Over previous years, The Battle of The Boot, featuring LSU and Arkansas, hasn’t sparked much anticipation.
When schedules are released each year, LSU-Arkansas is never one anyone seems to highlight. This is understandably so, as the Tigers have gotten the best of the Razorbacks in seven of their previous 10 meetings, including the last four.
When you think of rivalries in the SEC, the Tigers and Razorbacks would most likely be on the lower end of any list.
While there’s no heart wrenching bad blood between the programs as a whole, this year’s contest could feature some not-so-good blood with one specific individual: Feleipe Franks.
This Saturday’s showdown is not going to be a top-10 matchup. In fact, it’s not even going to be a ranked matchup. But Franks’ presence presents a different element to the playing field.
Franks, the current Razorbacks’ quarterback, has had an interesting track record with LSU.
On June 1, 2014, the former four-star, top-five pro-style quarterback verbally committed to playing for the Tigers. Under advisement from former Special Team’s Coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto, the Tigers pursued Franks hard during his recruiting process. Peveto’s personal connections with Franks’ father is what initially sparked interests between both parties. Franks was the lone quarterback in the 2016 recruiting cycle that Les Miles, former head coach of the LSU Tigers, really showed interest in. Franks played a coveted role in what at the time was a top-ranked recruiting class for LSU.
On Nov. 23, 2015, Franks announced his decision to decommit from the program and reopen his recruiting process. Just six days later, the Crawfordville, Florida, native announced his intentions to stay in-state and take his talents to Gainesville. Frank’s decommitment ultimately ended up being the first of many dominions to fall for the 2016 recruiting class, as rumors of Miles’ future with the program ignited more departures from other highly ranked prospects.
Franks’ decommitment ended up being the first of many notable events between him and LSU.
After redshirting in 2016, Franks played against the Tigers in 2017 and 2018. In his first of two meetings against LSU, Franks finished 10-of-16, passing for 108 yards. LSU edged Florida in The Swamp, 17-16. In 2018, Franks went 12-of-27 for 161 yards with a touchdown and interception, but his performance was enough to upset the fifth-ranked Tigers. While he was still with the Florida program the following year, Franks suffered a season-ending ankle injury, leaving him unavailable for the top-10 showdown in Death Valley.
Fans and players both made public notice of Franks’ injury.
When LSU hosted College GameDay in 2019, a Tiger fan was shown holding up a sign that had Frank’s ankle spinning in all directions. During the week leading up to the game, former defensive lineman Braiden Fehoko seemingly “forgot” Franks’ name and the injury he had endured in an interview. From then on, Franks’ injury became a focal talking point on social media in the days leading up to the game.
Franks’ season-ending injury opened the door for current Florida and Heisman-contending quarterback Kyle Trask. Trask’s performances were more than enough to solidify him as the starter moving forward, leaving Franks without a job. Following the season, Franks announced he would be parting ways with Florida, resulting in his arrival at fellow SEC school, Arkansas.
To say that Franks still has a bad taste for Tiger fans would be putting it nicely, and I’m sure the Tiger faithful feel the same way. While he is not representing the same school, the feelings and remembrance are still at the forefront of people’s minds.
The Franks Tiger fans saw at Florida is not who he is now.
During his career as a Florida Gator, Franks often struggled with ball security, which led to many turnovers. Since transferring to Arkansas, Franks has been much more judicious with the football, which has played a role in helping him create the steady offensive rhythm he has seemingly found.
On the season, the former Florida quarterback is 138-of-202, giving him a 68.3 completion percentage, for 1,678 yards, 16 touchdowns, a trio of interceptions and 186 yards on the ground.
The 6-foot-6 senior is fresh off his return to The Swamp, where Florida routed Arkansas, 63-35. In his return, the limited fans still made their voices heard as they greeted Franks with all-too-familiar boos. The blowout loss did not stop Franks from dishing out an insult of his own. Following a 47-yard touchdown pass to receiver Mike Woods, Franks notably taunted the Florida bench, pointing at them as he made his way back to the Arkansas sideline.
The emotions for Franks won’t be as high as they were in his return to Florida. This time around, he will be playing at home and the stakes will be lower, but don’t think that will erase all the memories from previous years.
Now, the tables have turned, and LSU is on the receiving end of an “injured quarterback” bug as starting quarterback Myles Brennan is unavaliable. We don’t know who the starting quarterback will be this Saturday, but what we do know is that LSU could have likely used Franks’ presence right now with a thin quarterback room.
If the cards had been dealt the way they originally were and Franks had stuck with his commitment to LSU, he would likely be commanding the Tigers this Saturday in Fayetteville. Instead, he is on the opposing side, attempting to get the 3-4 Razorbacks back to .500 on the year, while LSU is just trying to keep its head above water.