Michigan, Gators fans and the rest of the college football world no longer have to wonder who Florida’s starting quarterback will be on Saturday.
The wait is over. Redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks has officially won the job.
UF coach Jim McElwain announced on Wednesday that Franks beat out graduate transfer Malik Zaire and redshirt junior Luke Del Rio for the right to start this weekend against the Wolverines at AT&T Stadium.
Franks, a 6-foot-5, 227-pound native of Crawfordville, Florida, has never started a game in his college career. Despite that lack of experience, McElwain said he’s confident in his decision, calling Franks “a little bit ahead” of the other two quarterbacks.
“He’s done a really good job,” Florida’s coach said about Franks at Wednesday’s news conference. “We're excited for him.
Franks appeared primed to win the starting role this spring following a strong 8-for-14, 119-yard passing performance in UF’s Orange and Blue Debut on April 7.
The return of Del Rio from shoulder surgery and the transfer of Malik Zaire from Notre Dame, however, dragged the quarterback race into fall camp.
“The competition has really brought out some good things,” McElwain said on Aug. 23. “I’m not naming a starter right now.”
Ultimately, Franks came out on top, impressing his head coach with both his “body of work” and his “big arm.” He’ll not only be the fourth quarterback to start the season opener for the Gators over the last four seasons, he’ll also be the first redshirt freshman to start the season opener since Kyle Morris did in 1988.
“He deserves it,” McElwain said about Franks. “He’s done a good job and we’re excited for him.”
Despite not having taken a snap at the college level yet, Franks isn’t new to playing in big games. He threw for 2,766 yards and 35 touchdowns his senior year at Wakulla High School and led the War Eagles to the Class 5A State Championship Game. He also competed in the 2016 Army All-American Bowl – an all-star game for the best high school football players in the country – and has played twice in the aforementioned Orange and Blue Debut.
Franks struggled his first time around in Florida’s annual spring game, tossing three interceptions over his first four pass attempts.
But after a full year learning the offense and getting comfortable with his teammates, starting left tackle Martez Ivey has noticed a change in the 19-year-old.
“He’s more confident,” Ivey said. “He’s just a whole different Feleipe from last year.”
While Franks’ development has seen “drastic improvements” over the past year, according to offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, no one truly knows how the redshirt freshman will perform until he finally takes the field on Saturday against Michigan. Not even his head coach.
"He's going to be excited," McElwain said about Franks' nerves. "There's no doubt about it."
You can follow Dylan Dixon on Twitter @dylanrdixon, and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.