Franklin: "It's Going to be a New Era"

Johnathan Franklin, the 5-10, 200-pound redshirt freshman running back, looks to be earning some playing time this spring. He talked to us about what he offers in terms of a change of pace at the position, the issue of blocking, and a revolution in UCLA football...

Christian Ramirez hasn't practiced in a week because of a strained hamstring, yet is mentioned most often as the UCLA Bruins' No. 1 running back, a player that they need to get a lot of touches. Derrick Coleman is the Bruins' leading returning rusher from a year ago, and averaged a strong 5.4 yards in racking up a modest 284 rushing yards and scoring two touchdowns.

Johnathan Franklin? After he led the Bruins with 45 rushing yards in their first extended scrimmage of the spring Saturday, Coach Rick Neuheisel said that the redshirt freshman from Los Angeles Dorsey High ‘'offers a nice little change of pace.''

The description didn't seem to bother Franklin, though he no doubt has much more in mind for the 2009 season and gave strong signals during the scrimmage that he could handle the workload, churning out some tough yards inside and using his speed or a deft cut to get outside.

Nor did the notion that the Bruins are looking for a bigger back to rush the football (Ramirez, who did not play last season because he was academically ineligible, is 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds and Coleman is 6-foot and 231 pounds). Franklin is 5-10 and 200 pounds.

"I'm not intimidated at all. It's a competition and life is full of competition. You could put a dude with 100 more pounds on me in front of me, I don't care who you put in front of me, I'm just going to go as hard as I can and I'm going to be confident that in the end I'm going to get that spot," Franklin said. "That's my goal, to get that spot.

"I just have to keep pushing, keep pushing until I can't any more. That's life, you know?"

You had some nice runs today, made some nice cuts...

"I just came out today like it was a game, just like it was a game. I don't have a lot of opportunities because we have so many running backs, so I just came out and I was focused, I was ready to go, and I just gave it everything I had."

What do you have to do to get into one of the top two spots at running back?

"You just have to work hard. I understand that the coaches don't put you in the position you are in life, God does. I just have to understand I'm in the position I am on the depth chart for a reason, and all I can do is come out here and work hard everyday and just give it all I have. I have to do what the coaches say – on the field I have to think like a coach and play like a coach and that's what I have to do."

Coach Neuheisel said you were a 'nice little change of pace.' Is that a good thing?

"That's a good thing. But, then again, I want us to change the way we are. I don't want to be how we were back in the day. I want it to be a new era. I want it to be a new UCLA, a new Bruins. It's like a revolution – we have to change it for good, like it's never been before. That's the goal, to change it like it's never been before."

With all the backs here, it seems, blocking and blitz pick-up becomes an issue. Where are you with that?

"I have some work to do. Everybody out there, as far as the running backs go, have work to do. All we can do is come back out here on Monday and work on (picking up) the blitzes. I feel we do have a problem there, but we're going to work on it and we're going to strive for perfection, and in the end, come San Diego State, we're going to be good at it."

Kevin Prince mentioned a lack of enthusiasm with the offense today. Did you feel that?

"No, not at all. But Maurice Drew was here, talking about us collectively filling it. We have to leave the individualism in the locker room and come out here as a team and we haven't done that yet. Once we all come out there as a team and have one perspective of getting better and going hard and giving it all we've got, we're going to be OK. That's the change I'm talking about, the revolution. It's going to be a new era, it's going to come soon. It just takes time."

Why is that so hard for some guys?

"I don't know. Probably their background in high school - dudes probably haven't grown up with that attitude or that drive. But we're going to change that, eventually we're going to change that."

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