HawgBeat's Preseason Burning Questions: Franks' chemistry with WRs/TEs
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The status of the 2020 college football season remains perilous as we inch closer to - at least what is scheduled to be - Week 1.
As of this moment, Arkansas is still set to open the Sam Pittman era against Nevada on Sept. 5 in Fayetteville. That could change if the SEC follows the Big Ten’s lead and shifts to a conference-only schedule.
However, for the time being, HawgBeat is treating it as everything is moving forward as planned. That includes the start of NFL-style OTAs - which are essentially walk-through practices - for the Razorbacks on July 24.
Leading up to that date, we are revealing our 10 “burning questions” surrounding Arkansas as it prepares for what everyone hopes to be a fall football season. First up…
Has Feleipe Franks developed chemistry with the wide receivers/tight ends?
It’s hard to imagine that another college football program - at any level, much less the Power Five - has endured as many struggles at the quarterback position as Arkansas the last two years.
The Razorbacks have used a whopping eight different starters during that 24-game stretch, with what’s believed to be an unprecedented five in five games to end the 2019 season.
As you’d expect with that kind of situation, the numbers weren’t pretty. Those quarterbacks combined for 33 interceptions, which was the most Arkansas has had in back-to-back seasons in nearly 50 years (1971-72).
When Pittman hired Kendal Briles as the offensive coordinator, one of the first things on their to-do list - along with trying to quickly piece together a recruiting class - was to find a quarterback.
What they found was a former 6.0 four-star recruit with extensive starting experience in the SEC and a top-10 finish on his resume: Feleipe Franks from Florida.
Although he certainly had his detractors in Gainesville, Fla., and some Arkansas fans were uneasy because of the vague similarities to Nick Starkel, Franks - at least on paper - appears to be a definite upgrade at the position.
Even though he was coming off a significant injury that ended his 2019 season in Week 3 and, thanks to the solid play of Kyle Trask - ultimately prompted his decision to transfer, he would have been healthy enough to participate in spring ball with the Razorbacks.
It would have been a critical period for Arkansas’ offense not only to learn the playbook, but also for Franks to develop some chemistry with his new teammates.
During the coronavirus shutdown, Franks said he was still able to meet up with some of the receivers and tight ends to throw routes, which should help their timing, but it was likely a logistical nightmare with some players going back home and trying to adhere to guidelines that limit how many people can be together in one place.
The entire offense was able to get virtual instruction from their position coaches and the staff sounds confident that they taught the playbook as well as they possible could, but they missed out on actually getting reps on the field with Franks serving as the leader in the huddle.
Whether or not the chemistry he developed with the wide receivers/tight ends - and the rest of the unit, for that matter - carries over into the walk-throughs and fall camp remains to be seen, but they found themselves behind the eight ball more so than teams with returning quarterbacks this offseason because of the pandemic.