Franklin Ready to Roll at Cal


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By Jim McGill, Staff Writer
Posted Dec 13, 2012
If by BearInsider Staff or Contributor, this article is Copyright © 2017

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A week after Cal's new head coach Sonny Dykes was brought on board as the Bears' first new head coach in over a decade, the first two additional members of the staff also came on board in offensive coordinator Tony Franklin and assistant head coach/wide receivers coach Rob Likens.

Franklin served as the offensive coordinator for Dykes at Louisiana Tech the last three seasons, including an impressive 2012 season where the Bulldogs posted a 9-3 record and led the nation in scoring offense averaging 51.50 points per game. Franklin was also a 2012 nominee for the Broyles Award given annually to the nation's top assistant coach.

For a Southern boy like Franklin, the move to the West Coast was a major change but one that he and his wife have embraced.

"I came out here to California for the first time a few years ago for the first time with the AFCA (American Football Coaches Association)," said Franklin. "I was with a bunch of coaches and they asked if I'd ever seen the Pacific Ocean or been on the Pacific Coast Highway so we all got in a car and checked it out.

"I just fell in love with it out here. I just felt like this was the place I was supposed to be. I kept telling my wife that's where we need to live one day.

Besides the success Franklin and Dykes shared together in Ruston, their vision for the future was also a shared one.

"Funny story. I was talking to Sonny two years ago and asked what his dream job was and he said, 'Cal.' I said, 'Why's that?' We both kind of had the same idea, that it would be a great place to live and work and a great program to be a part of.

"It's amazing how things work out sometimes."

Dykes and his family are house hunting in Berkeley now, with a desire to be close to work and plugged in the the community and that sounds just about right to Franklin.

"I'd like to be close," said Franklin. "Ideally, I can be somewhere where I can walk to work. That's the dream."

Dykes and staff will be following a group that notoriously burned both ends of the candle and some at times showed the toll that such long hours can induce. However, Franklin takes a noticeably-healthy attitude to the office each day as he heads to Memorial Stadium.

"For me, I've never considered my job 'work' -coaching football," said Franklin. "It isn't work. It's play. You get to make a living doing something that you really enjoy doing. That's not work to me.

"My brother works for a living. He drives to a factory every day and works in a chemical plant. He gets acid on his feet and hauls around 100 pound barrels. That's work.

"I go in and watch film, talk to young people.

"I do spend long hours at it but I enjoy it all and I enjoy working with our staff and we all feel the same way.

"Our rule is work until your job is done and that's it."

Dykes' and Franklin's prolific offense has often been mistaken for Washington State head coach Mike Leach's "Air Raid" offense, particularly since Dykes worked with Leach for seven years at Texas Tech -his last two as offensive coordinator. But if you ask Dykes or Franklin, there's not a lot of similarity.

"It doesn't resemble Leach's offense at all," said Franklin. "Basically, what we try to do is play fast and play with great tempo. That's the number one thing we try to do. We want to be the fastest team in America and we want to constantly attack. So we do multiple things out there.

"We don't go into a season thinking we're going to throw more or run more. We try to be good at both and whichever one is working, that's the one we emphasize at any given point in time.

"We'll use power sets with three backs. Sometimes we'll have seven offensive linemen in a game. Sometimes there will be no running backs in a game and five receivers.

"It's just kind of a deal where you get your best players on the field and the more guys that play, the more cameradie you have. That's the way we do things."

What that adds up to is not endlessly working to try and out-scheme their oppoent but rather determining how they can impose their will on an opponent instead.

"Our offense is geared towards our talent and how we can best utilize them," said Franklin. "I couldn't care less what team or defense we're playing. We always tell our guys that it's always about us. Everything we do is about us, not our opponent. If we do our job right, we'll get it done.

"We're just trying to get our best guys on the field and put them in position to do what they do really well.

