Florida QB Feleipe Franks will not return to Gators in 2020, future to be determined

By Adam Silverstein
December 1, 2019
Florida QB Feleipe Franks will not return to Gators in 2020, future to be determined

Image Credit: Twitter / GatorsFB

Redshirt junior quarterback Feleipe Franks announced Sunday that he will not return to the Florida Gators for the 2020 season. Franks, who missed the majority of 2019 with a fractured ankle suffered earlier in the campaign, was unclear about his future in a message posted to Instagram.

“It has been my dream to play at the University of Florida,” Franks said. “… My heart will always be a part of the Gator family. Coach [Dan] Mullen and Coach [Brian] Johnson have meant so much to me, and I want to thank both of them for putting their trust in me. I also want to thank Mr. Jeremy Foley and Mr. Scott [Stricklin] as well, as everybody inside the football facility has always had my back no matter what.”

Franks said he is not sure what his future holds. He will be evaluated for the 2020 NFL Draft before deciding whether to make a professional turn or seek an opportunity elsewhere. As a graduate transfer, Franks would be immediately eligible at another college program.

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

This 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 67.6 percent of his passes for 2,636 yards, 27 total touchdowns and six 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 five of his nine starts while also scoring 3+ total touchdowns in five of nine 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’ decision to test NFL waters makes sense, though it is unlikely that there would be any significant interest from the league considering his inconsistency and health. An opportunity in the debuting XFL may have been an option if the league was starting later in the year and not this spring. His most likely destination is another college team as a graduate transfer with one year of eligibility remaining. That is the route Jeff Driskel successfully took.

No matter where Franks winds up, he 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.

Franks’ last gesture as a member of the program is a selfless one that will help the Gators long term as his quick departure before bowl practice and the early signing period — not to mention spring practice — clears up the quarterback picture for 2020 and likely relaxes any potential angst Jones would have about the bodies involved in a competition next season.


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