University of Florida

This redshirt sophomore Florida Gators starter gets an opportunity to redeem himself

Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks (13) throws a pass over defensive lineman Cece Jefferson, left, during an NCAA college spring football intrasquad game, in Gainesville, Fla.
Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks (13) throws a pass over defensive lineman Cece Jefferson, left, during an NCAA college spring football intrasquad game, in Gainesville, Fla. AP

A year really does make a difference.

Redshirt sophomore Feleipe Franks can attest to that.

A not-so surprise announcement on Monday left Franks atop the UF quarterbacks list on the team’s latest depth chart.

He now has the chance to right the wrongs of last year’s inconsistent 4-7 season. He threw for 1,438 yards with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Mullen said the choice to put Franks ahead of redshirt sophomore Kyle Trask, who was his biggest competitor throughout camp, involved a lot of Franks’ intangible qualities.

The 6-foot-6, 240-pound quarterback has the build, the mobility and the arm strength.

Franks appears to have shown tremendous mental growth in the preseason and has developed chemistry and trust among his teammates.

Jawaan Taylor and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson also lauded Franks’ newfound leadership and comfort under the new coaching staff.

“He’s growing into his body more. I feel like being back there, finding out how big he is and what he can really do,” Gardner-Johnson said. “He can run the ball, stand in the pocket. A lot of people criticize him over ‘Can he sit there and take a hit?’ Feleipe is what, 260, 240? He’s a pretty big quarterback.”

Franks told reporters after Tuesday’s practice that he’s always had the confidence in himself to be the starting quarterback but is still in the process of developing.

“I got a lot of ways to go. I’m growing as a player and as a quarterback,” Franks said. “Coach Mullen and coach Johnson are doing a good job of moving me along a little quicker than what I was doing myself.”

So, with Franks deemed the guy who will take snaps for the Gators, now what?

Fall camp resulted in a few other noteworthy listings on UF’s depth chart. Here are a couple additional takeaways.

The 6-foot-2, 242-pound Jachai Polite had perhaps one of the best camps out of anyone on defense, which led to him getting that lead role in the buck position ahead of senior CeCe Jefferson.

And coach Dan Mullen put it simply at Monday’s press conference when reporters asked what went into making the decision for Polite over the veteran lineman.

“He’s had a great training camp. He’s worked his tail off,” Mullen said. “and you know, it’s the effort you give on the field.”

Polite’s quickness coupled with his ability to play low makes him the No. 1 guy to play on the outside in defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme.

“Out of anybody on our defense he closes the best,” teammate Tedarrell Slaton said of Polite. “He’s real quick on his feet, light and he can run from any side of the field. He’s gonna chase the ball.”

Slaton (6-4, 358 pounds) will start as defensive tackle on Saturday with Elijah Conliffe (6-4, 317 pounds) at the nose position and Jabari Zuniga at defensive end.

6-foot-4, 314 pound lineman Brett Heggie could play backup to Tyler Jordan at left guard. Or he could get the starting job at center.

Center is still up for grabs between Nick Buchanan, T.J. McCoy and Heggie.

“That’s a situation I want to see right now … It’s a tight battle, so I want to see who’s gonna handle that the best,” Mullen said. “Brett Heggie’s been banged up a little bit, but he’s back healthy now. We’ll see how that works, if he’s gonna be more comfortable competing at center possibly or guard as the week goes as well.”

Heggie said after practice that he’s comfortable at either position and doesn’t have a preference.

As it stands, senior Martez Ivey and junior Jawaan Taylor will play left and right tackle, respectively. The duo started and played all 11 games last season. And Fred Johnson will round out the line at right guard.

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