Feleipe Franks has run the gamut of emotions just a month into the season.
The redshirt freshman was named the Florida Gators starting quarterback after battling Kyle Trask in the spring and then Luke Del Rio and Malik Zaire in the fall. Despite being named the starter Franks was pulled in favor of Zaire in the season opener and then again last week on the road against Kentucky. Florida turned to Del Rio to pull off the comeback win in Lexington and then Jim McElwain officially named Del Rio the starter.
“Obviously he was disappointed, as any competitor would be,” McElwain said of Franks’ reaction to the decision to start Del Rio. “And yet, when you look at the last game, he was one of the first guys excited for the win. And he handled it the way a competitor should, but better than that, the way a good teammate should. And it was great to see. And yet he knew his time is not done by any stretch of the imagination.”
Franks had to adjust this week in practice. He had gone from taking all of the first team reps to taking a lighter share as the backup. It’s an adjustment, for sure, and an especially difficult task for a young player to grasp and deal with. It was just two weeks ago that Franks was the future, riding high off of a last second heave to Tyrie Cleveland and a win over Tennessee. This week he spent taking mental reps.
“Just trying to watch, you know, what Luke does. He’s a veteran. He’s always really doing everything right. So I’m out there just trying to watch and see what he does versus different looks, different coverages and stuff like that,” Franks said. “So I think just taking a lot of mental reps helped me out. When I did get my reps, I think I try to make them count. They were important.”
Were they ever.
Luke Del Rio was drilled by Vanderbilt defensive end Dare Odeyingbo with just over five minutes left before halftime. The hit resulted in Del Rio breaking his collarbone and ended his season.
When Franks heard the news he wrote “Luke” on his left wrist under where his quarterback sleeve rests.
“I definitely wanted to keep him in my prayers, especially when I was out there on the field,” Franks said. “You know, you want to play for somebody, and that was one of the persons I wanted to play for because he’s done nothing but support me and help me the whole time I’ve been here at Florida.”
Franks came back into the game and led the Gators to a win. He got away with a pass that should have been intercepted. It ended up deflecting off a receiver before Freddie Swain made a ridiculous diving catch to get Florida into the redzone.
The biggest improvement for Franks was his demeanor in the huddle and how the offense looked with him on the field. The offense stalled against Michigan and Kentucky, the two games he started but didn’t finish. Last week McElwain said Del Rio provided the spark the offense needed. The unit moved quickly and efficiently, far from what it looked like when Franks was playing.
He needed to be more confident in the huddle calling plays. More precise when calling out protections and he needed to move the ball more efficiently. He did that Saturday and he’ll need to keep building off of this performance.
“He was just confident,” Jawaan Taylor said after the game. “When he came into the game, he just started to take over and he just demanded the unit, so it was good for him.”