UCLA’s football team consensus leader, at least on offense, is Johnathan Franklin.
That was never a question. He’s proven to be a great citizen and a very good running back at this level, and he’s proved to have a level of maturity that can’t be matched by anyone on the team.
Of course, Franklin solidified his status as likely the best player on the team last night, with a 214-yard night off of just 15 carries, all thrown together with three touchdown runs. Franklin absolutely tore up the Rice defense in ways you can’t imagine.
And of course, there’ll be doubters to just how indicative his performance is of his talent and likely level of production this season.
But this isn’t a shocker, at least not for UCLA fans that have been watching him in the offseason. Franklin has legitimately improved by leaps and bounds during fall and spring camps, as he’s making smarter cuts, running between the tackles cleaner, running much harder than he had before and was far more patient out of the backfield than he was in 2011.
And so far, he’s delivered on our prediction that he would be the best running back in the Pac-12.
But the question that’s burning on UCLA fans’ minds: Just how good is Franklin? We know he’s capable of performances like that damn near every night, and we know that Mazzone’s offense will get him better positions to succeed and score far more than any other offensive system he’s been apart of.
But is Franklin that good? Is Franklin — gulp — a Heisman contender?
Potentially. (Potentially a contender, I know that’s redundant, so be quiet.)
It was one of those things uttered and thrown around by college football analysts as they watched Franklin dominate. Of course, they were in the context of “if Franklin keeps this up” kind of discussions, but the fact that the two were in the same sentence was incredible.
Franklin would need to keep this up. Not the 200-yard games, mind you, nor the three-touchdown showings. Really, he juts needs to play at this level — making the right cuts, staying patient to wait for blocking assignments to get picked up, and so on — all season long, something that’s entirely doable, and something that should net him the title of leading rusher in UCLA history.
The sample size is so damn tiny, though. But we know that if Franklin can level out to around 140 yards per game to go along with one to two touchdowns scored per contest, then he’ll have solidified himself as one of the best running backs in the country.
Franklin’s tour and coming-out party (which would only be a thing since Franklin has been largely underrated his entire career) is about to start.
Be ready, Bruins fans. This should be fun.