Jim McElwain has made his choice.
The Florida head coach announced Wednesday evening that Feleipe Franks will get the start at quarterback when the Gators open up their season Saturday against Michigan at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Franks, a 6-foot-6, 219-pound redshirt freshman, edged out two veterans: seniors Luke Del Rio and Malik Zaire. Del Rio started six games for the Gators in 2016, throwing for 1,358 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions while completing 56.7 percent of his passes. He missed multiple games last fall due to injury and was held out of spring practice because of a shoulder injury.
Zaire, a graduate transfer from Notre Dame, was added to the roster this summer after a lengthy process. He first announced his decision to leave Notre Dame last November but wasn’t able to enroll at Florida until June — after an SEC rule on graduate transfers was changed. Zaire, a lefty, made only three starts during his time at Notre Dame and threw for 816 yards and six touchdowns while adding 324 yards and two scores on the ground for the Irish.
Zaire entered the 2015 season as the Irish’s starter but broke his ankle in Week 2 and missed the rest of the season. In his absence, recent NFL draftee DeShone Kizer assumed the starting role. The two competed to start entering 2016 and split time early in the year before Kizer eventually took on the role full-time once again.
Seeking a new situation, Zaire left South Bend and landed in Gainesville, but he wasn’t able to beat out Franks, a highly rated four-star recruit from the 2016 class, for the starting role. McElwain said he informed the three of his decision on Wednesday morning.
Franks will make his first career start Saturday without UF’s top running back, Jordan Scarlett, and wide receiver, Antonio Callaway, available. Scarlett and Callaway are among the 10 Florida players suspended for the game.
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