Steve Spurrier is in the Florida Gators football offices. He has his own office at the end of the hall in the communications wing and occasionally meets with the football coaches to talk ball, watch film and stay around the team. He isn’t, however, making decisions about personnel; so don’t expect to see Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier playing on the quarterback carousel that Spurrier set up with Noah Brindise and Doug Johnson in 1997.
For the first time since they’ve been together in Gainesville Nussmeier and McElwain will have a quarterback under center that they recruited to run their system.
They’re just still not sure which one that will be.
This isn’t their first spring camp. Both Kyle Trask and Feleipe Franks enrolled early in 2016, going through spring practice in more of a learning, intern capacity than a true competitor for playing time. That internship went into the season where both took redshirts, watching from the sideline as Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby took turns leading the Gators.
This spring is different. The internship is over; both have their eyes fixed on a full-time job as the Gators’ signal caller. The problem is, there’s only one ball. Only one of them can start, which on the surface, could create tension.
According to the two quarterbacks, who also double as ping-pong opponents, the competition hasn’t affected them or their teammates negatively.
“It’s never been like that in any competition I’ve been in, but it’s important to have that on-field help,” Franks said of any potential animosity during a position battle. “Me and him helping each on the field and then as well as off the field. Me and him just helping each other and being there for each other. It’s not what people make it to be – hatred. It’s a friendship that could possibly last for a lifetime. It’s really fun.”
Unlike Franks, who was a three-year starter at Wakulla high school, Trask had to battle adversity in high school and is familiar with battling for a starting role. Trask attended Manvel High School in Texas where the offensive system was spread out, not the best fit for his skillset. Due to a Texas High School rule, Trask would have had to sit out a season if he transferred, so he remained at Manvel where head coach Kirk Marvin promised he would help Trask out when it came to playing time and his recruitment.
“I think I just kind of took that as a blessing. It taught me to never take a rep off, make every rep count,” Trask said of his high school experience. “I’m always in a competition. I’ve always been in a competition all throughout high school. It’s been a blessing for me just to teach me harder work ethic.”
Trask and Franks are in an interesting situation. The pair enrolled in school at the same time. They both spent late nights trying to digest a new playbook, while trying to pick the brains of the two upperclassmen ahead of them on the depth chart. By all accounts the quarterback room has great chemistry. That chemistry isn’t confined to the practice fields, weight room or quarterback room. The pair hangs out off the field playing basketball and ping-pong.
“That’s my favorite game, ping-pong,” Franks said after Trask spilled the beans that Franks has quite a shot. “I love ping pong, though. That’s my favorite thing to do.”
Trask deferred the crown on the ping-pong table, but he won’t go down without a fight on the football field.
Ultimately both quarterbacks know that only one of them will earn the starting job. They’ve matured enough in the past year to know that the team can’t afford for the two of them to not get along. They’re doing their best to take assertive leadership roles in the mean time, taking each practice rep as if it could be the deciding rep in the entire competition.
Neither would want it any other way.
“I don’t think any quarterback you would ask they would want the job handed to them. It’s only going to make them better with competition,” said Franks. “You ask any quarterback that, they’re going to say obviously they want the competition. It’s only going to make you better and not make you lackadaisical. You go out and compete every day.”