With a bit of an asterisk, so far, so good.
The national unveiling of what Florida hopes, finally, is the next great thing at quarterback came off without a hitch – in the plan or in the throwing motion.
Heralded redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks looked poised and efficient in leading the Orange to a 31-0 win over the outmanned Blue in Florida’s spring game Friday night. He stood tall in the pocket and displayed a crisp, over-the-top throwing motion and good arm strength. He was 8-of-14 for 119 yards and a touchdown. He did not throw an interception. He played only in the first half.
But it is important to note the asterisk: Coach Jim McElwain wisely stacked the deck heavily in Franks’ favor. Franks played exclusively with the first team against the second team. But in truth, with all the injured players being held out, the “second team” really was some second-teamers and some third-teamers. Meanwhile, except for regular rotation receivers Dre Massey and Freddie Swain, the first-team offense had virtually every player who will contribute in the fall. That includes a rebuilt and suddenly physical offensive line, a host of swift receivers and tight ends and all three NFL-caliber running backs – Jordan Scarlett, Mark Thompson and Lamical Perine. So Franks should have looked good.
The point is, he did. Most of his eight completions were checkdowns or short throws designed to allow the receivers to make yards after the catch. But there were three throws of note: a beautifully thrown 46-yard bomb along the right sideline to Josh Hammond early in the game, a 21-yard second-quarter crossing pattern to Brandon Powell and a 16-yard corner route for a touchdown to Antonio Callaway late in the half. On each of those throws, Franks dropped quickly, set his feet and threw perfectly.
Overall, he was not perfect. He had Hammond open for a touchdown on a seam route on the play right after his long pass but fired a laser well over his head. And in the second quarter, he had Scarlett open on a simple swing pass and threw that high as well. But there was far more good than bad. The truth is, for one night at least, he looked the part.
Media members can’t explain passing mechanics or proper technique the way the former quarterbacks can. But we sort of know it when we see it. I thought Franks looked much better than he had the few times we had seen him in practice, including the three-interception night in last year’s spring game. He managed the huddle, never seemed confused, was aware of the play clock, didn’t force throws. His footwork seemed much better, his drops in rhythm, that picturesque over-the-top throwing motion much shorter and tighter. It got long a few times – like the overthrows. McElwain pointed that out when he was interviewed immediately after the game. But the progress is clear.
And so is the hope. For a program and a fan-base so starved to finally have a quarterback around whom to build, the athletic, 6-foot-6, strong-armed Franks looks like he could be the guy.
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