Feleipe Franks: ‘I hit the all-time low, and it’s only going to go up’

The Florida Gators quarterback has put 2017's struggles behind him.
The Florida Gators' Feleipe Franks said 2017 was rough, but he has put those struggles behind him. (Monica Herndon, Times)
The Florida Gators' Feleipe Franks said 2017 was rough, but he has put those struggles behind him. (Monica Herndon, Times)
Published March 13, 2018|Updated March 13, 2018

GAINESVILLE — A few days after Florida's 2017 season mercifully ended in November, quarterback Feleipe Franks sat down to start understanding his role in it.

He talked with a coach or two, but mostly he sat down by himself to break down film with a notebook by his side.

Within a week and a half, Franks had moved on.

"I hit the all-time low," Franks said Tuesday, "and it's only going to go up."

Franks didn't elaborate much on that low point, but he didn't need to.

His nine touchdown passes last season were second-worst among SEC starters, and the 29 sacks he took were tied for the most. Of the country's top 100 passers, only eight had a worse touchdown-interception ratio than Franks (9:8). He didn't crack the top 80 nationally in yards per attempt (6.3) or passer rating (113.31).

Those grisly statistics weren't all his fault, and there's plenty of blame to go around from the Gators' 4-7 flop. But dismal quarterbacking is the most obvious reason why UF isn't seriously challenging for championships. The only way to fix that big problem is to learn all the little ones that created it, which led to Franks watching film from his redshirt freshman season, alone in December.

He jotted down things he could have done better — dumping off an easy pass to a receiver instead of forcing an interception. He thought about where he wants to improve and what the Gators' team goals should be.

Then Franks tried to put 2017 behind him. He used some variation of the phrase "fresh start" eight times during his 13-minute news conference Tuesday.

"I think it's fresh air with the new coaching staff," Franks said. "To put last season – you know, close the book."

As far as UF's new coaches are concerned, anything that happened last season is irrelevant once spring practice begins Friday. The quarterback competition will be open, with Franks competing mostly against early enrollee Emory Jones.

"I've never been afraid of competition," Franks said. "It's nothing new to me."

Like last year, don't expect a quick resolution. Coach Dan Mullen said spring ball is more about earning the chance to play rather than solidifying a depth chart. He even raised the hypothetical possibility of using multiple quarterbacks this fall.

But Franks has obvious physical tools that didn't disappear last season and could help him thrive under Mullen. Franks isn't an elite runner, but quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson highlighted Franks' 79-yard rush against Texas A&M (the longest ever by a Gators quarterback). Mullen said he hasn't had a quarterback with Franks' arm strength since Cam Newton.

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Franks' leadership remains strong, too. Receiver Josh Hammond said Franks stayed optimistic through his struggles, and his teammates voted him as one of their eight representatives on the leadership council.

"I think it shows that they have belief in him as a leader," Mullen said.

Even after bottoming out in 2017, Franks still has that belief in himself, too.

When the first whistle blows Friday, he can start proving it.

GATOR BITS: DL Keivonnis Davis has been reinstated from his season-long suspension in the credit card fraud scandal, but he'll be limited this spring as he recovers from a September scooter accident. … UF generically lists Calvary Christian alumnus Amari Burney as an athlete, but he'll get his first reps at safety. … Former UF star Percy Harvin is around the program almost daily, to the point where DB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson referred to him as "Coach Percy."