College GameDay analysts share their thoughts on Feleipe Franks heading into 2019
ORLANDO — On Saturday night, Feleipe Franks will have a chance to pick up right where he left off. That is, racking up touchdowns and leading Florida to victories against traditional powerhouse programs.
On Saturday morning, the College GameDay crew will be live in Orlando at Disney World ahead of the Week 0 kickoff game between Florida and Miami at Camping World Stadium. They’ll discuss all things Gators and Canes, and likely the aforementioned Franks.
On Friday morning, the College GameDay crew weighed in on the polarizing Florida quarterback heading into 2019. There was a common thread between what Rece Davis, Kirk Herbstreit and Laura Rutledge (she’ll host SEC Nation in Orlando on Saturday) think of Franks — how he capped off Year 1 with Dan Mullen said a lot.
“Obviously wildly talented from a physical standpoint but it’s been difficult putting it all together,” Davis said. “The way he finished last year, the type of numbers he put up and the way he responded to the booing and the benching and all of those types of things, it probably said as much about him as a quarterback as any of the physical attributes that he has.”
The booing Davis referred to was, of course, when Franks struggled in early November last season. The rocket-armed quarterback was booed by the home fans in a 38-17 loss to Mizzou, which forced him to the bench. Kyle Trask’s season-ending injury in practice the following week meant that Franks still got to start the next game against South Carolina, but a slow start there prompted more boo birds from the Florida faithful.
All Franks did was lead a comeback — during which he shushed the crowd after a touchdown — that fueled a 4-game winning streak to end the season.
Not too often you see a guy shush his own fans.
Feleipe Franks just did that. pic.twitter.com/cIXCb1kJjl
— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) November 10, 2018
During that stretch, Franks put up 862 passing yards for 8.9 yards per attempt with an 8-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio to go along with 177 rushing yards and 4 scores on the ground.
For Herbstreit, the rushing improvement added a game-changing element to Franks’ and Florida’s potential.
“Like everyone else, I think it was a roller coaster ride. He gets booed off the field one game, he comes back and he’s like ‘I got your boo right here’ and then he started moving around, running. I think it was just a willingness to do that,” Herbstreit said. “At 6-6, he’s an athletic guy and I think he just wasn’t the kind of guy who wanted to do that. Then when he did — think about what he did against Florida State and Michigan — it became a different offense when he did that.
“My guess is an entire offseason to get ready, I’m anxious to see if that’s the new Feleipe Franks. Is that the Feleipe that we’re gonna see moving into 2019? If I were Dan Mullen, I would say, ‘Yes, more of that’ because it opened up everything else.”
The “which Franks will we get” is a fascinating question. Rutledge is certainly under the impression that the post-shush Franks will continue into 2019.
“I’m really high on Feleipe Franks,” she said. “I think one of the biggest things people don’t realize is his year, statistically, was the best for a Florida quarterback since Tim Tebow’s senior year 10 years ago. I don’t think he gets enough love. People aren’t really talking about that.
“A lot of that had to do with Dan Mullen and some of the changes that he made offensively and some of his work with Feleipe Franks. I think he’s really gonna be someone that we look back on, even coming into this year, that we didn’t give enough respect to. This is a chance for him against a very good Miami defense to start the year off strong.”
Come Saturday night if Franks reverts back to the quarterback who struggled just to finish games in Jim McElwain’s system as a redshirt freshman in 2017, obviously there will be a few different opinions of Franks. That impressive 4-game finish won’t be held in the same regard.
But Florida is favored by a touchdown following the 10-win season in Year 1 of the Mullen era. The fact that Mullen returns a starting quarterback — as well as 77% of the team’s offensive production — certainly factored into Florida’s No. 8 ranking to start the season.
Despite his track record at MSU working with Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald, it’s the first time a Mullen-coached team earned a preseason top 10 ranking. It’s because of his past quarterback success stories — a certain guy named “Tim Tebow” obviously played under Mullen when he was Florida’s offensive coordinator — that Davis believes the Florida coach can steady Franks’ roller coaster career.
“(Mullen) has a remarkable history of developing quarterbacks and I think Feleipe is the latest in that line. Now how well he’ll play remains to be seen,” Davis said. “I think consistency is the big deal with Feleipe. If he can play consistently as he did at the end of last season — protect the football, take the 15 yards running when it’s there because he’s a gifted athlete so why not take that and keep the sticks moving and be patient — I think he’s got an opportunity to have a tremendous year.
“Because I have great faith not only in his ability but (Mullen) has such a long history of developing quarterbacks that it’d be foolish to bet against him.”
Speaking of betting on Franks, there are 16 quarterbacks who currently have preseason Heisman Trophy odds (via Oddshark). Franks isn’t one of them.
Rutledge was asked an interesting question about Heisman candidates in the state of Florida. As in, who is the best bet out of all the FBS players in the Sunshine State? Her answer was Franks, and that we shouldn’t sleep on the ever-versatile Florida junior Kadarius Toney. As for whether Franks can actually sniff that discussion in 2019, well, Rutledge isn’t ruling it out.
“I’m over here talking about how great Feleipe Franks is, maybe he’s even better than I’m talking about,” Rutledge said. “Maybe we need to be putting some attention on him, as well.”
Something tells me whether it’s Saturday night or a random Tuesday in October, there will be plenty of attention on Franks in 2019.