Franklin: Coaching The Key For O In '08

Coordinator Tony Franklin talks about Auburn's offense heading into game week with Louisiana-Monroe.

Auburn, Ala.--While the battle for the starting quarterback job gets the headlines, for offensive coordinator Tony Franklin the biggest question mark involves the entire offense and how it will perform this season. Even though he's seen it in action for years, he said he never knows how a team will respond until they get into game action.

"I feel good," Franklin said. "It's impossible every year to tell. I don't care where you are, I don't care where you're coaching. You never know until you go play other people. You can never tell against your own people how good you're going to be. I feel like we're talented. I feel like we've got a lot of guys that can make plays.

"It's just a matter of how they click when they go out there on Saturday and how many plays they make and like always not turning the football over. I feel like we're talented enough that if we do a good job coaching that we should be really good on offense. I'll be very disappointed if we're not."

One of the biggest improvements on the offensive side of the ball is at the wide receiver position. Senior Rod Smith returns after a solid junior year that saw him catch 52 passes for 705 yards and five touchdowns. Behind him Montez Billings added 28 receptions for 321 yards and one score. Robert Dunn is also back after snaring 19 balls for 211 yards and two touchdowns.

Behind those three the returning wide receivers caught just eight passes for 82 yards and no touchdowns. Franklin said despite their lack of production last season, he has seen a lot of improvement out of the group heading into the 2008 season.

"From when I first saw them until now is a huge, dramatic change," Franklin said. "I think probably just doing things the way I want them done, to me has made them more successful. It's also the natural maturation process for anybody, maturing and getting better. I think they are happy because they know they are going to get the ball and they're going to play. I think that's the biggest thing. Guys like to play and they like to know they're going to have a chance to get the ball so they're all excited."

Mario Fannin catches a touchdown against Clemson.

A player added to the mix at wide receiver this season is sophomore Mario Fannin. A dynamic runner with the ball, Fannin also has great hands and that has allowed him to move to one of the outside receiver spots. Franklin said Fannin will be outside but he won't be limited to that role for the 2008 Auburn offense.

"Fannin is going to play and he may play a lot of different spots," Franklin said. "I think you'll see him at different places on the field doing different things because he definitely needs the ball. We've got to figure out ways we can guarantee him touching the ball."

Among the many players on Auburn's offense with a new lease on life is junior tight end Tommy Trott. One of the most prolific receivers in Alabama high school football history as a tight end, Trott has been mostly a blocker his first two seasons for the Tigers. Playing in 26 games the last two years with 11 starts, Trott has just 14 career receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Franklin said those numbers should improve drastically this season in his offense.

"I think Tommy should be as good as any tight end that has been in this offense and there have been some good ones," Franklin said. "I think he should be as good as any of them. He's got a great feel for the game. He's a better blocker than most of the guys we've had in this offense and he's as good of a receiver as there is. I'll be disappointed if he's not a really good football player this year."

Franklin and the Tigers may need all their weapons on Saturday facing a Louisiana-Monroe defense that held Troy to 389 yards of total offense and just 24 points last season. Even though they gave up some big numbers in other games, Franklin said he expects a tough battle Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"They are extremely well coached," Franklin said. "Kim Damron left and went to Ole Miss with Houston (Nutt) but they kept everybody else. They brought in the guy from Nebraska as the defensive co-coordinator. They have been pretty good on defense and I expect them to be very similar. They are very sound. They play hard. They run hard to the ball. They are tough. They are very well coached. Both years it has been a struggle."

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