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Friday, December 02, 2022

Feleipe Franks makes mistakes.

He can stare down receivers. He can leave the pocket too early or make the wrong read or pull the trigger too late. But what we learned from the Tennessee game (very little) is that Feleipe is growing.

There’s one play in the UF-UT matchup that perfectly sums up my feelings: the first — and only — snap of Florida’s second drive of the second quarter.

Franks takes a shotgun snap with three receivers to his left. Wideout Freddie Swain, who’s lined up closest to the line, tries to run an intermediate crossing route. He’s bumped at the line-of-scrimmage by linebacker Will Ignont but continues his path to the first-down marker and across the field to the near sideline.

Franks looks to Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes first, who are each running streaks down the field. When he sees they’re both covered, he turns his attention to Swain, who has been picked up by a safety running between the hashes. Franks has spent four comfortable seconds in the pocket at this point, but he’s starting to feel the heat from the outside rush. He scrambles to his right and looks to his checkdown, running back Jordan Scarlett, but he’s covered by another linebacker.

Here’s the learning moment for Franks. We watched last season as Franks would either try to make something happen on his own or take a sack as opposed to throwing the ball away. I remember feeling a tinge of anticipation from the Neyland Stadium press box watching this unfold in real time. This play could’ve shifted momentum toward Tennessee. A quarterback on the run who has a penchant for making mistakes.

But this is the new Feleipe Franks. He keeps his eyes downfield, finds Swain has run out of the safety’s zone coverage and hits him in stride. Swain takes it the remaining 50 yards, and Florida runs away with the game.

This isn’t the only instance of Franks making better decisions with the ball. His numbers this season are absolutely out of character for a QB who threw eight picks on 229 attempts (3.5 percent interception rate) in 2017. So far, he has had two on 95 attempts (2.1 percent interception rate).

Franks still makes mistakes. His completion percentage this season (52.6) is two points lower than last year. He still makes weird decisions while running. That John-Elway-styled dive on his run late in the second quarter was... curious, to say the least. Don’t get me started on his neglect of Malik Davis on the two-point conversion attempt against Kentucky.  

But he’s taking steps toward learning from those mistakes. You can see it happening more every week. He’s starting to throw the ball away when he’s in trouble. He’s starting to look like a more prototypical Dan Mullen quarterback.

More importantly, Feleipe Franks is looking competent in Florida’s backfield. When was the last time you could say that about any UF quarterback?

“A quarterback away from contention,” has been the reprieve of many Gators fans since Will Grier left the program. While Florida may not contend for an SEC title this season, an additional two years of Franks behind the wheel doesn’t sound as bad as it did last season.

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I’m sure Gator Nation would love to have former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant transfer here. I know Mullen would start him ASAP if that turns out to be the case, and I wouldn’t blame him. But Franks is good enough for now, and will only improve with time.

 

Morgan McMullen is the sports editor at the Alligator. Follow him on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin and contact him at mmcmullen@alligator.org.

 

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