MURFREESBORO — Tony Franklin does not claim to be the smartest man on earth, but he does not believe most people have the ability to think quickly.
That’s why Middle Tennessee State’s new offensive coordinator likes to work in a hurry.
“I don’t like to match my wits against defensive coaches’ wits because they’re always smarter than I am,” he said Monday, hours before the Blue Raiders took the field for their first official practice of the 2009 season. “So I just play fast and then they can’t coach as well. Then we have a better chance.”
An affinity for speed was the paramount to coach Rick Stockstill’s decision to hire Franklin this off-season. Never mind that Franklin’s stay in his previous job, offensive coordinator at Auburn, ended more quickly than anyone could have imagined.
“I hope that our pace and our tempo look different,” Stockstill said. “At times, I thought we were pretty fast last year in our no-huddle, but at times I didn’t think we were as fast as I’d like to have been. Hopefully, we’ll have a better change of tempos, a different pace in our no-huddle offense.”
Franklin spent two seasons at Troy, where he directed an offense that scored 30 or more points 11 times in 25 games, before he joined Tommy Tuberville’s staff for 2008. His offense averaged a nation-leading 81.5 plays per game and was among the top 25 in scoring during his last season at Troy.
The idea was that he would transform Auburn’s attack into the no-huddle, spread approach, which had become his trademark through 16 years as a high school coach and six more in the college ranks.
Instead, he was fired six games into the season. At the time Auburn was 4-2 overall and outside the top 100 nationally in total offense.
The man who does not see himself as a know-it-all decided to use those events as an educational experience.
“It was a human experience, and I learned from it,” he said. “I’m glad it happened. I’m glad I did it. I’m glad I got fired. I’m glad I went through that because in the long run it makes me a better human being. I learned from it and I have stuff I can teach these guys; I can teach my kids; and I can teach me. I’m old, but I can still learn.”
Now he has brought his approach to the Blue Raiders.
Given that they employed a similar attack in the previous three seasons under Stockstill and former offensive coordinator G.A. Mangus, there is no need to teach anyone the virtues — or the basics — of what he likes to do.
“When I had a chance to hire him I was excited because, I think, philosophically our ideas of what we want offensively match,” Stockstill said. “To me, it wasn’t a learning curve that, ‘I have to get used to this,’ or ‘He’s got to get used to me’ or anything like that.
“I was excited that a guy like him was out there because sometimes it’s hard to find coaches who believe in the same thing.”
The way Franklin sees it, it’s even more difficult to find a defense that can keep pace with his offense when it’s operating as planned.
“I think that the truest thing in sports is that when you’re tired you cannot perform as well,” Franklin said. “ … We want to make first downs, we want to move the ball and we want to play fast because there’s such a huge advantage to playing fast.
“It makes coaching so less important.”
• Senior running back Phillip Tanner is one of 45 preseason candidates for the Doak Walker Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top college running back.
Tanner, from Dallas, rushed for a career-high 714 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2008. He had 159 yards and five touchdowns (he also returned a kickoff for a touchdown) in a victory against North Texas.
• Ten of the Blue Raiders’ practices over the next three weeks are open to the public. Fans are welcome at the sessions Monday through Saturday and Aug. 26-29. Updates and times are available at goblueraiders.com.
• Stockstill announced Monday that redshirt-freshman cornerback Hakeem Johnson had left the team. Stockstill called it a personal decision.
“Sometimes you don’t think you love football quite as much as you did in high school,” he said. “… He said he just didn’t like football anymore and was going to go home and go to school.”