Florida will begin the 2019 season in a position that they have not been in since Tim Tebow was behind center. For the first time in a decade, the Gators know exactly who their quarterback is as we head into their week zero opener against Miami.
There hasn’t been a more polarizing figure in Florida football recently than Feleipe Franks. Following an abysmal redshirt freshman campaign under Jim McElwain, Franks showed dramatic improvement in his first year under Dan Mullen. Still, many fans appear to be divided on their faith in Franks.
Regardless of where you find yourself on this spectrum, one thing remains clear. Franks has separated himself from the pack and is the unquestioned leader of this team.
Although he had some ups and downs during his sophomore season, Franks showed growth and development. Following back-to-back losses in 2018, he finally found his next gear and silenced the crowd as he willed his team to victory versus South Carolina a year ago.
Also see: Offensive line preview
It was during this game that Feleipe finally understood what it takes to be the quarterback at a school like Florida. Over the final four games of year one under Dan Mullen, Franks played with poise, anger, and tenacity. Indeed, he played the best football of his career.
Those final four games are still paying dividends as the team prepares for the opportunity to expand on last season’s success. Franks is building on where he left off, and has the confidence of everyone in the locker room. As a result, he is now comfortable in holding himself and his teammates accountable.
So what should we expect from Franks in 2019?
With a full compliment of highly skilled receivers and backs at his disposal, he has the opportunity to lead an even more potent offense than last year’s. The biggest question at this point revolves around his protection. Yet, with a full understanding of the offense and so many versatile weapons around him, he should be able to aid the young offensive line by making quick decisions.
I expect even bigger numbers for Franks, in the coming season. As much as this has to do with his personal development, I believe it has even more to do with the overall confidence of this team. For the first time in a long time, the Gators have their signature swagger. It has been feigned in recent years, but this is the real deal. The good stuff.
Behind Franks, is a pair of talented and capable quarterbacks. Kyle Trask has been in the program for as long as Franks has, and has endured his own unique trials along the way.
Trask was the backup to D’Eriq King in high school and flew under the radar in terms of recruitment. Still, he found himself receiving an offer from Florida after coaches saw him throwing at a camp. Trask has displayed poise and dignity through his quiet leadership, even if only in a backup role.
With so many players searching for greener pastures via the transfer portal, Trask has shown himself to be a team player. He has the respect of his coaches and teammates and his patience and loyalty is about to be rewarded with a degree in sports management.
Don’t be mistaken. Kyle Trask is not merely an academic. He has the skill set to start at a major collegiate program, but he is content with what his football career has afforded him. Still, he is ready and capable to step in if necessary.
The other quarterback in waiting is Emory Jones. Jones was a big get for Mullen’s transitional class as he boasts the natural talent and skill set that Mullen typically desires in his quarterbacks. His commitment also showed that Mullen is able to win recruiting battles against the best in the business. Jones was committed to Urban Meyer and Ohio State when Mullen was hired as the head coach for Florida.
Jones appeared in limited action last season, keeping with the four game limit of the NCAA’s redshirt rule. Although he showed promise, it was clear that his path would benefit greatly from slow and steady development. That development will likely continue in 2019 in the form of a series of packages designed just for the talented dual-threat athlete.
While it has not been confirmed, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see a Franks/Jones combination that looks similar to the tandem of Leak and Tebow, back in 2006. Although, I believe Franks to be a much better runner than Leak was. The point remains, Jones is the future and it would be beneficial to get him used to live-action whenever possible.
As we approach year two under Dan Mullen, it is apparent that the Gators are on an upward trajectory. Questions about the quarterback position, that had become an annual tradition, appear to be in the past. Mullen, an already proven quarterback whisperer, is sitting ready to show his best work yet.
This concludes our positional preview series, but there is still plenty to cover in the coming weeks. Join in the conversation on our Chomp Talk facebook page and the official @ChompTalk and @MikeyPfeffer Twitter accounts.