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Florida will go as Feleipe Franks does in 2019

As always, it comes down to the quarterback.

NCAA Football: Peach Bowl-Florida vs Michigan Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Yeah, yeah, we’re behind. Two today and two tomorrow catch us up.

The two assumptions undergirding our understanding of the Florida Gators entering 2019 thus far mentioned in our Top Five are about Florida’s likely strength at the offensive skill positions and potential weakness on the offensive line.

But let’s be honest: Florida’s offense will come down to its quarterback.

When Mike Gillislee ran for 1,000 yards in 2012, and when Kelvin Taylor did the same in 2015, it was not for excellent offenses, but limited ones. Demarcus Robinson was limited by Florida’s offense, as were Jordan Reed before and Antonio Callaway — if only briefly — after him. The best moments for Florida on offense this decade — the wins over Florida State in 2012 and 2018, last year’s Peach Bowl romp against Michigan, Will Grier shredding Ole Miss in 2015 — have come when all facets of its offense are clicking in conjunction with one another.

And we know the most important facet of an offense is its quarterback, which is why Feleipe Franks is far and away the most important Gator this fall.

For much of Franks’s career, he appeared more like a prospect than a product. A combination of inaccuracy, impatience, and immaturity — more on the field than off, to be fair — made him a slightly improved version of the gangly kid with the big arm who starred at a small high school but needed a lot of work to find his ceiling.

For the last 14 quarters or so of his career, he has looked a lot more like a guy straining to reach that height.

It isn’t as easy as dividing Franks’s 2019 into pre- and post-shushing the crowd against South Carolina, especially because Florida stalled on offense and gave up 17 straight points to the Gamecocks immediately after the first shush, then only roared back after falling behind 31-14 in the third quarter. But in Florida’s final 14 quarters of 2019, the Gators scored a stunning 166 points — and stripping out three defensive touchdowns still leaves a respectable 135 points in that span.

Franks was most of the reason why, too. He accounted for three TDs against South Carolina, threw for 274 yards (and accounted for four touchdowns) against Idaho before halftime, tallied 254 yards through the air and another 46 on the ground against FSU, and threw for 173 yards and ran for 74 against the Wolverines.

If Franks can just maintain that level of play — turnover-light ball with strong running and decent throwing to a deep receiver corps — it will go a long way to helping Florida remain elite throughout 2019.

And if he can improve on it, as his talents could allow and as so many Dan Mullen quarterbacks have, then Florida’s ceiling could be higher than we expect — and might just have a skylight.

Those are big ifs, sure. But Franks is good enough to shoulder them.