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Franks injury is best outcome for Gators

| Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Feleipe Franks, the junior quarterback for the No. 9 Florida Gators, suffered a devastating injury this past weekend. On a fourth and short with just over three minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Gators found themselves trailing the Kentucky Wildcats 21-10.

Gators head coach Dan Mullen elected to go for the conversion, figuring they were just outside of field goal range. During the play, Franks — not able to find an open receiver — was flushed out to his left after a lead rusher broke through his offensive line through his right side. That rusher was able to wrap up Franks well before he met the line of scrimmage. Franks tried to scramble to earn the first down but was tackled from behind by the Wildcats’ lead rusher. Franks attempted to plow forward but was met by even more Kentucky linemen as he reached the line of scrimmage. Franks was twisted up with his legs caught beneath him, resulting in a truly ugly injury. Franks was carted off the field and is expected to miss the remainder of the season with a dislocated right ankle.

Wishing ill will upon any athlete is something I find disgusting, but for Dan Mullen and Gators fans, this may have been the best possible outcome. Florida has a rich history of producing quarterbacks who have become household names — Tim Tebow, Steve Spurrier and Shane Matthews, to name a few.

Franks seemed to be one of those notorious quarterbacks who was gaining attention for all the wrong reasons. Last season, Franks started against Missouri late in the season and went 9 for 22 on the night. He proceeded to get booed off the field by Gators fans and benched by Mullen, who sent then-redshirt-sophomore Kyle Trask onto the field.

It was homecoming week, so the boos may have originated from some fans who had a little too much to drink, but Franks took it personally — as he had with social media comments in the past. The starting quarterback could not keep his eyes off of the negativity. In their next game against South Carolina, Franks rushed for a touchdown and shushed the Gator faithful. Franks preaches that he doesn’t need anyone’s approval, but he is clearly lying through his teeth — he has also been quoted as saying, “I like to be liked.”

To be frank, Franks is a terrible quarterback and an even worse leader. His post-game press conference answers tend to revolve more around himself than his team or the game. His statements are cluttered with I’s and me’s. This is a trait that must have been concerning Mullen for quite some time, who just a few years ago watched on as Tebow polarized the football world with his humility and athleticism. Mullen has widely been recognized as some sort of quarterback guru, but Franks’ lack of discipline and self-control presented him with a problem he has not faced thus far. 

When Franks went down Saturday evening, redshirt junior Kyle Trask stepped in at quarterback, leading the Gators on a remarkable comeback. Trask led with a clutchness that Franks did not possess, as shown in their Week 0 matchup against Miami Florida.

Trask went 9 for 13 passing in the short 18 minutes of action he saw Saturday, throwing for 126 yards. Trask cut the deficit to 16-21 on an option play where he pitched the ball at the last second to his back who found the end zone virtually untouched. A few drives later, Trask would take the ball himself and score a touchdown on a quarterback keeper, which would end up being the game-winning score.

Only time will tell how Trask will handle the new leadership role after Franks’ traumatic injury, but he is not alone as the Gators also have themselves a solid quarterback in redshirt freshman Emory Jones. Jones earned a redshirt after appearing in just four games last season, but he proved he might be a better scrambler than Franks, and he certainly possesses the speed and arm strength to flourish under Mullen’s leadership.

For Gators fans who found themselves sweating with anxiety throughout Saturday’s game, this change of quarterbacks may come as a relief, and it can only be asked of Mullen why he did not make the change sooner. 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Jimmy Ward

Jimmy is a senior at Holy Cross College, where he studies English and sports management. He is originally from Westfield, Indiana. Currently, Jimmy serves as an associate sports editor at The Observer. You can find him at @jimmyyward on Twitter.

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