Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Eye on the Tigers, a rundown of everything happening in LSU Tigers recruiting, with Sam Spiegelman.
Today, we discuss all things Fabian Franklin, including an upcoming visit from LSU general manager Austin Thomas, his improvement in the classroom and where the Tigers stand in his recruitment.
HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Fabian Franklin is the anti-blue-chip athlete.
Sure, he has incredible burst and can bulldoze linebackers when he lowers his shoulders, but the 4-star running back rarely takes to Twitter to announce offers, visits or even tempt fans of SEC teams that are hoping he’s next to commit.
Franklin is the nation’s No. 6 running back and No. 155 overall prospect in the 2018 recruiting cycle, per the 247Sports composite rankings. He’s also the top-ranked recruit in Mississippi.
His spring has been predicated on improvement — in the classroom and on the football field — but by choice, he’s added another facet to his routine. The elite tailback is also a part-time employee at the local Taco Bell, working the drive-thru each Wednesday to bring in a little extra cash.
Oh, the life of a blue-chip running back.
School, practice and the drive-thru
Hattiesburg High coach Tony Vance has college coaches blowing up his phone almost daily. Usually, the texts contain a similar message: What’s the deal with Franklin?
Vance’s workhorse running back speaks more with his play on Friday nights than he does with his cellphone. He responds to texts but isn’t much of a talker. He means no harm.
“He’s a quiet kid. He doesn’t talk a whole lot. He smiles more than he talks,” Vance told SEC Country. “He’s a good kid to be around, and if you get to know him you might get a conversation out of him. He doesn’t talk much, so when coaches reach out to Fabian and haven’t heard back, I tell them: ‘Don’t feel bad.’
“He’s not a guy that tweets or texts a lot. He’s different.”
There’s more evidence to back Vance’s claim.
Once Franklin wraps up football practice on Wednesdays, he heads to the nearby Taco Bell to work. It’s not out of necessity; it’s a means of earning extra spending money.
However, it’s a rarity to see a blue-chip prospect work at a fast-food chain. Again, Franklin is different.
Franklin is dialed in on football and his upcoming ACT, but his part-time job also has its perks. He knows that by the end of the week he’ll be exhausted, but believes persevering will provide him with an added edge down the road.
“Working keeps a little money in my pocket. You know, I might need things for school, so a little job puts some money in my pocket and keeps me out of trouble,” Franklin told SEC Country. “I wouldn’t say it’s hard [to balance]. I still maintain my grades, go to school and go to practice, and Coach Vance lets me leave practice a little early. Sometimes I’m tired at work, but it’s worth it. I can get overwhelmed a little bit, but it’s going to get me better. When I’m tired, I keep going. I can do this and do that, so long that I maintain my schoolwork and practice.”
Franklin’s time in the Taco Bell kitchen has helped him develop an appetite. The rising 2018 prospect has yet to miss a spring practice and weight-room session, and working late on Wednesdays only contributes to his cravings.
This May, Franklin measured 6 feet and a “legitimate” 215 pounds. The weight gain is a product of a rigorous workout regimen, an increased appetite and, perhaps the biggest culprit, a finely concocted Doritos Locos taco.
“I’ve been eating a lot lately,” Franklin said. “Since last year, I’ve been gaining weight, eating a lot … eating, eating, eating. I’ve been working out and drinking protein, but, yeah, eating Taco Bell, too. It’s good food. I make the Doritos Loco taco — it’s a chip and a taco, and I make it special with chicken, lettuce, sour cream, but no beef. I make it how I like it.”
LSU on top for elite RB; Austin Thomas to evaluate
Besides ACT prep, spring football and a part-time gig, Franklin also has recruiting to focus on.
He boasts offers from most of the SEC, but one offer continues to elude him. That, of course, is from LSU.
Franklin nearly committed in March but opted to hold off. He didn’t have the offer he wanted and wasn’t ready to verbally commit until he could consider all of his options. Fast forward two months and Franklin remains in a similar situation. He has delayed a decision until the summer leading into his senior season.
By then, he expects to have an offer from the Tigers. If not, he has plenty of other options.
“I had a team in mind and I was going to commit, but I felt it was too early,” Franklin said. “I had one team in mind. Then, I thought to hold up and take it slow. There’s no need to rush it.
