not be any better but I wonder how much he would be sitting if he was a 4 or 5 star recruit?

  2. Good column. Gators shouldn’t worry too much about win and loss totals this season, though we badly need ANY bowl. What we desperately need to see is a trend – ups and downs, sure -of improvement. We are seeing that.

    There is a looooong way to go, but this coach is getting it done. Go Gators!

  3. There are arguments that the bulk of the good qbs at the next level are past 35. So maybe we just need to not have Franks be the lightening rod for the 35 other things the program is working on. Maybe his ceiling is Wayne peace….but people forget wp got the program to a high level. I preferred “the snake” Bob hewko but part of these business is not getting hurt and so far so good for Philippe same as Wayne. I do think Franks Will make the nfl and maybe in time get to the top half because he has a lot of positives. But we are a good ways yet from that conversation in earnest. I guess the earful a l o t of the fans are giving him is part of his development.

  4. We’re in a process as a program.

    The difference between Mullen and his two predecessors is that one was learning and the other was busy teaching Clara Belle.

    Mullen is the first one to show up with a plan and implement a process. We aren’t the first of the elites to go to go through this and Mullen isn’t the first coach to have to endure us fans while the process works.

    Dooley called it. Were looking for progress. For 7 years we haven’t seen any. 4-8 was real in two of the last 5 seasons isn’t fixed without steady progress and never fixed overnight.

  5. I’m still hopeful for a season that will be a success by most measures: 8 or 9 wins and an appearance in a solid bowl game. More importantly, I’m confident that this year is a restoration of UF values: hard work, confidence, adherence to rules, commitment to a system, and teamwork. In time, Mullen will bring the team beyond that. I hate the idea that we have something like s throwaway year, but this is where we are. I’m just proud that the guys had a solid effort on a super hot day.

  6. Mullen may be a “quarterback whisperer” but he’s no magician. His work with Feleipe Franks is likely to transform him, in time, into a pretty good QB. Same with the team as Coach Mullen works to change a mindset forged by disappointment and losing under the prior regime. It appears a subtle defeatism had captured our team’s spirit. It’s going to take time and require some patience from those of us who support our team. Meantime, there are others itching to shred and demean these players, maybe because the snipers think it makes them sound smart or clever. For those who stay the course in getting behind this coach, his staff and these players the results will be satisfying, whether there’s a championship or a trophy st the end of this season or not. The Gators are on their way back.

  7. Franks is an enigma, and Mullen has more patience than a lot of Gator fans because we’ve watched the determined young man’s inconsistency and repeated mistakes a lot longer than three games. Franks will invariably do a few great things, but too often he’ll do the inexplicable. You think he’s improved and then you wonder why you thought so. It’s perplexing and frustrating and it’s hard to keep watching. It feels like an out-of-control train you wish you could stop. But if he’s Mullen’s guy, then I guess patience it’ll have to be as we wait for the payoff. Although, even though patience is a virtue, sooner will sure beat later! After all, there are statues of three great Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks gracing the Swamp and Gator tradition begs results.

    • I’m not sure about Mullen be more patient than us because he hasn’t seen what we have seen. Mullen had to pick someone on the roster to qb the team this year. He told us the #1 criteria – “who gives us the best chance to win right now”. He has seen all 3 qb’s take 1,000’s if snaps at this point. His described them all as exactly what we see – inacceptably inconsistent. But amongst the 3 he says Feleipe gives us the best chance to win. It’s really simple, he has no reason to lie about it. All we need to do is listen actually.

      • Franks IS improving, period. He threw 9 TD passes all of last year. He already has 9 TD passes this year. His yards per pass completed has improved from 6.3 last year to 7.4 this year. His average per attempted pass has improved from 5.5 last year to 8.6 this year (major improvement) His passing rating has improved from 113.3 last year to 148.8 this year. The only stat that does not show improvement from last year is his accuracy rate, which has dropped from 54.6 to 53.2. But when you consider that Franks rarely threw the ball down the field last year and he does regularly this year, I would say he is also improved in that area as well, but needs to get a lot better with the accuracy category. But innately speaking, Franks is a much better QB this year. But clearly, there is much more room for improvement. But to post on here that Franks is not improving and has potential to develop into a very good SEC QB is to deny the data that is stating otherwise right now. And the data is why Mullen is standing behind Franks right now. And so should Gator Nation right now. But he still has to play better vs. SEC competition, starting next weekend.

