Back Noise Cancellation Fueled Turnaround for Franks, Florida

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Noise Cancellation Fueled Turnaround for Franks, Florida

By Matt Smith
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For Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks, being the face of the Florida offense heading into the 2019 season seemed like a longshot last November.

“He had to learn how to block out the outside noise and not worry about what’s not important."
~Dan Mullen

The end of the road seemed near.

For Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks, being the face of the Florida offense heading into the 2019 season seemed like a longshot last November. After a promising 6-1 start to 2018, Franks and the Gators sputtered against two fellow SEC East contenders, losing by 19 and 21 to Georgia and Missouri respectively.

Franks completed only 22 of his 43 passing attempts in those two games (that’s barely over 50 percent if you’re numerically challenged), and Florida plummeted from the top ten to a No. 19 ranking in just two weeks. A third straight defeat, in a game at home against South Carolina and former Florida head coach Will Muschamp, would render Florida’s season a disappointment and perhaps the same for Franks’ legacy.

For a team that’s struggling, there is no player more popular than the backup quarterback. At Florida, that was prized true freshman Emory Jones, a Top 100 recruit in his signing class. Having only played in two games at that point, Jones could still play the final two regular-season games and preserve his redshirt season. With Franks in a funk, it seemed like it was time to pull the plug.

The Gators fell behind South Carolina 14-0, but quickly leveled the score. However, the Gamecocks dominated the second and third quarters, and Franks and Florida found themselves needing to overcome a 31-14 deficit in the final 16 minutes to save their season.

With time of the essence, Florida turned back into the explosive Gators offense of the ‘90s.

75 yards. Touchdown.

89 yards. Touchdown.

66 yards. Touchdown.

Franks missed just once on seven pass attempts, and was highly productive with his legs. His one-yard run with four minutes to play put the Gators ahead for the first time – a lead they would not relinquish.

Florida 35, South Carolina 31. So much for a quarterback controversy.

Franks was the face of the Florida offense at SEC Media Days on Monday, handling a steady stream of boilerplate “talking season” questions with the composure you’d expect of a successful SEC quarterback. But it wasn’t that long ago though that many wondered if Franks would even still be on the team at this time, let alone being one of the three representatives at SEC Media Days.

“When something doesn’t go my way, I’ve always been taught you keep on working,” Franks said of last season’s slip. “You don’t just give up and turn your back.”

Franks wouldn’t admit to any internal doubts, but they were evident externally, including from his head coach.

“He had to learn how to block out the outside noise and not worry about what’s not important,” Gators head coach Dan Mullen said. “If whoever was tweeting at [Franks] on Twitter was a more qualified quarterback coach than me or (Florida quarterback coach) Brian Johnson, they would be our quarterback coach. I don’t know why their opinion would even matter.”

That doubt changed with three long touchdown drives on consecutive series last November.

“I’ve been wanting the production to meet my work ethic,” Franks said. “That’s what I’ve been waiting for. That’s what happened.”

Mullen agreed that there was a turning point last November when his quarterback narrowed his focus.

“Look at your skill set, look at what you’re able to do, and go do those things at a high level. When he started to do that, he really took off, and finished the season really strong and had a great spring.”

Franks learned to block out his critics, ignore the noise, and squashed any notion of a quarterback change in Gainesville.

Florida never lost again after the South Carolina comeback win, expectedly routing Idaho and Florida State by a combined score of 104-24. In the Peach Bowl against Michigan, Franks helped Florida put up 41 points on of the nation’s best defenses during the season, and Florida finished 10-3 and in the top ten for the first time in six seasons. Starting with the South Carolina game, Franks closed the season with eight touchdown passes and no interceptions in his final four games.

The Gators now enter the 2019 season hovering around the top ten again with their sights set on tracking down Georgia as kings of the SEC East. Franks, now a redshirt junior, is the unquestioned starter and rightly belongs in the discussion of the second tier of SEC quarterbacks behind Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Georgia’s Jake Fromm.

As for Jones, he’s quickly become a player Florida fans hope they don’t have to see for another year instead of one they wanted to see immediately.

That’s life in college football. With a nod to Don Henley, in a southern minute, or maybe in 16 southern minutes, everything can change.

Matt Smith - Matt is a 2007 graduate of Notre Dame and has spent most of his life pondering why most people in the Mid-Atlantic actually think there are more important things than college football. He has blogged for College Football News, covering both national news as well as Notre Dame and the service academies. He credits Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel for his love of college football and tailgating at Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn for his love of sundresses. Matt covers the ACC as well as the national scene.