Franks officially declares for NFL Draft
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FAYETTEVILLE -- In an expected move, Feleipe Franks has officially declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
The graduate transfer quarterback had already accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl and head coach Sam Pittman said he didn't "anticipate" him coming back, but Franks ended all speculation with a social media post Thursday night.
"To the Razorback fans, thank you for the constant support of me and our team," Franks wrote. "The Hog fan base is unmatched and a force to be reckoned with. Arkansas will always hold a very special place in my heart and I am blessed to always be able to call Fayetteville home.
"I feel truly prepared to take this next step in my life and chase my dreams of playing in the NFL. I can't wait to see what this next chapter holds."
In just one season with the Razorbacks, Franks not only provided stability at a position that had seen eight different players start the previous two years, but he played at a level that helped dig the program out of the cellar.
Despite playing an all-SEC schedule with no non-conference games to pad his stats, Franks broke the UA single-season record for completion percentage that had stood for 41 years.
He completed 68.5 percent of his passes (163 of 238), which easily surpassed Kevin Scanlon's mark of 66.2 percent (92 of 139) set in 1979.
Franks' 2,107 passing yards and 17 touchdowns each rank just outside of the UA's all-time top-10 lists. However, he likely would have ended up somewhere on them had he not missed the Missouri game with an injury and/or been able to play in a bowl game.
Although criticized for his propensity to hang on to the ball and take sacks instead of throwing it away, Franks rarely made bad decisions when he did throw it, as evidenced by him having only four interceptions. His 4.25 touchdown-to-interception ratio (17 to 4) is the best by an Arkansas quarterback against only SEC competition in school history, breaking Brandon Allen's mark of 4.20 (21 to 5) set in 2015.
Beyond his production on the field, Franks was vital in the program for his leadership. After just eight months in the program, he was voted a team captain before the season, and then was routinely praised as a leader by his teammates and coaches throughout the year.
In a season that saw many NFL-caliber players "opt out" mid-year, Franks stuck with the Razorbacks even after suffering a rib injury that forced him to miss the Missouri game. The following week, he was back on the field and even returned to the game in the fourth quarter of the Alabama blowout.
Had the Texas Bowl not been canceled, Franks would have been Arkansas' starting quarterback in that game, too. Pittman was extremely complimentary of him for deciding not to skip the bowl, as so many other players across the country had.
“There's a lot of different guys opting out and this, that, and the other, but Feleipe Franks with an opportunity to go to the Senior Bowl and what he's done, and he did not,” Pittman said last week. “I think that shows a lot toward his character. I'm really proud of him that he decided to play in the Texas Bowl."
Franks' decision to move on to the NFL means the Razorbacks will likely have a quarterback battle this offseason. KJ Jefferson and Malik Hornsby, who were redshirt and true freshmen this year, are the primary candidates to take over the starting role.
Jefferson appears to have the edge heading into the offseason, as he was Franks' backup all year, starting when he missed the Missouri game and relieving him against Alabama. Against the Tigers, he completed 18 of 33 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns, while also running for 32 yards and a score and guiding the offense to a season-high 48 points.
However, the former four-star recruit suffered an apparent knee injury in the regular-season finale against Alabama and it's unclear how much - if at all - it may limit him in spring practice.
Hornsby, another dual-threat quarterback, took only two snaps all season. Both came near the goal line at Auburn and he ran each time, gaining a yard before losing two.
With former walk-on Jack Lindsey pursuing other opportunities in the transfer portal for his extra year of eligibility, the only other scholarship quarterback returning next season is redshirt sophomore John Stephen Jones.
The Razorbacks also signed a pair of dual-threat quarterbacks in their 2021 class, with three-star Lucas Coley from Texas set to enroll early and three-star Landon Rogers from Little Rock set to join the team next summer.
Although he was a fifth-year senior, Franks could have played a sixth year of college ball thanks to a rule change by the NCAA. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, all football players have been granted an extra year of eligibility, regardless of how much they played this season.
Linebacker Grant Morgan, offensive linemen Myron Cunningham and Ty Clary, wide receiver De’Vion Warren, running back T.J. Hammonds, tight end Blake Kern and defensive end Dorian Gerald are the seven senior who have announced they’ll take advantage of that extra year.
2020 Scholarship Seniors
~OL Ty Clary
~OL Myron Cunningham
~DE Dorian Gerald
~RB/WR T.J. Hammonds
~TE Blake Kern
~LB Grant Morgan
~WR De’Vion Warren
~RB Rakeem Boyd (opt out/NFL Draft)
~QB Feleipe Franks (unlikely to return/now official)
~CB Jerry Jacobs (opt out/NFL Draft)
~DT Xavier Kelly (pursuing NFL)
~QB Jack Lindsey (transfer portal)
~DT Jonathan Marshall (NFL Draft)
~OL Chibueze Nwanna (opt out/transfer portal)
~LB Deon Edwards
~LB Hayden Henry
~WR Tyson Morris
~K A.J. Reed
~DB Micahh Smith