  8. Keep in mind Franks is just a sophomore. He struggled last year like most freshman/RS quarterbacks. Yes, there are exceptions but he isn’t one of the prodigies. I would also add he was thrown out there prematurely to sink or swim out of necessity, not that he was ready. Also, let’s not forget he had little coaching in high school so he’s going to be a late bloomer. Meanwhile, he has been riding his measurables and natural talent waiting until his cerebral and timing catches up. If we are patient and not ruin his confidence, he will pick it up sooner or later. Who knows, we might get the chance to see the young man grow up before our eyes into something special during his time at UF.

    • Sly. See the stats in my post above. We are already starting to see the young man develop. The Gators are not likely to win the SEC East this year, so Mullen is going to give Franks every chance to develop into a top tier QB this year, and he is starting to show that the develop is heading in that direction. The key for Franks now is to make quicker reads, get rid of the ball faster and on time, and be consistently accurate with his throws by setting his feet and following through with his passes. He is still missing wide open secondary receivers, unfortunately. Hopefully, that will come as the season progresses and things slow down for Franks.

  9. Franks was NOT ”all that” in high school because of his quick decisions, and a great ability to change a play at the line. No, he dominated (smaller schools) with his physique mostly. And ironically, it’s his physique that Coach Mullen probably loved at 1st sight, too.
    Now I get the frustrations, but I know one thing is certain at Florida (having lived my entire life in Hogtown, minus some years as an Air Force brat in the early 70’s, and a few after high school) NO U.F. Q.B. has EVER succeeded here in G’ville with social media. Social media started when Tebow was here, but it’s straight up viral now, see: Brantley, Driskel, Treon Harris, etc… (and don’t say Grier ’cause he cheated! If ’84-’85 SEC Champs didn’t happen, then neither did Will Grier). Ultimately, all the anger & frustration-filled comments are in no way going to make ANY Q.B. at U.F. better. Tough love, and menacing commenting are 2 very different things.
    Go Gators! Just… LEARN!

    • There’s nothing menacing in expressing frustration. Last time I checked, this is a place for, among other things, venting frustrations. We’re all pulling for Franks to get better, but even the Old Ball Coach had little patience with his qb’s repeating mistakes and didn’t mind saying so. I’m not saying Mullen’s approach won’t work. Just saying he has more patience than many Gator fans. .

      • You’re right, Prairie….and I’ve got to watch myself on that too. I think Daz has been making that point all night too, just on principle. Let’s bury the hatchet internally, we’re all Gators and want the same thing in the end. Just different perspectives, different way of saying things. OK by you GI? I’m guilty of it too, you should see some of the replies I wound up cancelling, not just the ones that made it through! ❤🐊🏈

        • I get frustrations and venting, just listen to me on Steve Russell’s show on ESPN 850 WRUF. As I am one of the 1st to vent, too!
          But I thought about the ”power of words”, both positively and negatively. And all the ”venting” for U.F. Q.B. play has been predominately negative since the advent of social media. It’s not my opinion, it’s just a fact.
          So, I try to remember Coach Dan Mullen’s 1st words as the ”NEW VISOR”, the new head ball coach, when he said, ”I understand the pride of what it takes to REPRESENT THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA… Those guys that have done it (championships)… they understand it. And it’s my job to make these players today know what the STANDARD and EXPECTATIONS are at the Univ. of Florida.” And lastly, my favorite, the A.D. Scott Stricklin said, ”When Florida was winning championships, it looked FUN.” Here’s hoping the ”FUN” comes back for good, or for a while… at least!
          Go Gators!

          • Didn’t know you were a radio star too! Now that really is the place to vent…..I’d do it myself, but the people in charge of the stations out here don’t even know how to spell Gators!

