Tony Franklin: we want to ‘win and win big’

Photo by John Polzer // Submitted

Parents are an important facet in the decision making process for college-aged students, but a parent’s influence in decisions doesn’t fade as life goes on.

Following the Blue Raider’s 2015 football season, former offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner took the same position at Arkansas State, leaving the position vacant weeks before National Signing Day.

“When [the offensive coordinator position] came open, I called Rick [Stockstill] to see if he wanted to do it again, and we were able to work it out,” new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin said in an interview with Sidelines.

Franklin spent the 2009 season with the Blue Raiders before following Sonny Dykes to Louisiana Tech. After the 2012 season, Dykes was hired as the head coach at the University of California and he wanted Franklin to follow him out to Berkeley, California. Franklin has spent the last three season coaching under Dykes at Cal.

Franklin and his wife then decided it was best to leave the University of California after the 2015 season and return to Murfreesboro to be near family.

“My wife and I wanted to come home to be closer to family … Parents, two grandsons and three daughters on this side of the world,” Franklin said. “Parents are getting older … so we had made that decision that we were going to do that regardless of a job, and, then, this job came open.”

In 2009, under Franklin’s offense the Blue Raiders finished with a 10-3 record and closed the season out with a 42-32 win in the R+L Carries New Orleans Bowl over Southern Miss, the first bowl win in program history. Since Franklin left, the Blue Raiders have not totaled double-digit wins, nor gone on to win a bowl game.

“I haven’t seen enough to see similarities [between the 2009 MTSU team and this team]” Franklin said. “It’s going to be a different animal now than it was then … [the offense] isn’t going to look like what it did the last time.”

Franklin’s 2009 offensive success was largely because he had the experienced, athletic Dwight Dasher under center. In 2015, Franklin coached Jared Goff, the top projected quarterback in this year’s NFL Draft. Franklin noted some glaring similarities between Goff and Brent Stockstill.

“I think the biggest similarity between [Brent Stockstill and Jared Goff] is that they are both winners, they’re competitors and they’re really good leaders,” he said. “You can tell from watching the little film of Brent I have, he’s a quarterback-smart guy. He loves the game and he studies the game. Just from watching the brief interaction that I’ve had with [Stockstill] and the offense, you can tell that [Stockstill] is a natural leader.”

The Blue Raiders enter 2016 with six running backs on the roster, which is not the worst problem for Franklin to have.

“Someone needs to become really good,” Franklin said. “Right now you got six guys, and there is nobody that’s jumped out and said, ‘I’m phenomenal.’ Someone needs to do that, and, if not, we need to find someone that will do that.”

“I’ve watched the film of those guys, and they’re good, tough, hard-nosed guys that need to get better at making plays,” he continued. “They were guys who played hard, ran hard, were tough, physical, and all of that, but not a lot of things that happened on their own. And a good running back makes plays on his own.”

Franklin noted when he was at Cal, he had a 1,200 yard rusher in Daniel Lasco returning from 2014. Franklin expected he would be able to hand Lasco the ball 20 to 30 times a football game, but Lasco got hurt and was never the same.

The Middle Tennessee offense struggled to run the ball in some games due to the lack of push in the trenches and lack of big plays from the running backs. Franklin hopes to repair last years rushing mishaps to turn this team into a perennial contender.

“In a perfect world, you’re balanced,” he said. “In a perfect world you throw for 290 [yards] and run for 290 [yards], but the world’s never perfect. You do what you’re good at, and you sometimes do what the other team allows you to do.”

Franklin emphasized the importance of the run game for the Blue Raiders; He wants to see running backs step up to make plays, and he wants the offensive lineman to get bigger and stronger to generate a more forceful push upfront.

“The idea is that we have to run the football … you don’t want to ever get to the point where you can’t run the football because if you do, you can’t win a championship,” he said. “The only way you’re going to win a championship is to be able to run the football when you want to run it, so that will be the goal to try to get to that point.”

Franklin is known as a spread offense type of coordinator, but he said he wants to establish the run as well as throw the football. Franklin said he does not know what a spread offense means anymore because so many people claim to run the spread, yet they run completely different plays out of completely different formations.

“Win and win big. The only reason you play and the only reason they keep score is so that you can win more games,” Franklin said about his main goal this season. “The objective for me is to win the conference, and if you win the conference, you have a chance for other stuff.”

Stockstill and company set multiple offensive records in 2015, without the offensive mastermind of Franklin. Richie James led the country in receiving yards for freshman, and he finished in the top 10 in the nation in receiving yards. Franklin will maximize the utilization of James’ abilities, potentially making him a top-five receiver this season.

If Stockstill makes good decisions, a running back or two steps up and produces and James has another breakout season, Franklin is primed to lead a record-breaking offense in 2016.

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To contact Sports Editor Connor Ulrey, email sports@mtsusidelines.com.

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