Ryan Young/SEC Country
Florida redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks will try to hold off newcomer Malik Zaire as they compete for the Gators' starting QB job this summer.

Feleipe Franks remains confident in his chances for starting QB job despite addition of Malik Zaire

Ryan Young

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Feleipe Franks insists he has not been affected or frustrated by the addition of graduate transfer quarterback Malik Zaire this offseason, nor has his outlook for the fall changed.

“I’m going to be the best quarterback I can be, do the things I can control, but I wouldn’t say it decreases my chances of starting. With having full confidence in myself, I think my chances are high,” he said Wednesday during Florida’s media day.

“That’s just me having confidence in myself and that’s every quarterback. … I think I could be that person to bring this team to a championship or something like that. That’s how I feel.”

Franks said all the right things while meeting with reporters for the first time since Zaire arrived in June. He remained polite and professional while facing an onslaught of questions about his top challenger for that starting job, and mostly he reiterated that he welcomes the competition.

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Franks, a redshirt freshman, had ended the spring atop the Gators’ quarterback depth chart, before the former Notre Dame quarterback joined the mix.

It was Zaire who had the largest media crowd around him Wednesday as many now see the high-profile transfer as the front-runner for the job, but head coach Jim McElwain said the competition is even and offered no timeline for when any such decision would be made.

He also said redshirt junior quarterback Luke Del Rio, the team’s starter to open last season, remains in the competition as well.

“Nobody really knows because they’re not in the quarterback room. … We don’t even know,” Franks said. “Everybody’s in the quarterback room competing, and we’re all striving to get better every single day. There’s no order right now. It’s a quarterback competition. Everybody’s in it.”

The questions kept coming, about his relationship with Zaire, his reaction to the addition of Zaire, etc.

Franks mostly stuck to the same refrain.

“Absolutely not,” he said when asked if he was upset by the Gators bringing in another QB. “Honestly, it made me a little happy because he’s bringing more competition in so he’s going to bring out the extra fire in me. You want to bring the best in. So bringing the best in the country is going to bring out the fire in me to make me want to beat that person out. … You drive yourself to be the best you can be.”

The two quarterbacks bring different strengths and backgrounds to the table.

Franks was a high-profile get for Florida in his own right as a 4-star recruit from Crawfordville, Fla., who flipped from an earlier commitment to LSU. He’s 6-foot-6 with a big arm, a prototypical quarterback frame and was rated the No. 5 pro-style QB in the 2016 signing class according to the 247Sports composite.

Zaire, listed at 6-foot, was also a 4-star recruit and the No. 4 rated dual-threat QB in the 2013 signing class. He started three games during his time at Notre Dame and opened the 2015 season as the Fighting Irish’s top quarterback before breaking his ankle in the second game.

Still, that’s enough to give him an experience edge on Franks, for what it’s worth.

McElwain indicated that he’s liked the way Franks has responded to the added challenge.

“I think he’s a guy in his makeup that this is another challenge that is going to help him elevate his play. Also from another guy who’s been in the arena that can help him,” McElwain said. “I don’t think he looks at it as (a negative). I would hope he doesn’t, because I don’t think Feleipe has that in his body. I think he’s a guy that’s ready to go do this.”

Franks said he and Zaire are still getting to know each other, but they share at least one significant thing in common — they both hope to be the starting quarterback Sept. 2 against Michigan.

“I’m going to treat him like I treat everybody else. I’m going to treat somebody with respect because that’s what I would want, respect from somebody else,” Franks said. “… He’s trying to get exactly what I’m trying to get, just like any other quarterback. I’m going to go out there and compete no matter what.”