GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Jim McElwain named redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks as the Gators starting quarterback on Wednesday for the season opener against Michigan on Saturday.
But McElwain confirmed again that the decision to start Franks doesn’t mean graduate transfer Malik Zaire will spend the season on the sideline.
“He’s a guy that had a really good camp and will play. There’s no doubt about it,” McElwain said Thursday on his weekly radio show.
McElwain on multiple occasions this week said he had a plan in place for how he would use his quarterbacks against Michigan, but wouldn’t go into specifics.
It’s now known that the 6-foot-5 Franks, whose strong arm helped make him the leader in the quarterback competition after spring camp, will be the first signal caller to move the offense. McElwain said Franks had a “really outstanding spring” and his overall body of work pushed him over the top against Zaire and Luke Del Rio.
“Both Malik and Luke have been unbelievable cheerleaders for Feleipe and they’ve really helped him,” McElwain said. “That’s competition, and that’s what it does for you.”
But for Zaire, the dual-threat quarterback and graduate transfer from Notre Dame, there are opportunities and certain packages that will allow him to get on the field to spice up Florida’s offense, which has struggled.
He has big-game experience, earning MVP honors against LSU in the 2014 Music City Bowl. He opened the Irish’s 2015 season by throwing for 313 yards and 3 touchdowns in a win against Texas, but suffered a season-ending ankle injury a week later against Virginia.
“There’s certain things that he does that brings some things to the table,” McElwain said.
As for Franks, McElwain doesn’t plan to put big expectations on his new starting quarterback just yet.
“It’s the first game,” McElwain said. “He’s going to have some jitters, and yet the way he kind of carries himself, he really doesn’t get jitters. He’s a calm guy. He’s a calming presence. I think that’ll be good for the people around him.”