Amidst QB battle, Gators see “a whole different” Feleipe Franks

Feleipe Franks is sitting in a chair next to Luke Del Rio at the Florida Gators media Day. He’s relaxed, leaning back in the chair balancing on the rear legs while thumbing through Snapchat.

Despite being named the “leader” in the quarterback battle by Jim McElwain coming out of spring camp Franks doesn’t have the kind of media attention a starting quarterback calls for. Instead, the masses have assembled around Notre Dame transfer, Malik Zaire.

It didn’t seem to bother Franks much at all.

“I’m just working every day to get better,” Franks told Gator Country at Florida’s media day. “(Zaire) is a great dude, a great addition to our quarterback room. I can’t worry about what he’s doing. I have to just focus on what I can control.”

Franks started that process when he enrolled early last spring and the learning process continued through the 2016 season when he redshirted. Franks was the center of attention all spring, so he’s fine to take the back seat to Zaire in the media in the fall. He’s quietly going about his business and his teammates are taking notice.

“He’s more confident. He’s working hard now, more than he’s ever been since the competition came in with Malik Zaire,” starting left tackle Martez vey said. “He’s just been working hard and he’s just a whole different Feleipe Franks than last year.”

Franks, by all accounts, was quiet as a freshman. Perhaps he knew his role was to be seen rather than heard, to listen twice as much as he talked and to learn what it takes to be a leader.

“Last year you probably couldn’t hear a word from Feleipe,” senior receiver Brandon Powell said of Franks.

That all changed for Franks after the Outback Bowl. That game singled the end of his freshman season and flipped a switch in his mind. 2017 would be his season and he was ready to step into the role he dreamed of when he committed to play at Florida.

“It’s a different Feleipe from last year. He comes to practice with energy. Even on the bus he’s talking about plays he’s going to make, and then you get on the field and it’s just a whole different dude,” said Powell. “I’ve been liking the Feleipe I’ve been seeing this whole camp.”

Powell must like it a lot. He told reporters he and Feleipe connected for a 40-something yard touchdown in Florida’s first scrimmage last Friday.

Last year things were running a million miles an hour. In his first spring game Franks threw four interceptions before shooting McElwain a bewildered look. Like a lot of freshmen, he was swimming. Studying his playbook more than he ever had in his life just to keep his head above water. This year?

“He’s poised. He keeps his calm. He doesn’t get rattled,” reported Ivey.

Still, with Florida’s opening game just over two weeks away Franks finds himself in a battle. McElwain says Franks, Zaire and Luke Del Rio have all had good moments as well as learning moments in fall camp. They all performed “really well” in the scrimmage.

The battle might not be over, even the players don’t know what goes on behind closed doors when the quarterbacks meet or when the coaches meet to go over film.

“It’s a battle right now, so I don’t know. In my opinion, I don’t know who will be starting, so I’ll leave it up to the coaches,” Ivey said. “It’s competition, so I knew we probably wouldn’t know until game week. I don’t know, it might be a game-time decision. I don’t know.”

One thing is for sure. Franks is far from the freshman that was struggling to keep up in 2016. He did everything necessary to prepare himself to win the starting quarterback job.

The only thing left to do is go out and take it.

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC