UCLA Football: Bank On It, where Johnathan Franklin will be the Pac-12’s top rusher


Here at GJB, we don’t like to talk about UCLA football in terms of wild speculation based merely off of precedence and gut feelings. That said, we will begin to talk about UCLA football in terms of wild speculation based merely off of precedence and gut feelings. This feature, labeled “Bank On It” will feature guarantees — not predictions — for the 2012 UCLA football season. 

Today’s guarantee: UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin will be the Pac-12’s top running back. 

We know it’s not good karma to flaunt our football players before our squad even touches the football field, but at the risk of jinxing him, there’s not a doubt in my mind that Johnathan Franklin will be the Pac-12’s top running back in 2012.

It’s a ballsy prediction, because Or’egon’s De’Anthony Thomas (or “Th’omas,” we can’t be su’re) is going to make a helluva case for himself considering his explosiveness behind LaMichael James last season, all while BerkLOLy’s Isi Sofele and Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor might have something to say about who gets to be the Pac-12’s top rusher. In fact, ESPN has Johnathan Franklin as the Pac-12’s 7th best rusher, not too bad to be sure, but there are only 12 Pac-12 teams (duh).

But last season, Johnathan Franklin came dangerously close to nailing his second straight 1000-yard season (he was 24 yards short), while working in an offense where the QB couldn’t throw effectively and defenses could crowd the box to offset UCLA’s run offense. The pistol was a disaster in Westwood, and may have harmed Franklin’s rushing abilities.

In this offense, though? With Noel Mazzone’s explosive offense being vertical as hell? The field’s going to open up for the backfield, as the deep ball gets integrated into UCLA’s repertoire. Stretching the defense wasn’t something UCLA did well last season, and Franklin still had a damn good year, all things considered.

Consider, too, that the offensive line is going to be upgraded: Xavier Su’a-Filo will be back on the line and Alexandru Ceachir, a transfer from Santa Monica College, figures to add to a line that’ll bring back senior Jeff Baca.

During Spring Practice, Franklin was an animal; he wasn’t the most salient running back (that honor goes to Steven MANFRO, admittedly because his emergence came as such a shock), but he was easily the most explosive. The dude’s got legitimate quickness and follows blockers damn well, all while being shifty and crafty as hell. He’ll still split carries, likely with Malcolm Jones and Steven MANFRO, but he’ll carry most of the rushing game’s burden, unlike last season where the carries between Franklin and current-Minnesota Viking Derrick Coleman were split virtually in half.

Franklin will be beastly in the backfield, and considering he’s projected to go to the third round in the NFL draft, the motivation for him to boost his draft stock is there (although he’s hell-bent on winning, indicated by the fact that he seems to have taken a leadership role on this UCLA team).

We’re rooting for you, Johnathan Franklin, you friggin’ animal. Prove me right.