GAINESVILLE -- When Kyle Morris was the last University of Florida freshman to start the season as the Gators' No. 1 quarterback, his first two games were against NCAA Division 1-AA Montana State and an Ole Miss team that would go on to finish 5-6.
UF won 69-0 and 27-15, both at home.
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Contrast that with the early gauntlet facing Feleipe Franks. The freshman from Crawfordville got the start for the Gators' opening game against 11th-ranked Michigan on Sept. 2 in Dallas (Florida lost 33-17) and because of the cancellation of last week's game against FBC member Northern Colorado, Franks' second start will come on Saturday at The Swamp when the 24th-ranked Gators (0-1) face No. 23 Tennessee (2-0).
Welcome to the SEC, kid.
#TheSwamp is ready. #GoGators #WeChomp pic.twitter.com/EBSooAli1C— Scott Stricklin (@ScottStricklin) September 14, 2017
Despite getting pulled in favor of graduate senior Malik Zaire after completing 5 of 9 passes for 75 yards against the Wolverines, Franks is being given the start again by UF coach Jim McElwain, who said he still saw enough in his young quarterback to give him another chance -- even if the chance is against one of the Gators' most hated rivals, in as must-win a game as can be possible in early September.
"It's the reason you come to the University of Florida, to play in games like that," McElwain said. "It's another opportunity for him."But Franks already showed he may have a n ose for the big play. He had completions of 31 yards to Tyrie Cleveland and 34 to Josh Hammond against Michigan, and also showed he might be a bit more mobile than once thought, breaking off a 16-yard gain.
More than anything, Franks never looked like he didn't belong.
"In the game he was really calm and poised," Hammond said. "I think he's excited and he's ready to go and be able to show he can throw the ball around a little bit. That's pretty much the biggest thing for him, just staying calm and controlling himself."
One former Florida quarterback knows what Franks might be feeling.
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Kerwin Bell was thrust into the starting role as a freshman in 1984 after a series of injuries in preseason camp. His first start was against defending national champion Miami at a neutral site (Tampa) and his second start was at home against an LSU team that would go on to finish 8-3-1.
Miami scored with seconds left to erase a 20-19 UF lead and ran back an interception on the game's final play to win 32-20. LSU tied the Gators 21-21.
Bell, the coach at Valdosta State, said Franks is likely too busy to be overwhelmed by the situation.
"If he's like me, he's putting in so much time and effort to get prepared, he's not worried about playing an SEC team in his first home start," Bell said. "Before he knows it it will be kicked off and he'll be out there playing. He won't feel the pressure as much as his parents or Gator fans will."
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Bell said he watched highlights of the Michigan game and was impressed by the way Franks carried himself.
"I liked his demeanor," Bell said. "I could tell he was very poised in that situation. I though he made some really good throws and handled himself extremely well. It was good to see coach McElwain give him another chance. It would have been nice to get the reps against Northern Colorado but I think he'll be ready. That defense has always been good and he has to understand that he doesn't have to make the big mistakes."
Franks' teammates are also behind him and believe he'll be ready for SEC football in the Swamp, as big a stage as there is.
"I feel like he's a winner" said linebacker David Reese. "He wants to compete. I feel like no role is too big for him."
This article is written by Garry Smits from The Florida Times-Union and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.