As Josh Hammond cut loose down the sideline, Feleipe Franks dropped back.
Florida’s freshman quarterback heaved a tight spiral 40 yards downfield. His wide receiver gained separation from a defender and hauled it in over his head.
The impressive catch and throw went for 46 yards, the longest of the day for Franks.
And although the 6-foot-6 passer followed that completion with an overthrow in the end zone, he proved in Florida’s spring game — a 31-0 rout in favor of the Orange team Friday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium — that he has all the makings of UF’s starting signal caller in the fall.
“Yeah, he’s ahead,” UF coach Jim McElwain said of Franks’ spot in the QB race. “And he played decent.”
For much of the night, Franks and the Gators’ first-team offense marched all over the second-team defense.
Running back Jordan Scarlett punched in a one-yard score on Franks’ opening drive, but the quarterback’s most impressive series was orchestrated in the second quarter: a 13-play, 74-yard drive that ended in three points.
And after a fumble netted Franks the ball again, he tossed his first and only touchdown, to a wide-open Antonio Callaway for a 16-yard score.
By the end of the night, Franks featured a significantly better line than the quarterback he’s been battling with during spring practices, Kyle Trask. Franks threw for 119 yards on 8-of-14 passes, including the touchdown.
Franks’ performance was a welcoming sign to not only fans and coaches, but to himself after his poor showing that included three interceptions in the spring game a year ago.
“A tremendous difference,” he said.
Franks’ positional counterpart struggled.
Tasked with facing Florida’s first-team defense in the first half, Trask didn’t muster much offense. By halftime, the Manvel, Texas, native had only two completions on eight attempts fore11 yards.
Part of Trask’s struggling had to do with playing behind the weaker offensive line unit.
The 6-foot-4, 238-pound quarterback fumbled on a sack in the first quarter, only to jump on it himself. And in the third quarter, Trask threw into double coverage, which resuleds in a tipped interception to linebacker Vosean Joseph.
Trask ended the night 6-of-15 for 66 yards and the interception. While it wasn’t the outcome he had hoped for, he noted the quarterback battle isn’t over — at least in his mind.
“I think just keeping my head low and just keep grinding,” Trask said. “It’s going to be a dogfight until the very end. So all I’ve got to do is keep working my tail off.”
McElwain wasn’t shy in saying Franks was ahead of Trask and newcomer Kadarius Toney, who flashed his speed and quickness at times during the game. But he also wasn’t quite ready to hand over the reigns to Franks just yet.
“We’ll find out over the summer,” he said. “We’re halfway there.”