When Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin hired Walt Bell to be his offensive coordinator, the former Arkansas State assistant came with a noted recruiting reputation and footholds throughout the south and America’s heartland. One of his strongest recruiting areas? Georgia -- and specifically the Atlanta area.
Bell dipped into those roots Dec. 22, convincing Durkin that Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) receiver Benaiah Franklin was worth a closer look.
“I was really, really excited when Maryland offered,” said Franklin, a 6-foot,-1 210-pound senior with previous verbals from Purdue, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Tulane, Miami of Ohio, Middle Tennessee, and, most notably, Arkansas State. “Coach Bell, he offered me at Arkansas State, and I knew him from that. He let my coaches know [Dec. 22] that Maryland wanted to offer, and then when my coaches told me I was thrilled.
"I had a great relationship with Coach Bell before. He’s a really great guy, really passionate. I considered Arkansas State because he was there. Just his energy and how he stays in touch with you, that’s one of the reasons I considered [the Howl].”
Franklin didn’t end up choosing the Howl, however. He opted for Purdue, his lone Big Ten offer, in June and has remained steadfast on the Boilermakers ever since.
But with Signing Day nearing, a couple recent scholarships, namely the one from Bell and Maryland, have him reconsidering.
“I’m committed to Purdue right now, but I’m open to looking at other places. I’m waiting to see what happens and if more offers come in, but the Maryland one stands out, definitely,” Franklin said. “I’m hoping to take an official visit to Maryland on [January] 22, and hopefully that happens. After that, we’ll see how it goes. I’m not sure if I’m going to visit anywhere else, but I definitely want to get up to Maryland. It’s a real nice school and a great option for me.”
The Georgia wideout didn’t know much about the Terps’ new staff, or the UMD program in general for that matter. He did watch UMD on TV a couple times and called the Under Armour uniforms “really nice,” but that’s about the extent of his Maryland knowledge.
“But it’s another Big Ten offer for me, it’s a nice school academically and of course now Coach Bell is there,” Franklin said. “So that’s why I want to go up and check it out. I’ll know more after that and when I talk to Coach Bell more.”
Other programs that have kept in touch with Franklin include Wake Forest (no offer yet), Tulane and Georgia Southern. He said he might officially visit one of that trio in addition to UMD, but couldn't say for sure.
If Franklin doesn’t find another option to his liking, however, he’s OK sticking with Purdue. The receiver messages the Boilermakers’ coaches a couple times each week, and just recently officially visited West Lafayette, Ind.
“I visited Purdue earlier in December, and it was a lot of fun,” Franklin said. “I had a good time with the other recruits and the players and just really enjoyed myself. I’m comfortable with Purdue, but we’ll see what happens.”
Franklin, who clocked in with a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, lined up at wideout, slot and running back for Wheeler this year. He said most schools are looking at him for receiver, although he acknowledged he could shift into the backfield if asked. Franklin did not play defense at Wheeler, but wouldn’t be averse to safety or linebacker either.
“I’ll play wherever I’m needed,” he said. “I just want to get on the field and contribute as best I can.”