Interview with James Franklin

TSR's Maddie McConnell was able to sit down with James Franklin and get his perspective on how spring football is going and how he thinks the upcoming season will go.

On how excited he has been in the first few practices

The funny thing is, I went into this spring much more poised. Just sit back and coach the guys. It's just; I'm so excited to be out on the field with the guys. Don't get me wrong, I like watching film and I like working on the playbook and recruiting, but just being out on the field with the guys, I need that. You get out there, and you have fun. They do some things very well and I get excited. They do things bad and I get excited. It's just really good to be out on the field again with the guys.

On the quarterback situation

I've been very pleased. There's a clear difference in Chris in year two in the offense. Just so much more confident and you can just see it. Things are happening faster and his understanding [of the game] is just night and day, in meetings, on the field, everything. The guy who has been very surprising is Jamarr Robinson, and that's probably not fair because he didn't get enough reps to legitimately evaluate him last year. I've been very impressed. He had Jordan here, Chris here, he had Josh Portis here, and as much as you tell him to prepare as if you were the starter, you don't really do that unless you think you're going to play. I tried to talk about to him, but I don't think he had a really good grasp on what we were doing last year. He's worked so much harder [and] is so much more prepared right now. Coming into this, to be honest with you, I wasn't sure if he was going to be a quarterback or not. I was hoping he would, because now I have two quarterbacks on scholarship. I've been very pleased with him; he's doing really good, and looks so much more confident. From an athletic standpoint, he really brings an element that Chris doesn't have so I feel really good. One of the things I talk to him about is our practices are designed for Chris' development. There's things probably that we would to take advantage of his talents because he and Chris are so different, but he understands that and we're trying to work some of those things in as well.

On the incoming freshmen quarterbacks

I think what helps is I was able to be involved in recruiting them so we could make sure we were recruiting guys that fit the system. For some reason, we've struggled getting the quarterbacks that Ralph wanted in the past. My philosophy is this…Are there guys who were rated higher that were this or that? Yeah, but I'm talking about two kids that are both 6'2 plus, that both played basketball, that both played in programs that were really good high school football programs, that both had a 3.9 GPA, both had very high SAT [scores]. We're talking about guys that have a lot of success in a lot of different areas in their life. [They] are athletic, have the body types we want, [and] have the make-up we want from a character standpoint. In my opinion, doing this as long as I've done it, they just have too many things going for them for that to stop. Hopefully we can continue to get more guys like them.

On how important it is to have a quarterback with "game smartness" as well as academic accomplishments

There's two different reasons why it's so important. Number one, that's the coach on the field. It really doesn't matter what I know. I could be unbelievable at drawing plays up, but it doesn't matter, I'm not on the field. Being able to [have] their teammates look to them for leadership and ask them questions and they know the answers. They really need to know it all. The other thing is this, you need a guy that's going to be a strong student, so I'm not worrying if he's going to be eligible. I don't really have the time to baby-sit, whether [they're] going to class. It takes too much energy just to be a great quarterback, so to recruit a guy that's going to struggle academically doesn't make sense, because it's hard enough just being a quarterback.

On the future of the running game

I think it's the position we have the most depth at. Everybody is back. We have three guys that have played, obviously Da'Rel Scott, Davin Meggett and Morgan Green, have all played and had some degree of success, each one of them. Then the guy that maybe is the most natural out of all of them is Gary Douglas, who red shirted last year. So we've got four legitimate guys, and we've got two highly recruited guys coming in. That gives us six running backs that I think we can worth with. Let alone, some other guys that we have in the program.

One of the things I've mentioned is getting the backs more involved in the passing game. With Da'Rel, if he touches the ball in space and we give him space, it means he has a chance to make some plays because of his speed. I'd love for Da'Rel to be a 1500-yard rusher and a 1000-yard receiver.

On Don Brown's comment of the defense creating offensive opportunities

I think Don is an aggressive guy, that's why we like him. He's been around, he's been a head coach, and so he really sees the big picture. I'm a little biased because I'm an offensive guy, but the only reason for defense is to get the ball back for the offense. You do that by different ways: Three and out, make them punt and get the ball back to the offense or to create a turnover. The thing that's exciting about creating turnovers is that it gets the ball back to the offense and creates momentum. They have an opportunity to score now. Interception returned for a touchdown or a fumble return for a touchdown. To me, that's what you want. You want the offense to stay on the field; you want the defense on the sideline. And when the defense does get on, they're trying to get back off the field as fast as possible. I think with the things we're going to be doing defensively with Don's energy, enthusiasm and how aggressive he is. He's a really good fit for us.

On what he plans on getting out of spring practice

Obviously, finding depth at the quarterback position, which we know is going to be very important. And then, there's some young guys on the offensive line that are going to have to step up for us. Being able to determine who are top eight offensive linemen are going to be. Determining, do we have a legitimate second team quarterback? Which so far he looks good. Then, just to grow. Year two, it has just been so much better, in the meetings [and] on the field. I can see the guys are so much further ahead, the coaches are further ahead. Everybody's just so much more comfortable and confident about what we're doing.

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