Gator Franks’ for­mer coach con­fi­dent QB will win over fans

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - NBA - By Edgar Thomp­son Staff Writer

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.”

AP FILE

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.