  10. Gator fans need to remember that Mullen said that he expects this team to be better by the end of the season than it has been so far at the beginning. This includes Franks, who was far more undeveloped in his qb skills when he entered the program than most are — as a couple of posters have noted. His physical tools, along with the way the ball explodes off of his hand when he is needing to put some heat on it, make it hard not to envision a high ceiling for him if he can learn the mental aspect of the game. Compared to last year, I have seen some significant improvement: he actually goes through progressions and sometimes makes good reads; he stands in the pocket with more confidence and generally takes off running when the defense gives him space; and he is starting to throw balls with more touch when needed, instead of sending a missile at the receiver. At this point, I am more concerned about the defense than I am about Franks.

    The secondary, which appeared to be a strength at one point, is now a question mark. It’s not good when you have to switch a receiver over to the secondary after the season is under way. But if the players will buy into what the coaches are teaching them, such as controlling their assigned gaps, perhaps the defense will at least be pretty good.

    I see a number of signs for hope and expect real growth during the season. The big question is how quickly this happens. Next week might give us some clues.

  11. Sorry, Kaleo still sings, Way Down we go!!!!
    Franks is a wide receiver Coach Mullen not a Quarterback!!!!!!! I get it he wants to be. Wanting is a good thing!!!!!!
    Let Kyle try more! You have tons of great receivers Coach Mullen!
    This is about winning, you said so Coach Mullen!!!!!!!
    Why don’t you let them catch some Coach Mullen!!!!!!!

  12. I love this quote from Mullen, “Sometimes we’re looking at the guys’ eyes and they’re coming into this program and they fear losing and they’re relieved by winning,” Mullen said. “You can’t be successful that way. You can’t play that way. You can’t act that way. You can’t even think that way. You have to go out and play hard because you love to win. You can’t be nervous or afraid to lose.”

    Kind of the same way I have been feeling as a fan for the past few years.

  13. Gator 67 called it right – Franks is much better. He’s more akin to a Freshman with a suspect line so maybe our take on him needs to be realistic.

    We should be a more intelligent fanbase than to pine for the backup. That’s bush league sophmoric garbage and demonstrates an entirely emotional viewpoint without much understanding of organizational and systemic development.

    We’ve got a.goof coaching staff and players who want, but are learning to succeed.

    It’ll take longer than we want, but likley not longer than it reasonably should.

    Go Gators. Theyve got my support.

  14. Franks has gotten better in each game. He had a slow start against UK and came back to have a pretty good day statistically. The big let down from UK was NOT Franks, it was line play.
    Yesterday, he had another slow start (somewhat compounded guys by not caching catchable balls!) but rebounded to complete 8 of last 9. I am encouraged by his ability to rebound… now if he can just learn to start quicker.

    • “Franks is not a playmaker” . . . yet. I’m not sure that I agree with this assessment given the fact that he has at times made good reads, delivered some outstanding passes, and used his feet to make some yardage or to extend a play. But I do agree that he has not yet learned to do this consistently. Maybe he never will, but Mullen is going to give him a chance to develop into a good qb (no matter what any of us think — imagine that; he thinks he knows more about qbs than you or I do; the nerve).

    • I’m not sure what Driskel and Brantley have to do with Franks, or Mullen for that matter. Judging Franks by past experiences with quarterbacks under different coaches really makes no sense. Fans need to turn the page on the past and dwell in the present.

      • another UF QB with promised potential, great expectations; hasn’t shown anything to make Gator fans think he can lead this team to success, of course an OL with talent would help; gonna be tough to win one of the next three games; at least FSU sucks too

  15. I’m a fan of Franks simply because I’m a Gator and he’s my QB. He’s the only one my coach says is going to play right now so I might as well cheer for him and hope for the best. I’m not blind to his mistakes and deficiencies but cheer for him regardless that he overcomes all the negative and wins over all those who says he can’t. Time will tell whether he ends up as one of my favorites (Matthews, Wuerffel, Grossman, Tebow) or one of my least favorites but for now he’s the only one I have to cheer for and I hope that he sees more Gators trying to build him up rather than tear him down. Go Gators!