Image Credit: UAA/Courtney Culbreath
Though head coach Jim McElwain was not completely clear in his comments on Wednesday during the SEC teleconference, he did infer that the Florida Gators will start graduate transfer Austin Appleby at quarterback for Saturday’s final home game against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
McElwain also indicated that freshman Feleipe Franks will serve as the No. 2 quarterback with fellow freshman Kyle Trask in the No. 3 emergency role.
“Austin will jump out there and take the start,” McElwain said. “Feleipe has been getting a bunch of reps, and Kyle has been getting less. So we’ll go with Austin and Feleipe with Kyle kind of in the bullpen.”
Neither Franks nor Trask has played yet this season, so if Appleby is to go down with injury or play to a level where McElwain deems a replacement is needed, Florida’s coach will effectively be burning a redshirt with three games left in the regular season.
McElwain said the Gators are “not afraid at any point of [Franks] playing,” seemingly referring to both his ability and loss of redshirt status. With Appleby underwhelming in his spot starts this season and redshirt sophomore Luke Del Rio “probably out for a while,” Franks may see the field sooner than later.
When Franks committed to Florida on Nov. 29, 2015, he became one of the most integral Gators commits in years. Ranked as the No. 54 overall player in the 247Sports Composite (No. 5 pro-style quarterback), Franks was a highly-coveted player with a strong arm and plenty of athleticism. He posted nearly 7,000 yards and 82 touchdown passes to 17 interceptions during his high school career with a 30-to-2 touchdown/interception ratio as a senior. Franks enrolled early and has been practicing with the Gators since January.
Appleby has completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 470 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in four appearances (two starts) this season. All three touchdowns came in the first half against Tennessee, a game in which he was completely ineffective in the second half. The next week against Vanderbilt, he went 19 of 28 for 144 yards.