AUBURN, Ala. — John Franklin III has a long list of goals he’s working on. Most recently, the senior checked one off when he graduated from Auburn on Saturday.
Ultimately he’d like to excel for the Tigers after making a switch from quarterback to wide receiver this spring. While awards, recognition and some looks from the next level would be nice, Franklin is simply inching ahead, focused on his next move.
“Yeah, I’ve got all that stuff ahead of me, but right now I’m really just focusing on just learning how to play receiver, the ins and outs of the position because I haven’t played it since little league, honestly,” Franklin said. “Just going back and learning how to be a receiver. That’s my main focus and my main goal right now.”
There’s a lot to take in, especially under Chip Lindsey. The new offensive coordinator plans to try Franklin at each of Auburn’s four wide receiver spots to determine the best fit. No matter where he ends up, though, Franklin has already started taking the necessary steps to ensure he’ll be ready to make explosive plays this season.
“Just getting the details and the technique things about it,” Franklin said. “That’s what I’m really focusing on now.”
It’s a significant switch for the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native, who came to Auburn with the intent to win the starting quarterback job.
An offseason conversation ended with Lindsey, coach Gus Malzahn and Franklin in agreement that the Tigers had to find a way to get the ball in the dynamic athlete’s hands.
“It was just, as always, whatever was best for the team, that’s what I was down for,” Franklin said. “There’s one quarterback on the field, but you have more receivers. My whole thing was just like, as long as I’m getting the ball, that’s all that matters. I think I’ve proven that when I have it good things will come up from it.”
In limited appearances for Auburn in 2016, the junior college transfer totaled 430 rushing yards on 46 attempts while competing 14-of-26 passes (204 yards).
In anticipation of a position change, Franklin has done his homework since January. He’s worked out a few times with former Auburn receiver Sammie Coates and spoken with different people in order to prepare as best he could.
Things have been going well for the former star of the Netflix series Last Chance U.
“Coach (Kodi) Burns has been helping me a lot,” Franklin said. “Coach Malzahn’s been helping me a lot. I feel like I advanced a lot from the spring and you know, there’s always room for improvement. That’s what I’m looking forward to doing this camp and going into the season.”
The “little things” have mattered most. That and the experience Franklin has is getting going up against Auburn’s improved defense.
“Our defense is one of the best defenses in the conference, if not the best defense in the conference,” Franklin said. “And just going against guys like ‘Jimmy’ Jamel Dean and CD (Carlton Davis), Javaris Davis, Jeremiah Dinson — you’ve got a whole lot of talent right there in just learning how to get off press.”
Even in a short time, the speedster has come a long way.
“Certain things, getting in and out of routes I feel better on now,” Franklin said. “Just learning the fine details of the position and what can make you real open or still open, but covered.”
There’s still a long way to go, of course. Fortunately, Franklin will get perhaps more of an opportunity than previous Auburn players who’ve switched to receiver.
Auburn, a traditional run-first SEC team, is going to throw the ball, too. That could mean big things from a focused JF3.
“We’ve gotta be open,” Franklin said. “We feel really confident about it and it’s exciting as a receiver they’re going to throw the ball no matter what. They’re going to throw the ball way more than we have in the past, and it makes you work harder.”