For Feleipe Franks, the start of spring football practice this week brings one thing to the forefront of his mind.
Franks, the lanky 6-foot-5, 227-pound quarterback who played in all 11 games for UF last season — starting eight of them — had as disappointing a campaign in 2017 as any player on the Gators’ roster.
He completed just 54.6 percent of his passes, the second-worst mark in the SEC among qualified players, and was frequently the target of criticism and blame from frustrated fans.
But with the Gators’ disastrous 4-7 season last fall behind him and first-year coach Dan Mullen providing a new opportunity, Franks is ready for a fresh start.
“It’s a sigh of relief, new air in the building,” he said. “I don’t spend too much time going back dwelling on what I should have did or what I could have did.”
Instead, Franks is focused on winning the battle for Florida’s starting quarterback job, a competition that begins this Friday when the team kicks off its four-week-long spring practice schedule.
Luke Del Rio and Malik Zaire, UF’s other two players to receive time under center last season, left the program this summer, leaving the inexperienced group of freshman Emory Jones, redshirt freshman Jake Allen and redshirt sophomore Kyle Trask as the only other candidates for the role.
Jones, an early enrollee and the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback recruit in the country, according to 247Sports, appears to be Franks’ biggest threat.
He threw for 1,197 yards and 10 touchdowns through the first eight games of his senior year at Heard County High School in LaGrange, Georgia, and also rushed for 494 yards and six touchdowns over those eight games.
Despite Jones’ upside and Franks’ inconsistencies, teammates haven’t backed away from voicing support for last season’s starter.
“Even though (Franks) had his ups and downs, he never showed that he was down,” junior receiver Josh Hammond said. “That was big for us just as a team moving forward knowing that he would never give up.”
And Franks has shown flashes of potential.
He completed 19-of-28 passes against Tennessee on Sept. 16, including a game-winning 63-yard touchdown to receiver Tyrie Cleveland as time expired. He also recorded a 79-yard run against Texas A&M on Oct. 14, breaking the record for longest rush by a quarterback in school history.
“I’ve always wanted to lead the team and be that guy that can bring us to a championship,” he said. “I know it doesn’t seem that way, the way last year went. But like I said, we closed that book.”
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Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks is looking to move on from a disappointing 2017 campaign.