FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas via the University of Florida graduate transfer quarterback Feleipe Franks was named among 14 semifinalists Monday for the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award.
It’s not the only honor considering Franks, Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman said Monday.
Pittman was addressing media regarding the Razorbacks’ Dec. 31 Texas Bowl game with the TCU Horned Frogs in Houston when he was asked about Franks and the Mayo Clinic Award consideration.
“I think there will be an announcement in a day or two about something else that he was awarded,” Pittman said. “I’m really proud of him and what he’s done.”
Franks was Florida’s starting quarterback much of 2017 and the entire 2018 for then first-year Florida Coach Dan Mullen’s 10-3 Peach Bowl champion Gators.
Franks started Florida’s first three games of 2019 but in Game Three suffered a season-ending broken ankle. Current senior Heisman Trophy candidate Kyle Trask firmly took Florida quarterback command in Franks’ absence.
Franks moved on to start at Arkansas where he was a quickly elected captain and under first-year head coach Pittman converted a team 0-8, 0-8 in the SEC in 2018 and 2019 into a 3-7 SEC team that would be for 4-6 but for an SEC admitted egregious game-costing officiating error in the 30-28 loss at Auburn plus two down to the wire 27-24 and 50-48 losses to LSU in Fayetteville and Missouri in Columbia, Mo.
Franks statistically produced 163 completions of 238 passes for a 68.5 percentage and 2,107 yards with 17 touchdowns vs. four interceptions. Franks is Arkansas’ third-leading rusher, 105 carries for 204 yards and a touchdown.
Intangibly he has provided leadership from the get-go, Pittman said.
“To come over here and believe in us and choose us, and do what he’s done as a captain,” Pittman said. “Just a really great year for him, our team, and for my future, that I was able to meet a guy like him.”
Because of a rib injury, Franks missed the Missouri game replaced by redshirt freshman KJ Jefferson.
Both played with Franks starting in the 52-3 season-finale loss to No. 1 Alabama. Franks left that game with his ribs reinjured but returned to finish after Jefferson injured a knee.
It appears he counts on both available and Franks starting against TCU.
“Well, he’s healthy, so he’s ready to play,” Pittman said. “I’m really proud of him.”
Jefferson, posting on Twitter his knee did not suffer ligament damage, apparently is ready, too.
Only sophomore offensive tackle Noah Gatlin, out the past several games, is deemed questionable by Pittman other than junior college transfer defensive end Julius Coates.
Coates was not with the team vs. Alabama and won’t be in Houston, Pittman said Monday.
Presuming Franks enters the 2021 NFL draft, Jefferson and redshirting freshman (actually everybody technically redshirts in deference to covid-19 restrictions this season restoring 2020 eligibility in 2021) Malik Hornsby loom as Arkansas’ top quarterback candidates in spring ball.
“ I think that’s going to be a really good battle at quarterback in the spring, along with some of the younger guys we brought in,” Pittman said.
Anticipating the Razorbacks getting a bid before bowl bids were announced late Sunday afternoon, Pittman practiced his Hogs twice last week. He practiced them Monday morning on campus and will through Wednesday morning before allowing them to go home for Christmas.
Monday’s practice primarily “was a TCU prep,” Pittman said.
Last week Pittman used some of the practice time to scrimmage those who have played seldom or not at all this season like they were redshirting.
Any of those guys stand out?
“”Yeah, they did,” Pittman said. “I like (Donte) Buckner, (the freshman walk-on running back from White Hall. I liked Eric Thomas (a scholarship freshman linebacker with four tackles mostly on special teams). He stood out. Kelin Burrle (a freshman scholarship linebacker) had a really good couple of days in the scrimmage. So those three guys definitely stood out in those scrimmages.”
Pittman also cited scholarship freshmen offensive linemen Jalen St. John and Marcus Henderson and lettering scholarship freshman cornerback Khari Johnson.
Pittman said Hazen freshman Blayne Toll, recruited as a defensive end but bandied back and forth between defensive end and tight end, is back at defensive end.
“He asked if he could move back to defense and play defensive end,” Pittman said. “We obviously need a pass rusher over there and he’s long and fast. So I moved him back over to defense for the bowl game.”
Since 2020 seniors have been granted their 2020 eligibility for 2020, Pittman was asked how many might have mutual interest with him to return.
“I have at least four right now that I know are coming back,” Pittman said. “I don’t want to put that out there because I’m going to try to get them all to do it at the same time. Then there’s another few that I’m going to talk to. The agents are kind of vultures out there. They basically, a lot of them tell the truth, but a lot of them say what you want to hear. We’ve done our work with the NFL scouts and we have three or four guys here that we’re going to talk to about what their positioning is according to the 10-12 teams that we’ve gotten information from and then they’ll have a decision. I’d like to have that honestly before they go home on Wednesday.”