Saturday started off looking grim for the Florida Gators and boo birds came out in the first quarter.
How bad was it?
Florida was winning 6-0 but Feleipe Franks was 0-6 with an interception, Florida has 27 total yards and 20 yards in penalties.
There was, however, no point in which Dan Mullen wavered in his starting quarterback.
“I think he knows that we have his back,” Mullen said after the Gators’ 48-10 win over Colorado State. “He doesn’t have a short leash, we’re going to play him.”
During fall camp, before the quarterback battle had ended, Mullen said he would make a decision at quarterback and that would be his guy. He has a long history with quarterbacks and he’s patient but this had to be testing his patience. Franks’ last five quarters of football he was 17-44 (39%) with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“I told him this, if he goes out there and throws a bunch of picks he throws a
bunch of picks. If he pouts about it and whines about it and stops taking coaching and drops his head I might pull him but I’m not going to pull him for throwing picks or making mistakes,” said Mullen. “That’s our coaching. That’s teaching and we need to coach and teach that. It’s his confidence level and how he learns and grows and carries himself as a quarterback is most important.”
Mullen’s patience was rewarded Saturday. Franks completed eight of his next nine passes for 119 yards and two scores. He didn’t need to do much today, Florida’s special teams blocked two punts, returned one for a touchdown and the defense recovered three fumbles.
“He just had to relax,” running back Jordan Scarlett said. “they came out in some different looks that we didn’t prepare for. They had a lot of exotic packages out there.”
Mullen felt the same but it was impossible to not hear the boos early on Saturday. Franks has also taken a lot of` heat from the fans and the media. He hasn’t always handled it well. It’s hard to in this age of social media. When you’re the quarterback of a team like Florida, with a fan base as big as and as passionate as Gator fans are there will be a segment of fans that get on him. He’s responded in the past and gone back and forth. Mullen, speaking about himself and his sideline demeanor, said throughout his career he learned to control his behavior asking himself “does this action help me win?” He’s trying to teach that to his quarterback, to have him know the standard and block out the noise.
“Obviously one of those things is you’ve gotta have some thick skin. I try to get on him more than anyone else,” Mullen said. “I think you gotta work harder in the quarterback room than it is out there in the public to thicken up his skin. I’m starting to see that a little bit. Ask any quarterback that’s played for me, you’ve got some thick skin to go do that. We get after you. We expect certain things from you.”
Through the first three games Franks is completing just 53% (41-77) of his passes for 570 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions. The nine touchdowns have already matched his total from the 2017 season. Those aren’t great numbers. They’re barely good numbers. He’s improved in some areas but it’s not noticeable to fans, who have been asking for a change in quarterback for three games.
To Mullen it’s all part of being in the position Franks is in.
He has said multiple times that he likes the progress Franks is making but there was one glaring thing Saturday. Franks got into it with linebacker Josh on the second play of the game and both were given unsportsmanlike penalties.
“I ripped him today because he got a personal foul. Quarterbacks don’t do that. If you throw an interception I’m going to coach you. If you get a personal foul, you
don’t do that as a quarterback. You know what I mean? You’re the guy that everyone’s looking to. I’ll rip him for that. I won’t rip him for any of the throws he made” Mullen said. “We gotta coach him on those things. It’s all the demeanor and that. As he gets confident, I don’t know. We threw two touchdown passes, right? How many has he thrown for the season. “So in three games he’s matched last year’s total. That’s a big step forward.”
“People can get on him because that’s part of the position. If you’re going to be a quarterback at Florida, if you don’t like public scrutiny don’t be a quarterback at Florida.”