Why I cannot wait for the final chapter of Feleipe Franks in the SEC
To understand the whole Feleipe Franks experience, let me take you back to Week 0 of the 2019 season.
Facing a 20-17 deficit to Miami with just under 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter, Franks delivered a throw that would’ve made NFL scouts drool. It was a 46-yard dart that hit a streaking Josh Hammond perfectly in stride for a 65-yard gain. Three plays later, Franks called his own number on a shotgun keeper and split a pair of Miami defenders with a dive past the goal line for the go-ahead score.
As Franks celebrated on the Florida sideline, TV cameras caught him giving high-fives to the front row of fans … and then it appeared that Franks stopped and had some words for a Miami fan who appeared to be heckling him. It was a different reaction than 10 months earlier when Franks shushed the home crowd at The Swamp following a touchdown run against South Carolina, but it was a similar feel. Those were things you’d never see from fellow SEC veterans quarterbacks like Tua Tagovailoa or Jake Fromm.
So on Florida’s first play on the next possession, Franks dropped back to pass while preserving the 24-20 lead with 4 and a half minutes left. After a pump fake and a bit of backside pressure, he threw into what looked like a triangle of Miami defenders … and 0 Florida receivers. Intercepted. It was the type of throw you don’t make in the 1st quarter, much less in your own territory late in a game in which you’re preserving a 1-score lead.
The pass was, in every way, baffling. So baffling it was, that we got this all-time reaction from Steve Spurrier:
Steve Spurrier watching Feleipe Franks play Quarterback 😂 pic.twitter.com/VsR8B6yKPx
— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) August 25, 2019
And that, Arkansas fans, is the Feleipe Franks experience that you just signed up for.
Don’t get it twisted. I’m excited for this and think it was a key move for Sam Pittman to get in Year 1. After the previous regime shuffled through quarterbacks like playing cards, Arkansas now has someone who won a New Year’s 6 Bowl as a full-time starter.
My excitement isn’t necessarily because I think Franks is going to rewrite the record books in his year in Fayetteville. It’s because of that aforementioned roller coaster that he always seems to provide.
That was at Florida, where Franks was surrounded by one of the sport’s best offensive minds (Dan Mullen), weapons galore and an elite defense. And yet still, he was an unpredictable roller coaster (the shushing incident was a week after Franks was benched in a blowout home loss to Mizzou).
With his surroundings at Arkansas — which could change a lot with February signing day and the inevitable transfer portal moves upcoming — Franks isn’t just a roller coaster. He’s Mentos in a Diet Coke bottle.
It’s something that makes a team with 1 SEC win in the past 3 years much more entertaining than it’s been in recent memory.
His highs are higher than the majority of people who play the position at the FBS level. It’s the NFL throw over the middle like he made against Georgia in the 2018 matchup. It’s running through the teeth of a defense to fuel a blowout win against Michigan in the Peach Bowl.
Florida takes the lead over Michigan after Feleipe Franks takes it to the house 🐊
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) December 29, 2018
And Franks’ lows are also lower than the majority of people who play the position at the FBS level. It’s getting into spats with fans (home or visiting). It’s making a throw that would make a Pop Warner coach pull their hair out.
He’s talented. He’s sensitive. He’s exciting. He’s maddening.
Franks is to the SEC what Jameis Winston is to the NFL. That is, someone who even the neutral observer can sit down and watch for 3 hours, and experience a wide range of emotions. One minute, he’s a star who looks every bit like an all-world player. The next, he does something that makes you wonder how he got to this level of football.
Now obviously that’s not an air-tight comp. After all, Winston just became the first member of the 30-30 club (30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in a season) while Franks only threw 6 interceptions during his breakout 2018 campaign. His 24-6 TD-INT ratio was the best at Florida since Tim Tebow. If I had a nickel for every time I heard/read that stat before the 2019 season, I would have had a lucrative side hustle.
But in fitting Franks fashion, there’s always another side to the story.
How many times has Franks played against a Power 5 team? Including 2017, that number is 22 games. And in those 22 games, how many times did Franks complete 65% of his passes and throw for multiple touchdowns? Once. It was in 2018 against Vanderbilt. Against Power 5 competition, Franks has just as many games completing 50% or fewer passes than he does completing 65% or more passes (7).
Even during that breakout season, Franks was 7th in the SEC in passer rating and he was 9th in the SEC (No. 58 nationally) in yards per attempt. Efficiency is not his middle name.
Franks, like Winston, is the most extreme version of the saying “you take the good with the bad.” Even when his Saturday stat line suggests he was nothing more than a game manager, Franks has a way of avoiding that label because of the peaks and valleys that come with watching him. Arkansas wasn’t in any position to scoff at that.
At this point, it feels like we should know what to expect in 2020. Franks is going to make some throws that Arkansas fans haven’t seen since Ryan Mallett. Franks will probably also make some decisions that remind Arkansas fans of Cole Kelley (no offense). Will we know when either of those instances are coming? Probably not. That’s the Feleipe Franks experience.
But you know what? I’m here for it.
If there is more good than bad, I look forward to seeing Franks mature before our eyes. And for the sake of poor Arkansas fans who have been subjected to some putrid quarterback play, I hope there’s not more bad than good. But I look forward to all the entertainment that comes if that’s how it plays out.
Call it Franks’ SEC swan song, if you will. I’ll just call it appointment viewing.
Mentos and Coke provided.