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Ranking Florida’s most interesting college quarterback derbies

Feleipe Franks still looks like the favorite for the Gators. But USF and Florida State? They're wide open.
Florida State quarterback James Blackman remains a valid option under Willie Taggart. [ Gabriella Angotti-Jones | Times ]
Published Mar. 29, 2018

Of the state's five biggest programs, only UCF entered spring practice without a quarterback competition of some sort.

As the April 14 spring games near, let's check in on the battles at Florida, Florida State, USF and Miami, ranked from least to most interesting:

Florida

Feleipe Franks still looks like the quarterback to beat in Gainesville. [ MONICA HERNDON | Times ]
Feleipe Franks still looks like the quarterback to beat in Gainesville. [ MONICA HERNDON | Times ]
Despite a mixed 2017, redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks looks like the favorite to become Dan Mullen’s first starter; he’s the only quarterback on the roster to throw a college pass, after all.

Coaches have raved about Franks' arm strength. He has the mobility to fit Mullen's system and the experience of competing in the SEC.

"You can see with Feleipe, his experience, having been out there and playing and being in the huddle…" Mullen said.

RELATED: Why every Gator quarterback has struggled since Tebow

Franks' top competitor so far has been another redshirt sophomore, Kyle Trask, who missed all of last season with a foot injury. Early enrollee Emory Jones has been inconsistent but will have a chance to impress coaches in Friday's scrimmage.

Miami

Malik Rosier was the Miami Hurricanes’ starter last year, but will he keep the job? [ MONICA HERNDON | Times ]

Given the Hurricanes' talent, this race might be the most meaningful; the right quarterback could make Miami a playoff threat. Malik Rosier took the 'Canes to their first ACC Coastal title last season, despite a passer rating (131.05) that ranked No. 63 nationally and a rough completion percentage (54).

Rosier beat out N'Kosi Perry for the job last year, but the Hurricanes say Perry looks much more comfortable after redshirting.

"He's an explosive kid, and you finally see him start to understand it all," Rosier told reporters last week. "He's not just doing it right, but understanding why he's doing what he's doing, which is really nice to see."

Another redshirt freshman, former Jefferson High standout Cade Weldon, is in the mix, too.

USF 

Chris Oladokun is one of the top two contenders to replace Quinton Flowers at USF. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Chris Oladokun is one of the top two contenders to replace Quinton Flowers at USF. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

Of all the state’s QB derbies, we expect this one — a two-player duel that could evolve into a three- or four-player race — to stretch the longest.

While fourth-year junior Brett Kean and third-year sophomore Chris Oladokun have spent a year in coordinator Sterlin Gilbert's veer-and-shoot system, neither has spent much time on the field. They have Quinton Flowers — greatest player in program history — to thank for their limited live action.

RELATED: Getting to know USF's top quarterback candidates

Because of Flowers' durability and consistency, Kean has attempted 37 career passes, Oladokun one. "One thing they weren't able to do this (past) season was get many reps at all," Gilbert said. "So let's take this (competition) all the way through, get as many reps as you can."

While Gilbert says both "can touch any part of the field" with their throws, Oladokun's arm might be a tad stronger, and he'd probably edge Kean in a 40-yard dash. But remember, Kean used his mobility and accuracy to beat out heralded UCLA transfer Asiantii Woulard for the backup job two summers ago, and it wasn't really close.

Three-star recruits Octavious Battle (Atlanta) and Jordan McCloud (Plant High) join the derby this summer, but at this point, we can't envision either overtaking the two veterans in the course of a preseason.

Florida State

James Blackman performed well in a rough circumstance last season. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)

New coach Willie Taggart, who staged quarterback derbies in three of his four seasons at USF, inherited another one upon arriving in Tallahassee.

And it's a doozy.

Each of his three options — 2016 starter Deondre Francois, '17 starter James Blackman (who took over when Francois suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener against Alabama) and redshirt freshman Bailey Hockman — have a case.

"One thing all of our guys have to understand is, they're gonna get an opportunity to compete," Taggart said last week. "If you wanna be the guy, that's gonna be on you to go out and make that happen; you're gonna have those opportunities so you can take advantage of 'em."

Francois, still limited this spring as he continues rehab, passed for 3,350 yards and led FSU to an Orange Bowl triumph in '16, but hasn't always exuded sparkling leadership qualities (skipping out on FSU's senior day last fall). If you don't think such intangibles matter, you don't know Taggart (a QB in a previous life).

Blackman performed nobly (2,230 passing yards, 19 TDs, 11 INTs) in an unforgiving circumstance last fall, and is believed to be more of a vocal leader than Francois. He also has added some badly-needed brawn to his sinewy frame. All of which means he's trending upward.

But Hockman, a left-hander and former four-star prospect from Powder Springs, Ga., might be the best fit in Taggart's Gulf Coast Offense (think West Coast passing attack with some zone-read principles). Moreover, Taggart has made it clear he wants to see Hockman seriously compete for the job.

Question is, will it be a case of more the merrier, or murkier?

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