From friend to foe, Franks leads Razorbacks into The Swamp
To many on the Florida football team, he has been a good teammate, friend, brother. But now, for a few hours Saturday night, Feleipe Franks will be something else to the Gators.
Friendships are going to be put aside and he’s going to be just like any other opposing player looking to tread on The Swamp.
“I know Feleipe’s a great competitor. He wants to come in here and beat my butt, beat everybody on the team’s butt,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “That’s what competitors want to do.
“But it’s not going to change the relationships or how you feel about each other. When you’re out there on the field you get that competitive edge to you that you want to win. He’s that type of deal.
“He is having a great season. I’m really happy for him. I’m happy for how it’s working out for him. But I want to go compete, I want to beat his butt on Saturday. That’s what we want to do. That’s what competitors do.”
Franks vs. Florida is clearly THE storyline for tonight’s game against Arkansas. And there is one heck of an intriguing subplot to go with it: Franks vs. Trask.
Kyle Trask is the guy who took over for the injured Franks early last season and established himself as the Gators’ starting quarterback with the kind of season he put together and how effectively (and smoothly) he operated the offense.
At the end of the season, it was apparent to everyone, including Franks, that Trask was going to be the starting quarterback in 2020. With only one year of eligibility left, Franks wanted to end his career as a starter, not a backup, so he made the decision to become a graduate transfer, and he found a good fit — Arkansas with new head coach Sam Pittman, who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week and has been helping with the game plan virtually. Defensive coordinator Barry Odom will serve as interim coach, hoping to upset the Gators like he did as Missouri’s head coach in 2018.
Now, thanks to the SEC having to go to a conference-only schedule that put the Razorbacks on the UF schedule, Franks will be in The Swamp on Saturday, taking on his former teammates and the quarterback who took his job.
Franks said he had a good relationship with Trask when he was here. But, certainly, that changes on the field.
“We did get along pretty well,” Franks said. “We always competed. We were there for four years together, always competed. He drove me to get better and hopefully I drove him to get better.
“He’s playing really well, as well as their team. I’m excited to get down there. It’s my first time playing against him, which will be fun. Our relationship is good. We’re both competitors, but at the end of the day, one person’s going to win and one person is going to lose. Our main goal right now is to win.”
The Razorback (3-3) have learned to win this season under Pittman and the new staff. And Franks is one of the reasons. He’s been very effective managing the offense and, just like he was at UF, has been a strong leader that his teammates will follow.
Franks has thrown for 1,428 and 14 touchdowns with only three interceptions.
The Gators, of course, know what kind of player Franks is and the kind of damage he is capable of inflicting. They saw flashes of it for four years, especially in the second half of the 2018 season when he led UF to a New Year’s Six bowl game in Mullen’s first season.
“One, you have a competitive guy that understands where to throw the football,” UF defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “He can make all the throws. He’s as impressive throwing the ball as anybody you’ll ever watch. And he can extend plays with his feet.
“It looks like he understands their system really well and what they’re asking him to do. He’s playing really good. We understand that we’re going to have to play with effort and energy and do the things that we do to be a good team.”
Franks sees it the same way. The game will come down to execution.
“Just go out there and execute what the coaches are saying,” he said. “The coaches here do a great job of scheming it up, what we need to do to be successful on Saturday.
“If we follow that plan, it will give us a really good chance to go out and win this game.”
Who: Arkansas (3-3) vs. No. 5 Florida (4-1)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850