Feleipe Franks / Photo: ArkansasRazorbacks.com
Let’s just get down to it, Hog fans. Does Razorback quarterback Feleipe Franks hold the football too long at times?
Yeah, he does.
Does he need to clean that aspect of his game up?
Next up for the Razorbacks
When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7
Where: Fayetteville, AR
TV: SEC Network
Nov. 14 – at Florida
Nov. 21 – LSU
Nov. 28 – at Missouri
Dec. 5 – Alabama
Sure, but his receivers also need to do a better job of getting open, and his lineman and backs need to strain longer to give him time to do his thing.
It’s understandable that some Razorback fans got a bit frustrated last Saturday, watching the the Razorbacks (2-3) struggle in a shootout with No. 7 Texas A&M (4-1) and ultimately fall to the Aggies, 42-31.
However, the Hog fans that are coming down hard on Franks really need to check themselves.
All the graduate transfer from Crawfordville, Fla. is doing is giving the Razorbacks their best chance to win in four seasons.
Before we react too harshly, let’s remember it’s been since 2016 that the Razorbacks have won more than a single SEC game, and with five games left, Franks and his teammates have already doubled that number.
While there are absolutely no guarantees, the Razorbacks have the chance to add to that talley in their five final games.
So, as Hog fans, why don’t we give the guy a break and get in his corner for the rest of the season?
Here’s what Razorback head coach Sam Pittman so diplomatically said Monday when asked in a Zoom teleconference about Franks holding on to the football a bit too long.
“He’s waiting on his receivers,” Pittman said. “I don’t mind him…There are situations where you don’t want him to take a sack, but I’m more concerned about him taking hits. Anytime the quarterback is holding the ball, that means one good thing, the protection is pretty good, but another bad thing is the receivers aren’t getting open.
“We’ve got to keep the protection being pretty solid, we’ve got to get open, and he’s got to see his reads probably a little bit faster and get rid of the ball.
“I’m not going to sit here and say I’m disappointed in the way he has played because he’s playing pretty good. He’s tough! I’m not going to be too critical about him holding the ball too much.”
Honestly, all Franks is doing is attempting to buy his receivers a bit more time to get open. He gave up his body four times, taking sacks in an effort to give his receiver just a bit more time to get separation.
There’s no telling how many times against the Aggies and other opponents this year Franks has valiantly stood in the fray and completed a pass by being patient.
Does he need to feel the rush closing in on him? Should he just throw the ball away sometimes?
Sure, if it’s first or second down, maybe he should get rid of it. However, I have to say I value the toughness of a quarterback who stands in there to try to make a first-down throw on third down.
Like Pittman said the biggest concern is him absorbing unnecessary punishment because any chance the Razorbacks have of earning more victories in the back half of the season rests on Franks’ health.
Arkansas has some talent in their quarterback room, but neither redshirt freshman K.J. Jefferson nor true freshman Malik Hornsby are ready to win for the Hogs right now, judging by their limited goal-line appearances this season.
Franks gives the Hogs a chance to win right now against the toughest schedule any Razorback quarterback has ever faced in the school’s history.
While he’s not perfect, Franks is playing tough and smart, and is giving the Hogs an opportunity to win. That’s the most important job for a quarterback in program that’s struggling to get back on its feet.
His stats are solid with a 66% completion rate for 1,213 yards and 11 touchdowns against just three interceptions with a quarterback efficiency rating of 149.18. He also rushed for 91 yards against the Aggies on 16 carries, which helped keep the chains moving most of the night.
The Razorbacks’ offensive performance was really the best they’ve had all season with the reemergence of tailback Rakeem Boyd from injury with a solid 100 yards on 18 carries. Treylon Smith was also effective with five carries for 30 yards.
Unfortunately, the Razorbacks struggled to corral a very balanced and potent offensive effort by the Aggies, who may very well may turn out to be the second-best team in the SEC this year.
Certainly, Georgia has the best defense in the conference, but their offense couldn’t keep up with Alabama’s juggernaut. I think a game between the Aggies and the Bulldogs would be very interesting. Georgia might stonewall the Aggies, but then again maybe not. Unfortunately, that game isn’t on the SEC docket.
A&M certainly has tough games left on their schedule, but with Alabama and Florida out of the way, there is a chance the Aggies could win out and slip in the backdoor of the College Football Playoff. That’s a huge “if,” but it’s not out of the question.
As for the Razorbacks, the offense just needs to keep improving as it has done incrementally over the course of the season. Just keep improving. Defensively, the Hogs need find their mojo again. A&M played about as perfect as a team can play as they rolled for touchdown after touchdown.
They took advantage of the weak spots in the Hogs’ zone defenses and forced or took advantage of a barrage of Razorback missed tackles. The Hogs blitzed some, but the Aggies picked them up and were equally adept at finding holes when the Razorbacks put four on the line or three.
It wasn’t a strong defensive performance by Arkansas, but a lot of it had to do with A&M’s offensive execution.
The Aggies had an open date to find the weak spots in the Razorbacks defense, and unfortunately Saturday’s opponent Tennessee (2-3) also had a buy week to freshen their legs and to put together a game plan for the Hogs.
Game time is set for 6:30 p.m. in Razorback Stadium with the SEC Network providing the broadcast.
It goes without saying that this is a huge game for the Razorbacks and the first season in the Pittman era of Arkansas football.
A victory Saturday night would give the Hogs a legitimate shot of going .500 this season or possibly having the first winning record in since 2016.
Sure, that’s putting the cart before the horse, but after the past three seasons, it’s nice to see some light at the end of the tunnel for the Razorbacks that’s not necessarily an oncoming train.