"Full Of Joy"

Big defensive tackle Antwarn Franklin talks about his struggle to get qualified and his chances for early playing time.

Birmingham, Ala.--With the status of All-SEC defensive tackle Demarco McNeil still in question following successful knee surgery over the winter, the Auburn line was without question the biggest liability for the Auburn football team's defense heading into spring practice.

While Spencer Johnson has already proven that he can get the job done, the rest of the tackles on campus this spring are largely unproven, something of a concern to the coaching staff. While Wayne Dickens looks to be ready to take the step from high school star to SEC play and Dexter Murphy had a solid spring, there is still plenty of room for a newcomer to step in this August and get himself into the playing rotation.

That newcomer could be mammoth Antwarn Franklin from Woodlawn High School. Originally a signee in the Class of 2001, Franklin failed to qualify and was forced to watch while the Tigers played on without him last season. Instead of taking the nornal route of a prep school or junior college to get qualified, Franklin decided the best thing he could do was stay at home in Birmingham and work towards getting the needed numbers on the standardized tests to become eligible.

Antwarn Franklin has been working out at a gym near his home in Birmingham to get ready for his freshman season.

When the news came this spring that he was ready to go, Franklin says it was like a burden had been lifted from his shoulders.

"I was too happy," Franklin tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "I was full of joy. I had been working all year just to get it done and now that I've got it done it's just too much to go through. I'm just happy. I was struggling at first trying to get that test score, but I finally did it.

"I didn't really want to do the prep school thing, not knowing where I was going and not knowing the coaches I would be playing for. I didn't want to try that and end up in a situation where I couldn't adapt or get used to a new situation that I wasn't ready for. So I just went ahead and took that time off, studied and took the test. I'm used to all the coaches at Auburn so I just went ahead and took the chance that I could do it by myself."

As a senior, Franklin was considered one of the top two-way players in the state and was recruited by schools as both an offensive and defensive linemen. Noting the lack of players on the defensive front on the Plains, Franklin cited that as one of the many reasons that he decided to become a Tiger. Now 6-5 and 310 pounds, the athletic lineman will finally get the chance that he's waited two years for, the chance to play in front of over 86,000 people in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"I still have that desire to play," he notes. "It's just a dedication and work ethic, that's all it is. The coaches said for me just to come ready to play and ready to work and that's what I'm going to do."

That possibility of early playing time was evident to Franklin early on in the practices he watched from the sidelines on his many trips to Auburn during spring practice. Watching Johnson, Dickens and Murphy play almost every snap in some of the scrimmages left him knowing that playing time is there for the taking if he comes to Auburn in shape this fall and ready to play.

"Right now we're looking pretty good," Franklin says of Auburn's current defense. "The linebackers and defensive backs are basically perfect almost. The defensive line is just where we need some help and I have to come in and help the team. That's where they need me and that's where I have to play...that makes it even more rewarding now that I've passed the test knowing that I can come in and play."

Tiger Ticket Extra:Franklin will get an early start on conditioning this summer as he plans to move to Auburn in May to begin getting acquainted with Coach Kevin Yoxall's strength and conditioning program...An All-State selection as a senior on the football field, Franklin was also a solid basketball player for the Colonels and was a member of a state championship team as a junior. As a senior he totaled 100 tackles and seven sacks. Only playing football two seasons, he accounted for more than 200 tackles and had 17 sacks while fighting through double teams for much of every game.

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