Auburn practiced five days on campus before taking a holiday break. Franklin, the rest of the coaching staff and the AU players will re-assemble on Christmas Day evening in Atlanta to resume preparations for the New Year's Eve Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Franklin comes to Auburn with a reputation for developing his own successful version of the spread offense, which has been effective for a variety of college and high school teams around the country. In addition to his coaching college football, he has been a consultant to other coaches who want to install the spread offense. The Tigers have been running the West Coast Offense for the past four seasons.
The following are comments from Franklin:
What has been your major focus since arriving at Auburn last week?
"The biggest thing was trying to learn personnel, watch film and just try to figure out who everybody is, what they do, what they are good at and see how well they have done things here."
Is the talent level what you hoped it would be?
"The talent level is good. There are some spots where it's not as good as I had hoped for, but there are other sports that it is much better than I hoped for. That's part of coaching. You can make excuses about talent all you want, but you go to a great school like this and you're going to have good players."
As far a personnel needs to run your offensive system the way you want to run it, what are the areas of emphasis for recruiting players you want to bring to Auburn?
"In what we do you've always got to have a great receiver. Then you've got to have a great triggerman, whether it's an average thrower who is a great runner, or a great thrower who can run just a little bit. You find the best one you can find and then you fit the offense around what they're good at. We'll be doing that.
"You have also got to have great O-linemen, and they've done a great job of that over the years at Auburn. The running back deal has been phenomenal. We just hope to keep getting those types of running backs in here.
"We have done it with below average receivers and still been successful. Boy, when you have a great one it sure makes a difference. At Kentucky we had (Craig) Yeast, who was a great receiver and we had (tight end James) Whalen, who was a great receiver. Those guys were dynamic in making plays. We need to develop these guys and then try to find a dynamic one."
Whalen is a tight end who had 90 catches in a season. Did he flex out?
"Yeah, he did. He flexed out. We had Whalen and then we had Derrick Smith. Both of those guys were All-SEC guys. They're in and out all of the time, which is a tough deal for defensive personnel because you've got a tight end, but he's flexed out. It causes problems. These tight ends (Cole Bennett, Gabe McKenzie, Tommy Trott) are good players."
What do you see as a need for the February 2008 signee class?
"I know that they've already got some great players that are coming in that are committed. We've looked at the board and now it's just a matter of taking the best available and taking the best players that you can get."
Have the players had a good attitude adapting to you as the new offensive coordinator and quarterback coach?
"They have. They've accepted me. Mainly it's always the sell of the coaches, and if the coaches buy in and sell you then they believe in them. They don't know me. They believe in Coach Tuberville and he had the confidence to hire me so they immediately believe in me."
Tony Franklin (right) watches practice with graduate assistant coach Joe Hollis (left).
How long do you think it will take to improve Auburn's offense?
"Number one, they have got really good talent. Number two, they've got really good football coaches here that have been here for a long time that have done a great job. To me there is no excuse not to be a great offense here and immediately. I don't believe long term, ‘Wait until we have three years to recruit our guys' and all of that. That's not for me. From the day I get here I expect them to be good."
Who are some of the players who have stood out at practice so far?
"I don't even know their names. I can call them by numbers at times. Like No. 1 (tailback Brad Lester), he really stands out and flashes out. All three of the tight ends really flash out. The offensive line is extremely talented. Then Brandon (quarterback Brandon Cox) is just a good, steady leader that I admire as a human being very much. I just hope he goes out in a blaze of glory. That's what we're hoping."
How important is having athletic offensive linemen to your system?
"It's real important, and these guys are incredibly athletic compared to the guys at Troy, who busted their butt. They did tremendous things and they went against people so much more talented than they were and did remarkably well. These guys at Auburn are very athletic. The ones who are here can definitely do this system."
Are you excited about the running backs you are working with now?
"The running backs are incredibly talented. That's been the fortress of this university--the great running backs. Eddie Gran (running backs coach) and I have been friends since we met in 1998. I always thought he was probably the best running back coach in the country, and after being here I know why."
Why do you believe Gran is such a good coach?
"He's a great teacher. He's extremely tough and hard-nosed, and he has an eye for talent. He knows how to go pick good guys."
How much of your system will the Tigers use in the bowl game and how much of the West Coast Offense will be used?
"We're just trying to do what they've been doing. If I've got a suggestion or a wrinkle maybe we'll throw something in. It's a short period of time to get everything in."
How is the starting quarterback Brandon Cox handling the transition to a new position coach and coordinator?
"He's done great. We just want him to go out successfully. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as player and also as a person. It's just an honor for me to get to coach him.
"His high school (Hewitt-Trussville) was one of the schools who did our stuff. It's nice to get to work with Brandon. I always knew about him and I knew his coaches, Jack Wood, and Marty Rosell. I knew those guys really well and it's kind of good to get to know the kid."