Gator Franks’ former coach confident QB will win over fans
GAINESVILLE — Scott Klees is quick to admit he is biased about his former quarterback, Feleipe Franks.
Klees knows some Florida Gators’ fans probably are, too, after Franks’ 2016 spring game.
Klees, who coached Franks for four seasons at Wakulla High School in Crawfordville, believes the 19-year-old will bring playmaking and stability to the quarterback position at UF.
Fans know only what they saw during last April’s Orange and Blue Debut. Franks threw three interceptions on his first four pass attempts during one of the more cringe-worthy spring game performances in recentmemory.
“You can’t judge him from that,” Klees said. “As with any young quarterback, there’s going to be a learning curve. The Gator fans are going to be happy.
“When the finished product is done, he’s a special kid and special athlete.”
Klees bases his opinion against a much, muchlarger body of work than one game. Try more than 35 years.
Klees, 47, moved to the Florida Panhandle in 1980 and has coached in the area for 22 years, including the past 11 at Wakulla High, located 25 miles south of Tallahassee.
Kless said only one player in all his time has held a candle to Franks: Tallahassee Leon legend Tony Robinson, who went on to star at Tennessee in the mid-1980s.
Robinson threw 75 touchdowns during three high school seasons and was a Heisman Trophy candidate prior to a knee injury in 1985 against Alabama.
“There’s never been a quarterback that has come out of here with his potential and his ability,” Klees said of Franks. “There’s no one that has even come close to him.”
The 6-foot-6 Franks threw 87 touchdowns and just 17 interceptions, kicked field goals and punted at Wakulla. He boomed a 47-yard field goal and 68-yard punt as a senior, while he produced plenty of wow moments as a passer.
The key at UF will be whether Franks can harness his arm strength and make sound decisions. Since his spring game fail, Franks has trended in the right direction.
“When you come in at first, you want to just make big plays all the time,” former UF receiver Ahmad Fulwood said late last season. “And when he realized every throw doesn’t have to be an 80-yard bomb and he started making the right reads and started making less mistakes, that was when you could see he was really improving as a quarterback.”
UF coach Jim McElwain said the quarterback race is too close to call between Franks and fellow redshirt freshman Kyle Trask.
“They’re real close,” McElwain said. “There’s probably about a half-inch difference between them, I think.”
Yet Franks is the presumed front-runner entering spring practices, given he served as Austin Appleby’s back-up the final two months of last season and has much more playing experience than Trask.
While the 6-foot-4, 228-pound Trask appeared to be the best natural thrower among UF’s four QBs in 2016, the Houston native played for a spread team in high school and served as his team’s backup.
From now until the April 7 spring, McElwain will look for a quarterback to assume ownership of the position.
“The biggest piece we’re looking for first and foremost is somebody to step up and say, ‘You know what, I’m going to take this and I’m going to lead this team and help the parts around me play better,’” McElwain said. “Now with that, it can’t be forced - it’s got to be natural.”
McElwain said each drill and throw during the coming weeks will be evaluated and graded.
Franks squandered his chance during last year’s spring game. Klees said Franks is too talented not to seize his opportunity this time.
“He can make throws only four or five people in the country can,” Klees said. ”There’s not a throw or play he cannot make.”
Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks throws a pass during last year’s spring game, in which he struggled. He threw three interceptions on his first four pass attempts.