“LSU … they haven’t offered me, but I’ve been waiting on it. There might be something going on there or something I’m not doing right. I have offers from every other school, but the school I like hasn’t offered. Maybe it’s God telling me to do something better or to work harder, but hopefully, it’s going to come. If it doesn’t, I have other options to choose from.”
So, when will the Tigers coaching staff finally make an offer?
They are keeping tabs on Franklin’s grades. More on that to come. Besides that, the running back’s talents are undeniable. General manager Austin Thomas has assumed responsibility for his recruitment in place of former running backs coach and Mississippi recruiter Jabbar Juluke.
Thomas will attend Franklin’s spring football game on Monday. The two have been in touch in recent weeks, with Thomas providing some hints of where this eventually will lead.
“It gave me some excitement to know the team I like is coming to see me play,” Franklin said. “We’ve been communicating and [Thomas] reached out to me, and it’s a good thing. They tell me how good of a back I am, that my education is most important and, mainly, they want me playing there and they want me to come there. They said that I’m a good running back and I’d fit good in their offense, and I think so, too.”
LSU could offer Franklin during his spring game on Monday. It could come in June, should the Hattiesburg standout elect to camp in Baton Rouge or make an unofficial visit to campus. Perhaps it will come next fall once coaches can catch a glimpse of Franklin’s grades.
Nonetheless, Franklin has remained patient throughout the process. He has been a lifelong fan of the Tigers, and he wears No. 22 for the Tigers of Hattiesburg.
“It’s a process,” Franklin said. “They need to look at my schoolwork and my grades. They’re waiting to see. If not, then who knows? It’s always been a team I’d love to play for. I’ve been liking LSU for a long time. Since elementary [school], I’ve liked LSU. There’s been no team I liked but LSU.”
‘Definitely on track’ to qualify
Franklin can run around defensive ends. He can run through opposing linebackers. His play needs little fine-tuning, and in recent months he’s trying to bring his grades to that same level.
Franklin wraps up his junior year on Friday and will take the ACT in June, which should provide more clarity on where he stands academically heading into his senior year. As of this spring, there’s been plenty of positive momentum.
“It’s about getting my ACT right. That’s the main thing I need to do,” Franklin said. “Once I get that right, I’ll sit down and figure out what I want to do, even though I have something in mind about where I want to go. I know I can’t start doing that until I finish the first step. So I’m studying up for the ACT and I’m on track to get it right, and by next year I should be ready to qualify.”
Franklin’s progress is nothing to take for granted.
Like a lot of high school student-athletes, the freshman-year version of Franklin wasn’t nearly as dialed in on his coursework as the junior was. But he was lucky.
Vance believes Franklin turned a corner faster than a lot of his teammates and realized his grades were critical to his future playing college football. His attendance is impeccable, and his effort is undeniable. Now it’s a matter of whether the grades reflect his hard work.
“Like most high school kids, as a freshman, he didn’t quite get the significance of freshman English as opposed to senior English,” Vance said. “They count the same, but I think the light came on faster than most of them. As a sophomore, he started understanding that grades were important. He’s at school every day and goes to class. Teachers like seeing him come in. You know, some like seeing them come and seeing them go, but teachers enjoy having him in class.
“He’s on track to qualify. I don’t have much of a doubt about it. I think he’ll be fine. He’s definitely not behind. He’s definitely on track.”
Should Vance be right, then it may not be long before LSU’s offer comes.
LSU’s reluctance to offer has only added to Franklin’s hunger — not the type that can be satisfied by a taco, no matter how many special fixings are added. In an effort to secure the much sought-after offer, Franklin has dedicated himself to the classroom as much or more than he has to the weight room and the football team.
Regardless of whether the offer comes through, Franklin has become a well-rounded student-athlete who has balanced his priority list. Much of the SEC has come through Hattiesburg this spring. One of those schools — and perhaps LSU — will get a driven talent.
“You can’t do something until you finish something, so I need to get my grades right first,” Franklin said. “I think about all of the coaches that have come through here. I want to make my family proud. It woke me up that I have all these opportunities to go D-1 and play football. I don’t want to mess up my opportunities to further my career and hopefully play in the NFL one day.”
The entire SEC has been through Hattiesburg High this spring 👀 pic.twitter.com/HgtFJdJgfW
— Sam Spiegelman (@samspiegs) May 11, 2017
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