Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks throws a pass Friday during the Orange and Blue Debut at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Orange and Blue Debut: Franks pulls ahead of Trask at QB
Florida's Friday night under the lights turned out to be very revealing. Three items stuck out.
One, Feleipe Franks has pulled ahead of Kyle Trask in the quarterback race and enters the offseason as the clear No. 1.
Two, the Gators starters are clearly superior to the subs at this stage, as evidenced by the final score: Orange (starters) 31, Blue (backups) 0.
Three, coach Jim McElwain is pleased with the direction this team appears to be heading following 15 spring practices.
“We got better. We had a really good spring,” McElwain said. “The momentum we have taken just even from our bowl game, how our guys attacked Swamp Life. How they came back after spring break.
“I'm excited about this team. I really like this team. I think we're going to be all right. We had some good things happen tonight.”
Earlier in the week, McElwain revealed that there has been separation in the quarterback competition, but did not say which one has pulled ahead.
On Friday night, everyone in The Swamp (and watching on the SEC Network) saw that the guy is Franks.
Working with the No. 1 offense for the entire first half, Franks was clearly the best quarterback on the field. He got off to a quick start with a 46-yard strike to wide receiver Josh Hammond and kind of took it from there, completing eight of 14 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown and then sat out the second half.
“He did all right,” McElwain said. “He's ahead.”
Franks showed poise Friday night. And it appears he'll keep it as he moves forward in the competition for the starting role, which, of course, is not over.
“Me and Kyle have been working together and that's how we got here,” Franks said. “It's made each one of us better, as well as everyone on the team. We're going to continue to do that. That's what got us this far. Me and him are going to continue to do that this summer and fall and that decision is up to Coach Mac and Coach Nuss (offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier). That's what they're there for and they do a great job of it.
“They done a great job working with all the quarterbacks. We've improved a lot since last spring. It showed out there.”
McElwain also gave good grades to his other two quarterbacks — Trask and true freshman Kadarius Toney, who excited the crowd with his elusiveness and playmaking ability running the read-option offense in the fourth quarter.
Trask, who had almost no chance in the first half against a heavy-rushing No. 1 defense, finally got a chance to work with the starting offense in the third quarter and led the Orange team to a quick touchdown, completing passes of 15 and 20 yards.
For the game, Trask was 6 of 15 for 66 yards with an interception. Toney completed 3 of 5 for 24 yards and a touchdown and was the game's leading rusher with 74 yards, all in the fourth quarter.
“All the quarterbacks did a decent job,” McElwain said. “We kept it pretty vanilla. There is no sense in showing all we're going to do when we open up in that first ball game.
“(Franks) played decent, yet Kyle took that drive down pretty good. I'm excited about Kadarius. We know what we have there. He will be a guy that needs to touch the ball for us.
“I hope you saw what I saw. Those quarterbacks were very comfortable, you could see them setting their feet and the ball thrown from the pocket. I think we're going to be all right.”
McElwain said the next step is to decide on a starting quarterback and keep developing him.
“Being able to develop a guy is something we've been able to do at other stops along the way,” he said. “We've got to go with who is going to give us the best opportunity to win the ball game. That's what we have to do, win ball games. We've won a few, but we've got to win more.”
Franks turned in a winning performance Friday night.
“He did awesome,” sophomore cornerback Chauncey Gardner said. “He made the right reads, got the ball to the right guys, converted third downs. He did pretty good to me. I didn't see any flaws.
“He improved from day one, just like everyone else has done. As a team, we're moving up.”
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