"Every place I go, it looks a little different because the talent's different. At times last year since we had a really good line and some really good running backs and some really good receivers and good role players who really played their roles  the way they were supposed to play it -it was really kind of a special year. We had one of the best offenses in the history of college football with the point production we had.

"It was a bunch of guys with good skills that played hard and cared about each other. In all honesty, they just went out and played unselfishly and got it done."

An impressive element in Louisiana Tech's ability to win consistently and put up big numbers was that they were doing it with largely unheralded players, showing both the ability to coach up the players they inherited and an eye for diamonds in the rough they could quickly develop in their program.

"You know, we had good football players out there this season but we also had a lot of guys that were walk-ons. We had four starters that were walk-ons.  One of our linemen was one of the best linemen in the country and he walked on. Our starting outside receiver, our X was a walk-on. Our starting Y was a walk-on. And we had guys we recruited that were unheralded and not recruited by a lot of teams that played key roles.

"The situation you have today is that with the internet, everyone thinks if this guy's a 4 star and this guy's a 3 star, the 4 star must be better. But people should go back and look at Boise and see how many 4 star guys they have (none to-date this class and two in the last four full recruiting classes) and you'd have to say they're pretty good.

"It's just a matter of getting good football players and building a good team. Obviously being here, we'll be able to recruit a better caliber of football player. There's not doubt about that. Cal has a lot to sell.

"It's a matter of getting the right type of guys and building cameradie and how they care about each other.

"How fast do they buy in? We move fast. I tell them, 'We can be great tomorrow if you guys buy in tomorrow. If you take a year before you buy in, it's going to take longer and we're not going to wait on you.

"That's why some guys don't play a lot. Some guys buy in and sell out and others might not get on board."

The reality of today's college football landscape is that coaching staffs are under a microscope, with every fan offering blunt opinions on exactly how a coach should run his team.

It can be particularly daunting going from a WAC program in little Ruston, Louisiana to the bright lights of Pac 12 football in one of the nation's largest media markets, but if Franklin's the slightest bit intimidated, he's not letting on.

"The thing about me is I never read a message board or the newspapers," said Franklin, with a laugh. "That's the worst thing you can do. The main thing you have to do as a coach is listen to the people who matter and turn off those that don't.

"We're here to win football games and we'll do that with the right kind of coaches and the right kind of football players.

"Change is always uncomfortable. Sometimes it's good to be uncomfortable. We'll make our players uncomfortable at times and that's what we're supposed to do. When you make people uncomfortable, they have to adjust."

If the mental image of making players uncomfortable conjures images of drill sargeant coaches yelling at players nose-to-nose with spit flying, no need to worry.

"By uncomfortable, I mean that we'll have guys doing things they're not used to doing and practicing in ways they're not used to practicing.

"Our training methods will be different. Our techniques will be different. And we'll put them in situations that they might not understand right away. But eventually, they'll get it.

"There's different ways to do things. We have a formula we know that works, in every place you can imagine and at every level you can imagine. What we need to do is get our guys to understand that the very moment they get it is when they take off really get it done."

Franklin was uncertain if there'd be a change in the strength and conditioning staff but he made it clear that the conditioning program would be fully-complimentary to the high-speed brand of football the Bears will be playing in 2013 and beyond.

"Because of the way we play and the tempo we play at, cardio's very important and there has to be a strong tie-in with our strength and conditioning program and we'll address that and have a plan for it.

"They have no idea about the tempo, not having played it before.

"We ran 88 snaps a game this year and were second in the nation and were that area.

"More snaps per game means more opportunity to put a lot more points on the board. That's basically what we're tying to do out there."

Stay tuned for the second installment of the interview where Franklin talks about his level of involvement in the recruiting process and how a Sonny Dykes-led staff approaches the recruiting game as well as their assessment of Cal's current talent base and what type of players they're looking for. Other subjects include the thickness of their playbook, how fast the offense will be installed (a lot faster than most will think) and offensive balance.

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