When Feleipe Franks stepped foot on UF’s campus last Spring as an early enrollee, the level of hype and expectation surrounding his arrival was through the roof.
The four-star quarterback from Crawfordville, Florida, had just completed a senior campaign at Wakulla High School that saw him throw for 2,766 yards, 35 touchdowns and two interceptions.
His passer rating of 137.0 was one of the best marks in the country as well, and his 6-foot-6, 219-pound frame gave him rare size and measurables that left many college scouts drooling.
However, when Franks finally made his highly anticipated debut in front of Gators fans at Florida’s Spring game on April 8, 2016, his performance was less than stellar.
Playing under the bright lights of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Franks struggled mightily against UF’s first-team defense, throwing an interception on each of his opening three series.
An 18-year-old Franks turned things around slightly at the end of the contest, tossing a 16-yard touchdown to tight end C’yontai Lewis, but by then the damage had already been done.
Franks, while loaded with talent and potential, showed that he was simply not ready to lead Florida’s offense in 2016 and instead sat out the year behind Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby.
“You learn from it, you learn from your mistakes,” Franks said. “You go back and look at the film and see what you did wrong and then not do it again… I think it was a case of me just not coming in and getting comfortable with everybody.”
Now, after spending the past year familiarizing himself with Doug Nussmeier’s offense, Franks feels ready to take over as UF’s quarterback of the future.
The redshirt freshman has made tremendous strides this Spring on the mental side of the game, learning how to read defenses more consistently while also improving on his preparation in the classroom.
Although he is currently in a tight battle for the starting job with fellow gunslinger Kyle Trask, Franks said the two frequently help each other and use the competition as fuel to improve their games.
“It’s going to get each and every one of us better,” he said. “I’m working my butt off every day for that opportunity.”
Nussmeier, Florida’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, has seen improvements in Franks’ confidence as well, but is quick to point out that he has a long way to go in his development.
“He’s still a redshirt freshman, so there’s all different kinds of things,” Nussmeier said. “He has great, great belief in his arm strength, so at times we’ve got to teach him that you can’t make every throw and sometimes you can’t throw it through three guys.”
UF quarterback Feleipe Franks warms up prior to Florida's 30-3 win against Iowa in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2, 2017, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.