This offseason, I spent several hours studying Feleipe Franks’ film and publishing an extremely comprehensive film room session on his development and growth from arguably the worst quarterback Florida has had in the past decade to arguably the best. If you haven’t gone through it, or if you need a refresher, the links to it are below.
So with past now covered in great detail, it’s time to look forward and wonder two things together: what can, and what will Feleipe Franks look like in 2019?
First and foremost, let’s start with what we know: the physical tools are there. We know Franks has a rocket launcher where his right arm is supposed to be, which he demonstrated as early as his second game as a Gator. We know the accuracy comes and goes, but when it’s on- it’s on. And though he has a propensity for putting the ball on the ground at extremely inopportune moments, we know that he’s willing to sacrifice his body, lower his shoulder and gut out four yards on the ground if he has to.
But physical tools will only take a quarterback so far. The other aspect of being a quarterback is the mental side, and here is where the questions about Franks start to roll in.
The big question I have about Franks in 2019 is consistency. Without a doubt, Franks enjoyed some incredible moments of success in 2018. He also had some ugly moments- and not just at the beginning of the year, mind you, but throughout the year. And the net result of a bipolar quarterback who does some great things and some terrible things is an average quarterback, because when you make some fantastic plays and some gruesome ones, they cancel each other out. No quarterback is judged solely by his hits; the misses count, too, and so every quarterback is judged by the sum of his film. And though he certainly finished 2018 strong, the sum of his film from 2018 paints the picture of a competent, passable and adequate quarterback. Which is definitely a step up from what he was in 2017, but not where he needs- or wants- to be.
Franks completed 58.4% of his passes last year, which was 84th best among starting quarterbacks in the FBS last year. That’s simply not good enough to carry Florida to any of the heights the program aspires to climb to each year, and there’s a reason it was that low. Or rather, there were four reasons- four separate games where he completed half his passes or fewer. Florida lost two of them.
And as you can see from the film room sessions I linked above, the misses were bad ones, too. Franks had moments in 2018 where he’d one hop screen passes, stare right at open receivers and not throw it to them, overthrow wide open receivers on routes that, had he thrown correctly, would have been easy touchdowns, or occasionally even throw the ball right to a waiting defensive back. Those kinds of things can’t happen more than once in a blue moon if Franks wants to take that next step, and games like the ones he had against Kentucky and Missouri have to be things of the past.
So in 2019, the mantra for Franks has to be to limit the quantity of mistakes, and limit the damage that each one causes. Of course, everybody makes mistakes, nobody is perfect, and therefore it’s not fair to ask for a 100% completion percentage or thread the needle on every throw. Because nobody can do that. Essentially, just don’t let the lows reach the depths of an open trench, keep doing those positive things that make up one half of the “bipolar” label, and all of a sudden, with those same peaks and much less mirroring troughs, Franks can take the next step from being an “average” quarterback to a great one.
Can he do it? Sure. I can’t remember QB play worse than Florida got from Franks in 2017- a statement I make with Treon Harris and Skylar Mornhinweg very much in mind- and Franks went from that to a bullish, tough as nails leader who, yes, had his struggles but would usually find some way to overcome it and guide Florida to victory. And that’s not a criticism of Franks, but rather a tribute to the hard work he put in to make that mammoth leap forward in one year. The precise details of what he needed to do this offseason to prepare for 2019 are different, and like with his 2018 improvement, a good deal of the improvement will come just from taking that many more snaps in live game action, but the plain fact is that he’s made such a monumental jump in one year before, so there is a precedent that has been set for him to do so again in 2019.
And if he does, the number “2019” could find itself forever adorning the walls in one of the corners of the Swamp.