GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks met with reporters on Tuesday for the first time since the end of last season, and he sounded a lot like the same guy who stood at the podium after that final loss to Florida State.
He talked about how people — fans, media, et al. — don’t understand the process of developing as a quarterback. He talked about staying positive no matter what is being said about him. And he reiterated several times that he is not dwelling on the past.
It wasn’t quite Mark McGwire’s infamous “I’m not here to talk about the past,” but it was clear nonetheless that Franks is ready to move on from his rookie season, eager to make a strong first impression on a new coaching staff and, essentially, try to win his job back.
No matter what anybody else thinks or expects from him.
“I’m always a positive person. No matter how many people are talking about me, I’ve always kept a smile on my face,” he said. “… My game’s only going to go up from here. You know, I hit the all-time low, it’s only going to go up.
“Like I said, it goes back to the people in general not trusting the process. You know they want the results right away. Sometimes it doesn’t always work like that. That’s just me trusting the process, not really caring about what anybody else thinks about me.”
WATCH: Florida QB Feleipe Franks previews spring football
Posted by Florida Gators – SEC Country on Tuesday, March 13, 2018
To be fair, Franks has taken his share of criticism from the fan base, including some wholly inappropriate trash that surfaced on social media last fall. That would take its toll on anybody.
But the tone Tuesday was decidedly positive. The redshirt sophomore wasn’t pressed on any of his 2017 struggles, which included completing 54.6 percent of his passes for 1,438 yards, 9 touchdowns and 8 interceptions while playing in all 11 games and starting eight.
The invigorating excitement coach Dan Mullen has brought to the program has made it easy for everyone to move on from a 4-7 season, but Franks clearly still carries the scars of that experience.
As he touched on, it was the first time in his football life that he didn’t excel.
He says he took a little “reflection period” after it was all over, but he only allowed himself a week and a half or so to look backward before closing the book, as he put it.
“There’s plays like in the FSU game that I wish I could’ve had back where I look, you know, ‘Maybe I should’ve hit the flat route here. We could’ve got 10 yards instead of throwing an interception on this play.’ So it’s little things like that that you go back and watch, and it’s like, I wouldn’t do that now. It’s just gaining the knowledge of the game,” Franks said. “And me being a redshirt freshman last year and going into my sophomore year, it’s just little things like that that you learn. And then going into my junior year, there’ll be more things that I’ve learned, and it’s all a process.
“That’s what a lot of people don’t understand — it’s not going to happen right away. For some it does, and for others it takes a couple of years. Next thing you know you’re talking about a top pick or something in the draft and nobody would’ve ever expected it. So it’s all a process, and a lot of people don’t like to trust in the process.”
Said junior wide receiver Josh Hammond: “I think he’s learned a lot, and he’s just ready to get back out and play. He’s watched a lot of film and went over his mistakes from last year. He’s a guy that just wants to move forward, like he was saying. He’s going to come out and be ready to play. I think he’ll be a lot better player this year.”
Franks does get a fresh start in 2018, but it comes in a different offense with a different coaching staff than the one that recruited him to Florida and worked with him through his first two years in the program.
Franks joked that he likes the new offense because it is the offense he is going to have to embrace, but he added he thinks Mullen’s spread offense is a system in which he can succeed.
“It’s something different than what we had with [former offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier]. But, at the same time, it really breaks it down toward super simple. It’s easy for the quarterback to understand,” he said. “I think, me personally, I think I can thrive in it.
“Like I said, it’s just the way he does it, the way he breaks it down for us and the way he makes it simple. Things of that sort. It’s really easy for the receivers to start picking up and then especially the quarterbacks and me personally to pick up and know to run with it.”
Franks will compete with freshman early-enrollee Emory Jones, a highly touted dual-threat quarterback who chose Mullen and the Gators over Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State. Redshirt sophomore Kyle Trask and redshirt freshman Jake Allen are untested wild cards in the mix.
Hammond noted that Jones and Franks have been working together a lot this offseason.
Mullen has had his best success with physical, dual-threat quarterbacks such as Tim Tebow at Florida and Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald at Mississippi State. But he has stated several times that he can build an offense around a variety of quarterback styles.
Franks showed his athleticism last season with a 79-yard scamper against Texas A&M, as well as other successful scrambles. And if this offense calls for him to run more, he will, he said.
“If I have to, I can tote that rock,” he said. “I think it’s just another aspect of Coach Mullen’s game that I’m going to have to adapt to. I’ve always been a pocket passer, but I can always adapt if something breaks down. I’ve never been afraid to run the ball, and I never will be. If I have to, I can put that head down and get rolling.”
The quarterback competition will be the spotlight storyline of spring for Florida, as usual.
Mullen said he is not necessarily worried about settling on a depth chart coming out of spring, and “if we have more than one guy who earns playing time at quarterback, we might play more than one.”
There will still be fall camp, of course, and it sounds like there won’t be any true clarity on the position until then. But spring practice is a key audition for all the quarterbacks.
And, for Franks, a fresh start.
He may have sounded like the same guy who stood up there at the end of a 4-7 season last November reminding reporters and fans that even Tom Brady gets intercepted, but it is his prerogative to take whatever edge he needs from his experiences as a raw redshirt freshman.
In the end, it is not about how he responds in a media setting, but how he responds on the field starting Friday.
“I think it’s fresh air with the new coaching staff, to put last season, you know, close the book. And then, you know, we have a fresh start. I think it’s a good thing for me and then for the rest of the players as well,” Franks said. “You know, just get a sigh of relief through the building and then know we have a new start so we’re not dreading on last season and, you know, getting things going again.
“I’ve never been afraid of competition, so it’s nothing new to me.”