Tailback Johnathan Franklin looks to become a factor for UCLA

Franklin, who was a redshirt as a freshman last fall, scored the only touchdown in last week's scrimmage.

April 17, 2009|Chris Foster

The congestion in the UCLA backfield continues to have a bottleneck, with six tailbacks trying to force their way into the rotation.

Johnathan Franklin has navigated his way into a spot where he may be a factor come the fall.

A performance in this afternoon's scrimmage similar to one he put on in last Saturday's scrimmage can further his case.

"My attitude has been to focus every day like it's a game," said Franklin, who was a redshirt as a freshman last fall. "There isn't a lot of time to show the coaches what you have, and there are a lot of tailbacks. I just have to lay it all out there."

Franklin was one of the "bright spots" in last week's scrimmage, Coach Rick Neuheisel said. He had 45 yards rushing, scoring the only touchdown on a five-yard run. Franklin had a team-high nine carries, which "we did on purpose to see if he would get tired," offensive coordinator Norm Chow said.

He didn't.

Franklin displayed his speed and jitterbug abilities on a 16-yard run during the touchdown drive. The payoff was some time with the first-team offense this week.

"He showed a little bit in camp last year," running backs coach Wayne Moses said. "He was not as consistent or as strong as he is now. He has gotten stronger and more mature physically. Consequently, he's a little stronger in what he's doing mentally."

Whether that translates into significant playing time in the fall is to be seen, but Moses said, "He has demonstrated he can get out and be a multi-touch guy, whether carrying the ball or throwing to him."

Chow said he would rotate three tailbacks during the season. Christian Ramirez, he said, is expected to be one, with the others coming from the pack of Franklin, Derrick Coleman, Raymond Carter, Milton Knox and Aundre Dean.

"The young ones have to learn to pass-protect," said Chow, who added, "You can't just go out and play right now. You have to separate yourself."

Quick hits

Ramirez, who has sat out most of spring practice because of a sore hamstring, went through light drills Thursday but is not expected to participate in today's scrimmage . . . The scrimmage will be about 80 plays, Neuheisel said . . . Offensive lineman Micah Kia, who sat out practice Thursday, will undergo tests on his sore back . . . Gardena Serra High's Robert Woods, one of the top wide receiver/defensive back prospects in the nation, attended practice Thursday.


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