Monday November 30th, 2015

Less than a day after its offense came up empty in a 27–2 loss to in-state rival Florida State, Florida landed a highly touted player at the most important position on that side of the ball. Four-star quarterback Feleipe Franks said on Twitter on Sunday that he has committed to the Gators. “It’s great to be a Florida Gator! #Committed,” Franks wrote.

Franks’s announcement comes less than a week after he withdrew his pledge to LSU, which dates to June 2014. Tigers offensive coordinator Cam Cameron had been involved in recruiting Franks, but his contract expires after this season. Franks’s decision to back away from LSU came amid speculation that the program would fire coach Les Miles, but Franks wrote in a message, “For about a month now I have been talking with LSU about decommitting. I have given this process a lot of thought and feel that is only best for me to make my decommitment public.”

Florida then became the frontrunner to land Franks, who attends Wakulla High in Crawfordville, Fla., had taken multiple visits to Gainesville this fall and reportedly received a scholarship offer from the Gators in 2013. Florida already had secured a commitment from a quarterback in the class of 2016, Manvel (Texas) High’s Kyle Trask, but he’s a two-star prospect, and the program did not sign a quarterback as part of its 2015 class after watching dual-threat Sheriron Jones decommit and failing to flip Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Florida State’s Deondre Francois.

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It seemed Florida was going to try to flip a quarterback before National Signing Day in early February, but Franks fills the Gators’ need at the position. Listed at 6'6" and 203 pounds, Franks rose 55 spots in the national rankings (from No. 94 to No. 39) Rivals.com released in August. “Franks has the size of an elite quarterback prospect and has the skill to go with it. As he develops his footwork, he only stands to get better,” analyst Rob Cassidy wrote then. As a senior, Franks has passed for 2,347 yards with 30 touchdowns and two interceptions, according to MaxPreps.

Franks plans to enroll in college early, which means he will be able to participate in spring practice with the Gators in advance of the 2016 season. It’s reasonable to expect him to compete for playing time as a true freshman. Starter Will Grier is suspended for the first six games of 2016 after testing positive for performance enhancing substance, backup Treon Harris has struggled in relief of Grier and redshirt senior Josh Grady is out of eligibility after this season. Transfer Luke Del Rio is a former walk-on at Alabama who served as a backup at Oregon State and will be able to play next season.

Franks joins a Florida class ranked eighth in the country by Rivals.com that includes commitments from 25 other players, including six assessed four–star ratings. His decision could put the Gators in better position to land other coveted offensive prospects such as wide receivers Nate Craig-Meyers, Binjimen Victor and Keith Gavin, a teammate of Franks’s at Wakulla who tweeted his congratulations on Sunday night. The Gators could get help from 2017 four–star quarterback commit Jake Allen, who has said he plans to serve as a recruiter.

Regardless of who else Florida adds to its 2016 class, on Sunday it scored its biggest recruiting victory since Jim McElwain was hired as head coach last December. McElwain guided Florida to double–digit wins and a spot in the SEC championship game even though his best quarterback has not played since October and the offense has sputtered with Harris behind center. Franks is a promising talent who could hold down the starting job for multiple years, and the Gators have another highly regarded signal caller (Allen) lined up behind him.

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If Gators fans cringed watching Harris miss receivers, amass only 134 passing yards and fail to throw a touchdown pass against the Seminoles on Saturday—and if they’re dreading a meeting with A’Shawn Robinson and the rest of Alabama’s fearsome defense next week—they can at least look forward to the possibility of a more competent passer taking over next year. Franks is a headliner at a position Florida needed to address, and his decision could accelerate McElwain’s effort to mold the program into a consistent SEC contender.

“Obviously, this is a huge win for Florida. It’s as important on the field as it is off,” said Cassidy, the Rivals.com analyst. “This sends a message that Florida is on its way back to being a recruiting juggernaut. Franks is known for his massive arm and that isn’t going anywhere. As he becomes more accurate, he could turn into a special player. He has the size and the other physical tools to give him a chance of being a star. He needs to progress when it comes to reading coverages, but that is pretty standard for any high school quarterback.”

On Sunday Florida also picked up commitments from three–star offensive lineman Jawaan Taylor and three–star wide receiver Dre Massey.

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