GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Looking back at where he was at this point last year, Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks admits he was lost at times.
He was a true freshman trying to grasp Jim McElwain’s offensive system and simply keeps his head above water while learning a new playbook.
Twelve months later, it’s a different story.
Franks is more vocal in the huddle, more confident around his teammates, more willing to make the calls wouldn’t dare to make as a wide-eyed freshman.
With two weeks left until Florida’s high-profile season opener against Michigan on Sept. 2 and the quarterback competition between Franks, redshirt junior Luke Del Rio and graduate transfer Malik Zaire still too close to call, Franks is still trying to prove that he should be the guy under center.
“That would be pretty fun,” Franks said, “all the hard work paying off. But, that’s not my job, that’s not what I’m here for. I’m here to give my best every single day, give 100 percent in whatever I do. I leave it up to the coaches and go from there.”
The coaches pegged Franks as the frontrunner coming out of spring camp. A solid spring game seemed to lock him in as Florida’s 10th starting quarterback since 2009.
But then Zaire transferred in and Del Rio recovered from his offseason surgeries. Now, a seemingly guaranteed starting job turned into a three-player race.
“It’s fall camp,” Franks said. “Bringing Malik in and Luke being the good quarterback he is and making me compete against them, I think that’s really made me step my game up to another level.”
It’s also forced Franks to be more sure of himself, an inner confidence he said took time to develop.
Franks said his newfound confidence that emerged over the spring didn’t suddenly appear out of thin air. Rather, he felt himself maturing each day as he left the practice field.
“It’s not a one-time thing click. It’s doing the little things right over a period of time,” Franks said. “It’s eventually going to end up showing and people are going to start seeing that. That’s what I’ve been doing, the little things right over a period of time.”
Florida players have noticed. McElwain has seen it, too.
“I don’t even recognize the guy from who he was last year,” Del Rio said. “He’s been awesome, been a great teammate, been a great leader.”
That’s been the role Franks has hoped to develop into since enrolling at Florida in January 2016. He was a 4-star recruit and the No. 5-ranked pro-style quarterback prospect in the country, according to the 247Sports composite. He grew up around football with his brother Jordan, who is entering his senior year at the University of Central Florida.
But Franks’ strong arm and prototypical size couldn’t make up for the mental lapses that first spring. He took a redshirt season and spent the year on the sideline, watching as Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby led the offense.
In the 18 months since coming to Gainesville, Franks has added about 20 pounds of muscle and looks quicker on his reads.
He still talks to his brother every day for advice, too.
“My brother is my rock,” Franks said. “I look up to him for everything. I look at whatever he says, it means everything to me, so his advice is probably the most meaningful. He’s just been telling me just go out there every day and compete.”
At this point, Franks has to compete and find a way to separate himself.
“I’ve shown them the best I can do and how much of a hard worker I am,” Franks said. “[I’ve shown them] how much I’ve studied in the offseason [and that] I know the offense completely, little things like that.”
“Hopefully that goes good for me.”