-Braden Sarver and Evin Demirel
Just six games into his Arkansas career, Feleipe Franks is on track to rewrite the Razorback record books. He’s thrown for 14 touchdowns against only three interceptions and completed 123 of 183 pass attempts for a 67.2% completion rate.
At this rate, Franks will finish ahead of big names like Brandon Allen, Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson to notch the most accurate passing season in Hogs history.
Most accurate Razorback quarterbacks
Impressively, even in the thick of the hardest schedule in college football, the graduate transfer is getting better as the season goes on, as Franks gains confidence running Kendal Briles’ system.
He has thrown only two interceptions in Arkansas’ last five games, and the two inaccurate passes against the Vols are his second fewest in an outing this season, behind only the Texas A&M game (1). as the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Scottie Bordelon notes.
Bordelon adds that Franks is heating up from deep. In the Hogs’ most recent game, a 24-13 win against Tennessee, Franks hit 2 of 3 passes 16-plus yards at depth for 115 yards and a score. “He is now hitting such throws at a 52-percent clip, and five of those 13 completions have gone for touchdowns. Dating back to Texas A&M, Franks is 4 of 6 on 16-plus yard passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns.”
Franks was especially superb in the third quarter when he was 11/13 passing for 160 yards and three touchdowns.
He throws the deep ball well,” coach Sam Pittman after the win. “He throws it with the right amount of speed, accuracy. He can lob it, he can drill one. He’s got incredible strength on his arm. That’s what he does well. He’ll throw those little slant routes well too. But he’s really good at throwing that deep ball and showed it again tonight.”
After that Tennessee game, the Razorbacks’ performance had the SEC Network analysts raving. “He’s throwing dimes in the red zone,” Gene Chizik said of Franks. “The last couple of weeks, the run game is where he’s really made some gains. Last week he was the leading rusher on the football team. (Against Tennessee), he did a lot of great things with his legs as well.”
Franks’ accuracy, his presence in the pocket and his willingness to take sacks instead of flinging risky attempts has helped turn him into one of the nation’s best quarterbacks in one major passing statistic — adjusted completion percentage.
This is simply completion percentage cleaned up to discount all the things that usually aren’t the fault of the quarterback. So, as Pro Football Focus tabulates it, passers get credited for on-target throws that are dropped by receivers, but they don’t get dinged for passes that are thrown away (i.e. not targeting any receiver), batted at the line of scrimmage, spiked or even passes thrown when the quarterback was hit as he threw.
NFL Network producer Ben Fennell noticed that now Franks now ranks third in the nation in this category, behind only Alabama’s Mac Jones and BYU’s Zach Wilson:
CFB Adjusted Comp % via @PFF— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) November 9, 2020
?Mac Jones 84.1%
?Zach Wilson 80.8%
?Feleipe Franks 80.7%
?Trevor Lawrence 80.3%
…Didn’t expect to see Feleipe with this group @JimNagy_SB – interesting skillset and playing good ball for Arkansas this season
Trevor Lawrence, widely considered the best college quarterback prospect of the last decade, if not the century, comes in at No. 4. This is big-time company for Franks, considering all of his peers are having career years (Lawrence is throwing more accurately than ever before) and considering they are among the top five or six Heisman contenders this season.
Franks’ ability to deliver time and time again is a testament to great coaching and trust in his offensive teammates to block for him and run routes correctly.
Achilles Heel for Hogs’ Offense
In order to beat SEC East frontrunner Florida this Saturday, Franks needs to keep playing lights out while some of this teammates need to step up.
Against Tennessee, in the first half and fourth quarter, the Hogs’ offensive line was letting multiple defenders get to Franks very quickly. This led to a Franks fumble that was recovered by a Razorback (one of four fumbles recovered by Arkansas), but the Hogs can’t count on being so lucky in Gainesville.
Franks’ unwillingness to give up on plays and get ride of the ball led to two drives against Tennessee ending because he took the sack instead of throwing the ball away. On Saturday, Arkansas won’t be able to afford so much lost yardage against a team as good as Florida.
This week, Franks and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles will take on greater leadership roles with Sam Pittman staying away from practices because he tested positive for COVID-19.
Briles, in particular, will be tasked with adjusting game planning to account for how Franks and the rest of his teammates have thrived when going fast — but struggle when going slow, as they did in the fourth quarter against Tennessee.
“I think Arkansas has to stay on the gas late in games,” Clint Stoerner said today on the Buzz 103.7 FM. “Right now, with the style of ball that they play, the way they gain an advantage is through that momentum, playing fast and catching defenses off guard. And boy, their deficiencies really really show when they try to go four-minute offense.”
When needing to slow and down and burn clock, “you can tell they’re lost, that they don’t know how they want to approach it,” Stoerner added.
“They don’t have the personnel. They’ve got to just stay on the gas and say, ‘One more score in a minute and a half or two minutes is worth chewing up four or five minutes on a drive and not scoring.’ They’ve got to trade points for that ability to chew up clock right now — [at least] until Pittman gets it built the way he wants on offense.”
Razorback highlights from Arkansas-Tennessee:
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