Former Florida QB Feleipe Franks stays in SEC with transfer to Arkansas

By Adam Silverstein
January 20, 2020
Former Florida QB Feleipe Franks stays in SEC with transfer to Arkansas
Football

With one year of collegiate eligibility remaining, former Florida Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks decided after the 2019 season that he would choose to play elsewhere. Monday night, Franks made his transfer destination official when he announced on Instagram that he will continue his career with the Arkansas Razorbacks.

The move is a curious one for Franks considering he is not only staying inside the SEC but moving to a team that just completed a 2-10 (0-8 SEC) season and hired an offensive line coach in Sam Pittman as its head coach. It is unknown how many suitors there ultimately were for Franks’ services, but considering this is his last season before he presumably hopes to make it in the NFL, he is putting a lot of eggs in the basket of offensive coordinator Kendall Briles

To be fair, Briles did help FAU’s offense win the program a Conference USA championship in 2017, and he again succeeded at Houston in 2018. But he had a rough go of it at Florida State under Willie Taggart, and the Arkansas playmaking talent is not necessarily next-level.

After his injury, Franks was replaced as Florida’s starter this year by Kyle Trask, who became the first Gators quarterback since Tim Tebow to throw for 300+ yards and 3+ touchdowns in three or more games in a single season. The rising redshirt senior is expected to return as the starter in 2020, though rising redshirt sophomore Emory Jones will provide immense competition this spring. No matter who starts next season, both will likely see significant action throughout the year.

This officially marks the end of a turbulent career for Franks at Florida. A heavily-recruited four-star prospect who was not projected to start until his third year with the program, injury thrust Franks into action as a redshirt freshman in 2017. He completed only 54.6 percent of his passes and posted nine touchdowns to eight interceptions, losing six straight games late in the season.

The hiring of head coach Dan Mullen was expected to be a boon for Franks in 2018, and after he got off to a rocky start that led to fans calling for his ouster as the team’s starter, he recovered to put together a tremendous end to the season. Franks started the year 6-1 with two top 25 victories but did not look particularly good in those games. Consecutive bad losses to Georgia and Missouri (the latter on homecoming) led to Mullen benching Franks for Trask. However, Trask suffered a season-ending foot injury just a couple days later in practice, pushing Franks back into the starting role.

Franks responded by leading a come-from-behind win against South Carolina that week. He infamously “sushed” the crowd at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with a finger to his lips twice in that game, which bothered some but to most showed a renewed confidence and mindset. That carried over to Florida’s final three games of the season where it put forth dominant efforts.

The Gators outscored their last three opponents 145-39, ending a seven-game losing streak to Florida State and blasting Michigan in the Peach Bowl. Franks completed 63.2 percent of his passes and scored nine total touchdowns with no interceptions in those games. He ended the year with 31 total touchdowns and six picks, eye-popping totals and the best Florida had seen since Tebow.

The 2019 season started well enough for Franks as he was completing 76.1 percent of his passes and won his first two games, but he committed two costly turnovers in the opener against Miami and was struggling mightily on the road at Kentucky in Game 3 before suffering his season-ending injury. Trask entered that game and led the Gators to 19 unanswered points on three fourth-quarter touchdown drives.

Trask went on to complete 66.9 percent of his passes for 2,941 yards, 29 total touchdowns and seven interceptions this season. After getting over some fumbling issues in his first few games, Trask was exceedingly careful and commanding with the ball. His only losses came by a total of 21 points to two of the top four teams in the nation (LSU on the road, Georgia at a neutral site), and he passed for 282+ yards in six of his 10 starts while also scoring 3+ total touchdowns in five of 10 games.

A return to Florida for Franks would likely have been a disaster. Not only does he have to continue his rehabilitation, which would have put him behind the 8-ball during spring practice, Franks would have needed to beat out one quarterback who won over the fan base and another who is clearly the future of the program. Even if Franks did somehow win the job, he would have been on an exceedingly short leash, which could have led to a wasted season in his final year of eligibility.

Franks will be remembered as having one of the most contentious careers in program history considering the heights of his highs and the depths of his lows. His last gesture as a member of the program was a selfless one that will help the Gators long term as his quick departure before Orange Bowl practice and the early signing period — not to mention spring practice — cleared up the quarterback picture for 2020 and likely relaxed any potential angst Jones would’ve had about the bodies involved in a competition next season.

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