Feleipe Franks rewatched Florida’s 2016 spring game.
And then he watched it again. And again. And again.
On that day, his first appearance in front of his new home crowd almost a year ago, Franks threw three interceptions and looked out of sorts just about every time he dropped back to pass. He completed just 5 of his 11 pass attempts.
“You take everything away from it,” Franks said last week. “You learn from it, you learn from your mistakes. You go back and look at the film and see what you did wrong and then not do it again.”
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Franks, a redshirt freshman, has a lot more at stake when he steps under the lights this time around.
When Franks takes the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with the rest of his team at 7:30 p.m. on Friday for Florida’s annual spring game, he has a chance to prove that he can handle the role as Florida’s next starting quarterback.
All spring, he has competed with classmate Kyle Trask to find out who will be the next in the lineage to lead Florida’s offense, the 10th since the start of the 2010 season following the departure of Tim Tebow.
“We should know a lot,” Gators coach Jim McElwain said about the quarterback battle, adding that results from the spring game will not be the sole factor in determining the starting quarterback. “I think it’s starting to sort itself out, and the natural question is, ‘Well, what’s sorting itself out?’ You’ll find out.”
Based off the open portions of practice allowed to the media — usually the first 20 minutes on days the team doesn’t scrimmage — Franks is the one separating himself. He has led the first-team offense at just about every viewing period and looked sharp during the past week.
“I’m sure he’ll be excited to get out there and redo whatever he did a year ago,” McElwain said. “... In Feleipe’s case, [he needs to] make sure he knows what color jersey we’re wearing because he kinda threw it to the other ones I think last year.”
But just how much fans will be able to gauge from the spring game overall is up for interpretation.
Friday night’s game, essentially an enhanced scrimmage that has been turned into a “made-for-television event” as McElwain put it, will feature four 12-minute quarters along with some scripted situational drills.
The teams will be starters against backups, which McElwain said allows the coaching staff to see how ready the second-team group is when thrown into game-time situations.
The playbooks will also be limited. After all, McElwain doesn’t want to reveal any special packages five months before the Gators’ 2017 season opener against Michigan.
“We’ll be fairly vanilla,” McElwain said, “and yet in being vanilla the good part is you see how guys play without the scheme piece of it.”
In addition to the quarterback battle, McElwain and his coaching staff have a myriad of points to evaluate during Friday’s two-hour spring game, including:
▪ The physicality and aggressiveness of the offensive line. McElwain has stressed the importance of the group stepping up in the trenches.
▪ How the defensive backs perform. Florida lost three starters in Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson and Marcus Maye from a group that held quarterbacks to a nation-low 92.86 quarterback efficiency. Duke Dawson, last year’s starting nickel corner, and Chauncey Gardner, a hybrid defensive back who can play anywhere in the defensive backfield, have played primarily at outside corner this spring.
▪ The improvement of its young linebackers. Mainstays Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone are gone. In to replace them are sophomore Vosean Joseph and redshirt sophomore Kylan Johnson. Sophomore David Reese will also have an impact in the fall, but he’s sitting out spring following wrist surgery.
“Let the guys go out and play,” McElwain said. “That should be fun.”