If Feleipe Franks had to go in for a single down during the late season stretch he was listed as backup quarterback, he would have lost an entire year of eligibility for it. That was enough in the eyes of McElwain to keep from inserting the young man at all in any of the games.
Franks wasn’t ready at any point last season and that is usually the case for freshmen quarterbacks fresh out of high school. With a second spring under his belt, McElwain feels he is much more prepared.
“We went far enough down the road and obviously Austin Appleby was here and did a good job, in fact he’s in camp with the Cowboys as well,” McElwain said of the grad transfer quarterback who started in place of Del Rio last year. “We were able to kind of survive it I guess more than anything and give him that full year as it was.
“Based on what we saw in spring it was really a good decision. I was excited for what he was able to do all the way through Swamp Life (offseason conditioning program) and through spring practice. You know what… he’s doing a good job in what we’re doing through this phase.”
Maybe McElwain won’t have to make the decision to keep someone in Franks’ position on the bench for very much longer. New legislation is being proposed to allow players during their redshirt season, to play in up to four games at any point in the season. As it stands now, if a player plays, he can play in up to 30% of the scheduled games in the first half of the season, but has to have a season ending injury in order to qualify for the redshirt.
Florida had linebacker Jeremiah Moon fall in that category a year ago and he should qualify for the redshirt status. But McElwain would be in favor of the new proposal that if approved couldn’t start until the 2018 season. He would actually just like to let everyone have a fifth year altogether.
“Why not just let them play?” McElwain asked rhetorically. “Give them five years of eligibility and call it the way it is. As you get late in the season and you have those guys that want to get in there and played in (the first few games) we’re trying to figure out when to use them and when not to use them. I do think that’s a good rule.
At least one player on Florida’s roster would have benefited from the rule. Defensive end Keivonnis Davis will be a junior in 2017 because injuries and depth issues forced him to play in the last few games of the 2015 season. Because he wasn’t ready early in the year, he is somewhat penalized for needing to help his team out.
McElwain hopes the SEC Spring Meetings in a few weeks will bring about one change. The conference has a rule that limits the number of graduate transfers schools can take if previous players in the same position fail to meet certain academic qualifications at the school. The Gators are facing the issue now with former offensive lineman Mason Halter and linebacker Anthony Harrell failing to meet those requirements.
The issue that McElwain has with it is that the SEC is on uneven ground with other conferences because the conference is the only one with the rule.
They would like to sign on Notre Dame transfer quarterback Malik Zaire if he decides to come to Florida, but are in a holding pattern waiting on the rule to be discussed and hopefully voted down at the Spring meetings.
“The way I look at any of the rules, I think all the conferences playing on the same page makes sense,” McElwain said. “But you know what, if it changes, it changes, if it doesn’t, you just keep moving on. I guess it is something we’ll find out here in Destin and it is what it is.