GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Feleipe Franks isn’t willing to say whether he expects to be Florida’s starting quarterback for the 2017 season opener.
The redshirt freshman will respectfully defer that one to the coaches for now.
“To be honest with you, it’s a great competition between me and Kyle (Trask). It’s the best one I’ve ever been a part of. It’s going to make me and him better every day and that’s everybody on the team,” Franks said. “Coach Mac (Jim McElwain) and coach Nuss (Doug Nussmeier), they’re here to make that decision. It’s not me or Kyle’s decision. So, we’re going to grind it out every day to see.”
Franks did have plenty else to say Wednesday, though, while speaking with reporters for the first time this spring.
Gators coach Jim McElwain does not allow his freshman players to be interviewed, but while Franks wasn’t heard from last year, he still was an ever-present part of the Florida football conversation.
A fan base spoiled by good quarterback play and fun offenses for so many years has been clamoring for the next big thing at the position since Tim Tebow finished up in 2009.
Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby, a pair of transfers, shared the job last season as the Gators ranked 116th out of 128 FBS teams in total offense. Del Rio, who is sidelined this spring while recovering from procedures to both of his shoulders, has not been counted out as an option by the coaching staff.
But the vocal majority of the fan base has made up their mind on the veteran and is hoping that either Franks or fellow redshirt freshman Kyle Trask can be the answer — not just for next fall but for the foreseeable future.
“I think it’s a cool opportunity, a very cool opportunity and I’m working my butt off every day for that opportunity,” Franks said. “Coach Mac and coach Nuss are going to put us in every great situation for when we’re called to be in that opportunity. Right now, it’s going really well. Throughout the spring and going into fall camp, as a team we’ll keep on improving and be ready for the first game.”
Franks, who flipped to Florida from an earlier commitment to LSU, arrived as a 4-star recruit out of Crawfordville, Fla., ranked as the No. 5 pro-style quarterback in the 2016 class. But he’ll be the first to admit the transition from high school football to the SEC was more than he expected.
“Yeah, obviously, just coming as a freshman, I felt personally, I felt like it was overwhelming what it was and what I got,” he said. “But I mean now, my teammates have helped me, coaches have helped me and it’s brought me a long way since then. So, it’s really fun to get out there and just play football now.”
The clamoring for Franks to get his chance began last season as Del Rio was twice sent to the sidelines by injury while Appleby, a graduate transfer from Purdue, took over as a stopgap option. Franks officially became the team’s backup, listed ahead of Trask on the depth chart, but he never saw any action.
From listening to Franks on Wednesday, though, it doesn’t sound like he would have been truly ready to take the reins of the offense at any point as a true freshman.
“Oh man, I think I’ve come a long way. I think my command (of the playbook) has grown like a bunch since last spring, and it’s really playing out to be fun for me now just to be out there and actually just play the game, play (like) I’ve been playing my whole life and not have to stress about, ‘What am I doing this play? What am I doing this next play?'” he said. “Now that I’ve settled in and know the playbook I can go out there and have fun now. It’s really fun.”
He can’t pinpoint the moment when he feels it all clicked for him, saying it was just a natural progression as he absorbed as much as he could from Del Rio, Appleby, offensive coordinator Nussmeier and McElwain.
As for that quarterback competition, Franks (6-foot-6, 219 pounds) and Trask (6-4, 238) both possess big arms and prototypical frames for the position.
Franks is said to be more of a presence in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage, while Trask is quieter and more introverted. Trask came in as a 3-star recruit from Manvel, Texas, where he was overshadowed by another Division I quarterback on his high school team, but he clearly has the physical tools.
Only the coaches and fellow players know where that competition truly stands at this point, as Florida’s spring practices are closed to media beyond the opening few periods.
While they’re competing for the same job, though, Franks said he and Trask have maintained a strong relationship. They even hang out away from the field.
“It’s important to have that on-field help … just me and him helping each other and being there for each other,” Franks said of that relationship. “It’s not what people make it to be — like hatred. It’s a friendship that could possibly last for a lifetime. So, it’s really fun.”
And as for the competition on the field, he welcomes it. If he is going to be the Gators’ starting quarterback, he wants to earn it.
“I don’t think any quarterback you would ask would want the job handed to them. It’s only going to make you better (with) competition,” he said. “You ask any quarterback that, they’re going to say obviously they want the competition. It’s only going to make you better and not make you lackadaisical. You’re going to go out there and compete every day.”
All recruiting rankings come from the 247Sports Composite.