Auburn football fans may spit out their coffee reading this, but it’s true. Tony Franklin is one of the top ten offensive coaches in college football.
Franklin didn’t make it through a full season as the offensive coordinator for the Tigers when he was hired as the team’s new hotshot coordinator prior to the 2007 Chick-fil-A Bowl. Tommy Tuberville hired Franklin from Troy to implement a wide open offensive attack, but it didn’t quite work out that way. Franklin never meshed with the other offensive assistants on staff, had his legs cut out from under him by Tuberville, and following a disappointing 4-2 start in 2008 that included a 14-13 loss to Vanderbilt, Tuberville fired him.
The Tigers finished the year 5-7, Tuberville resigned, and a new era of Auburn football arrived. More on that later.
As has is prone to do, Franklin bounced back. He landed at Middle Tennessee State, and then hooked up with new Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes, with whom he had worked on Hal Mumme’s staff at Kentucky in the late 1990s. In three seasons with the Bulldogs, Franklin’s offense averaged 35.9 points per game. In 2012, Louisiana Tech scored 51.5 points on average, won nine games, and Dykes was hired at Cal.
Despite winning just six games combined across the last two seasons in Berkeley, the Golden Bears have emerged as a dangerous offensive team. Last season, quarterback Jared Goff completed 316 of 509 passes (62.1%) for 3,973 yards (which ranked fifth nationally) and 35 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. No one-trick pony, Cal also ran for 1,790 yards as a team and scored 22 times on the ground.
As good as he’s been as a collegiate play caller, Tony Franklin’s impact goes far beyond his Air Raid roots and the exciting Bear Raid that has made Cal that improved from 1-11 two years ago to 5-7 last year while putting a fright into Arizona (49-45), UCLA (36-34), Oregon (59-41) and USC (38-30).
Stitt is a cult figure for many high school and college coaches, but Franklin spreads the wealth even more – well, for a price, that is. His system (literally) has proven so effective that it has spread throughout the country at the high school level. There are hundreds “TFS” high school programs around the nation, including 38 teams that have won state championships in the last five seasons.
Next: Scott Frost