"Monday through Thursday we practice just like the rest of the team, but on Friday and Saturday we have got to get it," Franklin says. "We are up at 5:30 in the morning on Friday and it depends on what time the game is on Saturday we are up at 5:30 or 8 a.m.," Franklin says. "When you go to bed that night you have to be mentally ready for it. I mean, you will wake up hour on hour just thinking I have got to go to Yox (strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall in the morning. It's just that hard."
Antwarn Franklin (96) is shown during a recent Auburn football practice.
Coach Yoxall's redshirt program is designed to push the Tiger freshmen to their limits as fellow redshirt Courtney Taylor explains. "With the redshirts, we do a whole lot more," the wide receiver says. "The sets go up a little higher, the weights go up a little higher. So we are getting more reps than they are conditioning wise."
Both Franklin and Taylor came to Auburn as a part of the highly touted 2002 recruiting class and both athletes carry impressive high school resumes.
Franklin, a 6-5, 290-pound lineman, re-signed with the Tigers in 2002 after finishing his senior season in 2000 with 90 tackles and seven sacks. Franklin also came in carrying many high school honors including being named to the Birmingham News All-State team and the Huntsville Times Elite 11 as well as being named the fourth best defensive lineman in the southeast by PrepStar magazine.
At 6-3 and 185 pounds, Taylor played quarterback and cornerback for Carrollton High school. However, Taylor will be a wide receiver, and if Auburn's coaching staff's assumptions are correct a very good one at the college level. At Carrollton, Taylor racked up 1,200 yards of total offense and threw for 10 touchdowns as a senior.
Despite their impressive high school records the coaches decided that both players needed to spend the 2002 season in the redshirt program. For Taylor and Franklin that means a season dedicated to learning tough lessons for a new level of play like hard work, determination, constant improvement and learning them in the weight room or on the practice field.
Taylor says that for him this year should be very helpful and he is working hard each day to get better. "When I go out I try to work hard each and every day. That would be my main goal when I get up. I want to get better today. I want to work hard today and I want to strive toward my goal."
Franklin also says that he is learning the lessons that his redshirt season is intended to teach him. "You have just got to stay consistent on your work ethic. You have got to be consistent and work hard everyday."
Some players have said that going through a redshirt season can be like having a full year of two-a-day practices and Franklin says that he thinks that statement is pretty accurate. "I can't say it has been easier and I can't say it has been worse. The only thing about it that is easy is that you only have it one time. It is hard though. It is not like practicing two times a day, you have just got one time, but that one time feels like both practices of two-a-days on one day."
Taylor says that all of the blood, sweat and tears that he has been putting into his redshirt season has already been paying off. "Well, I am a whole lot better than when I first got here," he says. "I feel like my strength was not there and my speed was not there, but working out with Coach Yox, redshirting, it is a tremendous change. You can feel it basically when you are working out."
Franklin also says that all of the hard work is paying dividends for him as well. "I know I have gotten a lot stronger and I think I have gotten a little faster too."
Courtney Taylor is making the adjustment from high school quarterback to college wide receiver.
Along with all of the strength and conditioning that the redshirt players do throughout the season, Taylor says that they also receive a lot of special attention from their position coaches. "All the time," he notes. "He (Greg Knox) makes sure we know everything. He will call a play and ask me, ‘Do you know what you have on that play,' and I'll tell him, ‘Yes sir, I know what I've got on that coach.' He is always just making sure that you are getting the flow."
Other freshmen who are practicing but not playing this year on defense include linebackers Kevis Burnam and Mike Sherill, safety Cavari Dailey, cornerback Brandon Williams and punter Michael Gibson. Offensive freshmen redshirts include wide receiver Lee Guess, linemen Jonathan Palmer and William Ward.
For redshirt freshmen like Taylor and Franklin all of the hard work, endurance, trials and tribulations are simply what they must go through to reach their goal. The goal that all Auburn players have, to be able to suit up every fall Saturday and run through that tunnel to the deafening roar of 80,000 plus excited Tiger fans screaming their lungs out for you and your team.
Franklin says that he is constantly thinking about the day when he can take off the redshirt and prove that he has the ability to fulfill his dreams. "I am just waiting. Right now I am just looking forward to winter workouts because I know when those are over springtime is coming. That is when I have got to show what I have got--springtime."