Unsung Heroes

Coming off a 7-6 season in 2006, the Hurricanes needed a lot of players to step up and become much better players than they were a year ago. One player in particular has really done that.

Vegas Franklin was a four-star defensive end prospect when he played his senior season in 2002 at East St. John High in Reserve, La.

He was a national recruit who took official visits to Miami, LSU, Florida State, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Everyone wanted him. The Hurricanes and Randy Shannon won the recruiting battle.

He came to Miami with a lot of hype, obviously, but didn't exactly live up to some expectations after his first few years in the program. After a redshirt season in 2003, Franklin played in five games as a redshirt freshman in 2004, making just five tackles. As a sophomore in 2005, Franklin played in 10 games and had just seven tackles.

So three years into his college career, the former four-star defensive end who everyone wanted had just 12 career tackles, 0.5 sacks, and hadn't started a game yet.

As a junior in 2006, Franklin was moved inside where he could provide depth. He played in 13 games, going from end to tackle, and actually started one of them. Still, he finished the season with just five tackles and zero sacks.

When head coach Randy Shannon took the job in January, one of the first things he made very clear was that every position on this football team was up for grabs. That gave someone like Franlin hope. That gave him a chance to move out from the bottom of the D-Line depth chart and possibly become a starter.

That's exactly what has happened. After five games this season, Franklin has been excellent for the Hurricanes.

He's played well in all five games and already has 14 tackles, six for loss, and four quarterback sacks. While he's still a bit undersized inside, the coaches have been very pleased with his play. Shannon considers him the most improved player on the team.

"Vegas is the most improved," Shannon said. " What Vegas has done -- he's played different positions, he's been active as a football player. Vegas will just do it. He's come a long ways."

The Hurricanes are hoping his excellent play continues.

Franklin's not the only one who has made major progress.

Center John Rochford has made a big impact after being somewhat quiet on the team over the last four years, despite being a very good long-snapper the past few seasons.

A former four-star offensive line recruit, Rochford had never started a game until this season and has done a good job.

"Rochford's another one," Shannon said. "Those two guys have done a great job for us. Those two are unsung heroes. They've always helped the team but they're now in the spotlight."

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