Florida quarterbacks Austin Appleby (12) and Feleipe Franks (13) signal in a play from the sideline during a game last season. UF coach Jim McElwain said Monday he's glad the Gators decided not to pull the redshirt off Franks last season and commit to Appleby. [The Associated Press]

Patience paying off for UF with Feleipe Franks

By Robbie Andreu Staff writer
Monday, May 15, 2017 3:14 PM

As Florida’s offensive woes continued to mount in the second half of last season, Jim McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier pondered pulling the redshirt off true freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks and playing him in the final few games.

Ultimately, though, the decision was made to continue to go with graduate transfer Austin Appleby and hold back Franks, saving his year of eligibility.

Looking back, McElwain said it was clearly the right decision.

“We went far enough down the road and, obviously, Austin Appleby was here. He’d done a good job,” McElwain said Monday in the SEC coaches spring teleconference. “We were able to kind of survive it more than anything else and give (Franks) that full year as it was.

“Based on what we saw in the spring, it was a really good decision. I was really excited about what he was able to do, all the way through Swamp Life through spring practice. And he’s done a really good job as far as what we’re doing in this phase.”

Instead of being thrown in the fire late last season, Franks was able to continue to grow his confidence and improve his grasp of the offense on the practice field.

Over the course of the spring, he emerged as the No. 1 quarterback, a role he will have entering preseason camp in August, where the competition at the position will continue between Franks, Kyle Trask, former starter Luke Del Rio and true freshmen Kadarius Toney and Jake Allen.

Franks’ overall performance in the spring, along with his potential, is one reason to feel better about the offense. Another is the improved play of the offensive line, McElwain said.

“I’m really excited about this group,” he said. “This is probably … this is the best we’ve been since I’ve been here at that position. Obviously, we have some number this year.

“That group has consistently gotten a little better. I think it’s a group that actually is now going to be a true strength for the Gators. I’m really excited about how they’ve changed their mindset from a workout standpoint and a competition standpoint. I’m excited to see them play.”

Overall, the Gators had a successful spring to vault them into the critical offseason, McElwain said.

“We got a lot done in our 15 opportunities. It’s been really good,” he said. “Guys are back already for summer school and it’s great to see them and get around them and see how they’re attacking Phase 5 of our program right now.

“We got some things accomplished. We’re going to be all right.”

McElwain addressed several other topics on the conference call, including the early signing period and the SEC’s graduate transfer rule. He also revealed that five assistants on his staff last season were approached about head coaching jobs. One, defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, was offered and accepted the head coaching position at Temple.

“I think that’s awesome,” McElwain said about the interest. “You hate to lose them, but at the same time, it’s recognition of what we’ve been able to do. I’m excited about that.”

As for the new December signing period, McElwain is on board with it. He said he also is in favor of the proposed rule that would allow a player to play in four games without burning his redshirt. Those games could be played at any point in the season, including a bowl game.

“I think it will be real interesting,” McElwain said of the early signing period. “You’ve got a lot of guys, especially down here, who are now looking to get done (with high school) in three-and-a-half years. It will allow them to have their day in the sun with the (early) signing day.

“It will also put some players that maybe have taken reservations rather than a commitment, it’s going to kind of call that bluff. And a lot of schools that have a lot of offers out, we’ll find out how serious they are from that early signing period.

“I think these first couple of years you’re going to see a lot of excitement to it and then it will settle as normal.”

McElwain again was asked about the SEC’s graduate transfer rule. As that rule stands now, UF would not be able to add Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire because two recent UF graduate transfers (Mason Halter and Anthony Harrell) did not make enough academic progress toward their degree.

The league is expected to possibly vote at the SEC spring meetings later this month on a rule change that would bring it in line with the other Power 5 conferences, which would allow the Gators to add Zaire, who is considering UF.

“The way I kind of look at any of those rules, all the conferences kind of play on the same page,” McElwain said. “Makes sense. And, yet, if it changes, it changes. If it doesn’t, you just keep moving on.

“We’ll find out in Destin. Whatever it is, we’ll move on.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or robbie.andreu@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.




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