FAYETTEVILLE – On a teleconference Friday with Razorbacks junior offensive tackle, Dalton Wagner, and junior linebacker, Bumper Pool, graduate transfer/senior eligibility quarterback Feleipe Franks talked with Arkansas media for the first time since transferring from the University of Florida.
Franks transfers as a football senior. He was 13-3 as Florida’s starting quarterback for 2018 and 2019, 10-3 in 2018 including a Peach Bowl victory Michigan as the Gators rebounded from a 4-7 2017 season and 3-0 last season starting victories over Miami, Tennessee-Martin and Kentucky.
Backup quarterback Kyle Trask, upon Franks suffering a season-ending broken ankle, rallied the Gators from down 21-10 with three fourth-quarter touchdown drives for the 29-21 SEC victory over Kentucky. Trask ended the Gators’ 11-2 2019 season unquestionably No. 1 for 2020.
So Franks, 6-6 with a big arm to match NFL aspirations, sought a new place with an open quarterback competition.
Why Arkansas given the Hogs wallowed 2-10 overall/ 0-8 in the SEC both in 2018 and 2019 under former Coach Chad Morris and start anew under new Coach Sam Pittman and on offense new coordinator Kendal Briles?
“It’s been a crazy little journey to get here,” Franks said. “You know, I think it was the right fit for me. It was important for me to find somewhere that kind of felt like that next home and somewhere that I felt like I could thrive. Somewhere I could just thrive in the classroom as well as on the football field and get to my main goal, which is obviously playing on the next level.”
Seems he could have done that a lot of places.
“I think that this was the right place to do it at,” Franks said. “Just coming on my visit with Coach Briles and Coach Pittman, I liked the offense as well. On top of that I like the campus and the environment.”
Arkansas’ struggling 2018 and 2019 seasons don’t discourage him. “When I was at Florida, we went 4-7 and then go out and win 10 games and play in a New Year’s Six Bowl,” Franks said. “I’ve seen it firsthand, it’s all about the motivation. We have it on this team. It just takes that one spark, that one turnaround.”
The Florida native said he’s enjoying his time in Fayetteville and remains here even with the coronavirus pandemic closing the UA campus with all spring semester classes conducted online. “The community, the people I’ve met here have been nothing but awesome,” Franks said. “I have been welcomed.”
The pandemic canceled spring football, a tough obstacle for a new quarterback trying to mesh with a new team trying to mesh with a brand new class. But the now upped from four to eight hours a week the NCAA grants players and coaches can meet online helps, Franks said as did Wagner and Pool.
How is his ankle?
“I feel really good,” Franks said. “I feel almost at 100 percent and everything’s full speed. I think right now it’s just about getting back out on the field. It’s been forever.”
Wagner of Spring Grove, Ill. recovering from shoulder surgery, and Pool, of Lucas, Texas, recovering from back surgery, also are in Fayetteville. They will be full speed whenever preseason practice is permitted. Wagner said former Arkansas offensive line coach Pittman (2013-2015 at Arkansas and 2016-2018 at Georgia with Georgia offensive linemen Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson selected in Thursday’s first round of the NFL draft) and new Arkansas offensive line coach and Pittman protege Brad Davis immediately impact Arkansas’ O-line.
“There’s a really big emphasis on the O-line being the leaders of the team and making sure that if our group goes the rest of the team goes,” Wagner said. “One of our biggest focal points of this upcoming season, is making sure that our group stays together, pushes each other daily. Coach Davis and Coach Pittman are the guys that do it for sure.”
Pool was asked about new defensive coordinator Barry Odom, Missouri’s head coach from 2016-2019. “You can just see Coach Odom has a fire in his eyes,” Pool said. “He’s determined to be the best and it shows in everything he does. You can see his passion. And that passion spreads out to the whole defense.”