One of the things that pushed Feleipe Franks to the lead has been the bravado of which he has attacked spring ball. He has been vocal and acting like a leader with his teammates. His leadership skills have been something his teammates have talked about.
The last step was checking the confidence meter, especially after a three interception performance a year ago in the spring game, the last time Gator fans were able to really watch him play on a stage.
Franks was able to get that confidence rolling with one big pass in the first series of the Orange and Blue Debut on a 46-yard bomb to sophomore Josh Hammond. It was a perfectly placed looping spiral of which Franks is known to throw and a big boost for the young man.
“Obviously a confidence booster,” Franks said shortly after the contest about the play. “I think a big role in the quarterback position is just having the confidence. I think for me personally I think that was a confidence booster.”
That confidence has been building all spring and something there was absolutely none of a year ago.
“A tremendous difference,” he said in comparing last year to this one. “Compared to a year ago just getting in and learning the playbook it was hard for me. And with a year’s process of going through a season with Luke (Del Rio) and Austin (Appleby) to help me learn and (offensive coordinator) Coach Nussmeier it made me a whole lot more comfortable coming in to play today.”
While there were some positive moves made, McElwain wasn’t all that pleased with the play of his quarterbacks. Franks in particular missed a couple of short passes near the goal line that his team had to settle for field goals because of. Franks gets it and knows he still has a long way to go.
“I think overall the offense played well,” he said. “The o-line really did a great job protecting the quarterbacks today and giving them time to throw the deep ball. So that wouldn't even have happened without the offensive line playing their butts off today. And that's just a miscommunication on my part on the Scarlett throw (near the end zone). But that's why we have the summer to improve on."
Franks will have an offseason now to really try and keep refining his game and the big areas he needs to work on.
“I think one of the biggest things for me will be getting through my progressions,” he said. “I think continuing to work on that, footwork, everything, everything about that position needs to be sharp in order to play it. I think I’m going to keep working on that.
Franks knows that a starter has not been named for the fall. Luke Del Rio is expected back in the race in the fall as well, so the competition will be a big motivator to get better. He and fellow redshirt freshman Kyle Trask have been battling back and forth all spring and that will continue.
"We've been working together since we've got here to make each one of us better as well as everybody on the team,” Franks said of him and Trask. “And I think we're gonna continue to do that. I think that's what's got us this far. So me and him are gonna continue to do that throughout the summer and the fall. And that decision is up to coach Mac and coach Nuss, and I think that's what they're there for. And they're doing a great job with it.
“I don’t stress about that. That’s what Coach Mac and Coach Nuss are there for. That’s why they’re here, doing a great job at it. I can just go out and play my part - that’s all I can do.
Franks is pretty adamant that the offense will get turned around this season. An offense that has floundered below 100th nationally in the two years since McElwain has arrived. There is a lot of experience in a lot of paces that had none over the last two years.
“I think we have a lot of guys maturing and stepping it up,” Franks said. “We had a great offensive line last year, in my opinion, and we have a great one coming back. At the receiver position we have freshmen turning into sophomores who know the playbook. I think little things like that are going to help us going into this summer, because we have a whole summer we can go into and improve on, as well, before we get into the fall. So I think every little player plays a part.”
Franks expects to have fun out there on the field in 2017.
“We play the game to have fun,” he said. “I think it’s a huge part in playing the game. So I think that’s a big part. I think compared with last year personally, you know what you’re doing now, you’re more comfortable doing what you’re doing. You’re more comfortable in everything that you’re doing. You’re going out there and playing football, something you’ve been doing your whole life. It’s a big key in confidence and helping the team out.”