State of the Hogs: Jerry's World

Jerry Franklin has been playing running quarterbacks for four years in the SEC. One more to close out his college career is just fine with the Arkansas middle linebacker.

Some have a simple reference for Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. They just call it "Jerry's world."

If you reduce Friday night's Cotton Bowl to its simplest matchup, perhaps you end up with the same term. That would be Jerry's world as in Arkansas linebacker Jerry Franklin matching wits with Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.

Both were available Sunday afternoon in the middle of the stadium in what Cotton Bowl officials called "media day." It was built between the two practices, Arkansas first. Both head coaches, Arkansas' Bobby Petrino and ageless Kansas State boss Bill Snyder, also went to the podium for the first time this week.

I enjoyed the time with Franklin and Klein the most. It's clear they look forward to the spirit of the competition that awaits Friday night.

There will be a lot of talk in between, but both are competitors and the game is what fires them up, not all this talking.

Franklin is ready for one last game at middle linebacker, the spot he's played the last four seasons in part because the Hogs have had no one else. Otherwise, he might have starred at his most natural spot, weakside linebacker.

Franklin has been the team's leading tackler each year. He's totaled 87, 94, 100 and 93. He's rarely missed a play, aside from an ejection in an out-of-character blip against Georgia as a sophomore.

He's a quiet, shy sort who has ducked away from interviews when he could, but always handled them with class. He smiled as he took some of the same questions over and over Sunday. He even chuckled when someone asked how many of his 374 career tackles have been against dual threat quarterbacks, like Klein.

"A bunch," he said. "There's one every week in the SEC, or it seems like it. How many? Maybe 70 percent of all of my tackles. I've been seeing them for a long time."

There have been questions about Klein and how he would compare to the SEC gang since the Cotton Bowl pairing was announced.

"Yeah, I've been talking about that for awhile now," Franklin said. "I don't know who exactly is like him that we've seen, but there are some that have some of him."

Would he be like former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow?

"Maybe, maybe," Franklin said. "I think the part of him that is like him is that he's a downhill runner. They both get north-south in a hurry. He does a lot of the same things as Tebow.

"You have to play them the same way. One guy is not going to bring him down. You need to get everyone there. You gang tackle guys like him and Tebow. Not one is going to get him down or without him going forward."

New defensive coordinator Paul Haynes said that's the goal, to get lots of people to the ball. But the option facet of the K-State offense locks down the perimeter helpers in the defense. Still, the bowl workouts have been designed to get the defense playing faster.

"We are making sure on effort," Haynes said. "Are we doing different drills? Are we showing them tape of different teams? No, we just show them themselves on tape when we see something that we don't like or show them when they are playing with effort.

"That's how I've done it in the past. We just stress it as we go through tape of them in practice. We just check every play to make sure they all are getting to the football. When they don't, we show it to them on tape.

"As you do that over and over, they become more active. They become more aware of it."

That might get more players to the ball against Klein.

"You need it," Franklin said. "He does break tackles. You see that on tape.

"But all you can do as you prepare is make sure you are gap sound, you play your technique right on each call and you play your fundamentals. Then play fast."

Franklin has one-on-one meetings with Haynes during the bowl preparation.

"The guys like him," Franklin said. "I can tell you that already. This is my one game with him, but I think everyone is going to play for him. He is a good guy and he's a good coach."

Franklin wishes he could play a few more games with Haynes, but maybe not at middle linebacker.

"I don't know, I would have liked to play on the outside more," he said. "I played a few games my first year there until I got moved to mike. I liked it outside.

"I don't know where I'll play in the NFL, or if I'll get a chance. But in the 3-4, maybe i'd get a chance outside. That would be fun.

"Mike linebacker doesn't get to blitz. Weakside, where I played a little, might be more of a blitz position. Playing outside on the edge, that would be pretty fun."

Haynes didn't know that Franklin had ever played anywhere but mike.

"I could see him on the edge, though," he said. "I could see him playing a tight end, taking on a blocker. He could do that.

"I think he's a great player, though. I told him that. I told him I've seen him make plays on tape. All I told him that I'd want him to do different is to just keeping doing it play after play. I tell them the really great ones never take a play off."

Aside from playing faster, Franklin said Haynes has stressed communication.

"He wants us to talk more," he said. "Even when we are in a walk through, he harps on it. Talk, talk, talk. He says he can't hear us sometimes. More talking, that's what he wants.

"He's intense. He's fired up all the time. I hear that from the defensive backs. Like I said, they all like him."

Haynes has insisted he hasn't changed up much and hasn't added any calls that weren't in the defense. Franklin wouldn't confirm that.

"You will just have to wait and see," he said. "I'm not saying nothing. Will we look the same? Well, same guys. I wouldn't say there are many changes. I think the main thing he's changed are the standards. We have to meet his standards."

Franklin thinks those standards will be met Friday night.

"I think you will see our energy," Franklin said. "That's what he wants. He wants to see energy and juice. We'll be ready."

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