Monday, November 18, 2013

With increase in production, Franklin could see more double teams down stretch of season

(Austin Franklin's been a handful for opposing defenses during the second half of 2013/Photo by Robin Zielinski)

The New Mexico State Aggie offense has picked it up in recent weeks.

Such a performance has coincided with an uptick in production from wide receiver Austin Franklin, who's really come on after missing the first four games of the 2013 season due to academic ineligibility. After catching eight passes for 141 yards and a touchdown in his first three contests of the year, Franklin's hit his stride over his three most-recent outings: 34 catches, 407 yards and four touchdowns during that period.

In the last two most games - particularly it seemed during the first half against both Louisiana-Lafayette and Boston College - Franklin saw his share of single coverage, and found a way to cash in. Think back to his second-quarter score against Boston College when, with the ball in the red zone, quarterback Andrew McDonald found Franklin inside the 10-yard line along the left side. The wide receiver, one-on-one with the cornerback, essentially walked into the end zone for a touchdown, slicing the Aggie deficit to 13-10.

"I don't know. I guess they just don't think I'm a good enough player," Franklin said recently, when asked about getting single coverage from opposing secondaries. "To me, I love when they do it. I'm going to win. One on one, I'm going to win."

With that, don't expect teams to continue testing Franklin much more in this regard. He's a physical player, and once he gets the ball in his hands he's adept at turning up-field and getting yards after the catch.

"He's as good as anybody with the ball in his hands," NMSU head coach Doug Martin said. "That's why coach (Gregg) Brandon put him in the backfield as the wildcat quarterback and that type of stuff. Try to get him the ball in a variety of ways. He's exciting when he has the ball."

When asked if he expected more defensive attention to come Franklin's way, Martin said, "Everybody's already started that. Lafayette, when we went down there, were already keyed in on him. Everybody talks about that. Again, that's the battle. Can you keep moving him around in different places to disguise what you're doing."

Offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon and wide receiver's coach R. Todd Littlejohn said Franklin's presence has opened up the offense for other players. Littlejohn spoke specifically about a third-quarter play last week, explaining Boston College rolled it's coverage Franklin's direction, and McDonald was able to hit a wide open Jerrel Brown for a 16-yard touchdown down the middle.

When Brandon was asked specifically last week about Franklin seeing more double teams down the stretch, the offensive coordinator said, "There might be a chance for that. I would have to study the future opponents to just see within their schemes, if they have the ability to do that. Austin's certainly a player that, his numbers have gotten people's attention. Whether or not that (causes defenses to) double team him, try to take him away, I don't know. It will be interesting to see how people respond."

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