The boss changed the schedule so my Stanley Franks feature will run in Thursday's S-R. Which means you can take a look at it now (Wednesday afternoon). Read the unedited version below, and keep on reading to find a feature I did on Franks when he was a standout with the Idaho Vandals. (Franks is pictured in Shock game earlier this season and from a WSU contest during his UI days).
One quick note: Stockton apparently has re-signed quarterback Jimmy Collins, who attempted just two passes in six games with the Lightning. He also played one game for Central Valley, going 25 of 51 for 228 yards with four interceptions and three touchdowns. Collins likely will back up Chad Cavender, who emerged as the starter after Andy Collins was injured in a game against the Shock on April 25.
Rules favor the offense in arenafootball2 so playing any defensive position is a chore. Linemen aren’t allowed to stunt or twist. The ‘Mac’ linebacker can blitz, but he’s limited to lanes on either side of the center. The ‘Jack’ linebacker must stay within five yards of the line of scrimmage.
And then there’s the middle defensive back spot, which just might carry the toughest job description in pro sports, according to Spokane Shock head coach Adam Shackleford.
“You’re looking at covering a (receiver) that runs 4.4 or 4.3, that’s running full speed at you and you are in a back pedal,” Shackleford said.
Added defensive backs coach Rob Keefe, an ex-af2 and Arena Football League DB: “I’ve seen NFL guys have trouble with it.”
Now, try doing it as an af2 rookie accustomed to the outdoor game on a spacious 100-yard field. Welcome to Stanley Franks’ world.
“It really takes some getting used to,” said Franks, the former Idaho Vandals cornerback whose nine interceptions was tied for first nationally in 2006. “It’s a lot of repetition, getting coached up and trusting your technique, but it’s a little difficult starting out.”
All three secondary positions are difficult. Most af2 teams have capable receivers and defensive backs, but the cream of the crop reside at middle DB and the receiver who is typically in ‘high motion’ with a 15-yard head start.
“For a rookie with no experience in the arena game to put up the numbers he’s put up … he’s been a solid player,” defensive coordinator Alex Sirianni said. “His progress from week 1-5, 5-10 and 10-16 has been amazing. At the beginning of the season, obviously you’re going to have struggles. He had to learn that you are going to get scored on. It’s part of the game.”
Franks admittedly didn’t care for that part of the game.
“I remember coach Keefe told us early if you give up four touchdowns and have a pick you’ve had a good game,” Franks said. “I kind of looked at him like, ‘Huh? Are you serious?’ But in arena ball that’s a good day.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve fully got the hang of it, but every week you see different routes and see how different players run their routes. I’m watching more film and I’m getting more comfortable handling the motion. It’s definitely an offensive game so when you do make a play it’s that much better.”
Franks has eight interceptions, 18 pass break-ups, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He finished one tackle short of breaking Alex Teems’ single-season record of 98 in 2007.
To get to where Franks could put up those statistics, he had to endure a rough first month of on-the-job training.
“He would kind of get down on himself, beat himself up, but now he knows its part of the game,” Keefe said. “Now he realizes an interception is a lot more valuable to us than a touchdown is to them.”
Franks was with
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Franks generally defends the opposition’s best receiver, whether they’re a 5-10 speedster or a rangy 6-5 possession receiver.
“That’s what makes our secondary so good is we see it every day at practice. (Charles) Dillon, (Raul) Vijil, nobody can cover Raul when he runs his routes. Then we have big bodies like Andy (Olson), Markee (White) and (Patrick) Bugg,” Franks said. “Most of the time, I’ll see a speedy guy, but when they get closer to the goal line they like to throw in a bigger guy.”
Keefe said Franks “would be in the NFL if he was two inches taller. It’s a shame to say that because it shouldn’t matter.”
Franks is trying to climb the pro football ladder but admits his affection for the arena game is growing.
“I’m curious to see how I’d react to the outdoor game now,” he said. “The fans make (af2) so much fun. It’s fast, quick-hitting, the walls. If you knock a guy over the boards it’s a big hit. I basically fell in love with the game.”
Even though he’s playing arguably the toughest position on the field.
And here's another article on Franks from Oct., 2006
University of Idaho football coach Dennis Erickson faced a difficult decision before the start of spring football. He knew the team he had inherited was short on proven cornerbacks and playmaking receivers.
Junior college transfer Stanley Franks was a potential solution at both positions.
"In off-season conditioning he showed that he had really good feet and we made a decision to play him at corner," Erickson said. "We needed some help drastically there. As it’s turned out, it’s been a good move for both him and the program."
Not that Erickson hasn’t had second thoughts about sending Franks and his 4.31-second 40-meter speed on a post route or flipping a screen pass to him with some room to operate. Coaching discretion soon follows.
"I’m tempted to practice him over there and see what he’d be like," Erickson said. "This off-season we’ll see. This spring we might play him in both spots."
For now, Franks is a full-time cornerback and that probably won’t change – tomorrow, this spring, next season and beyond, if he gets a shot at the professional level. He’s intercepted four passes in five games, which ranks tied for sixth nationally. He’s played every defensive snap of every game.
He excels at cornerback, partly because of his background as a receiver in junior college and for portions of his career at Downey (Calif.) High. He had 62 receptions, eight for touchdowns, as a sophomore at Long Beach City College.
"Sometimes you find yourself thinking, ‘What would a receiver do?’ Franks said. "It helps just recognizing route combinations and different stuff like that. It actually helps a lot."
Franks has thought about trying receiver, but he’s refrained from dropping hints to coaches during practice. He enjoys the defensive side of the ball and he still gets to display his running skills as Idaho’s primary kick returner.
"I’m cool with it," the junior cornerback said. "I’m on kick return and that plays a role. I’ve thought about it, but I’m a pretty aggressive person. I like coming up and hitting people."
But that’s only when the football isn’t within reach. Franks made a game-changing play Saturday against Utah State, intercepting a pass and returning it 98 yards for a touchdown that propelled Idaho to a 41-21 win. Franks and the rest of Idaho’s defense face a stiffer challenge Saturday when New Mexico State brings its pass-first offense to the Kibbie Dome.
There are several reasons Franks is a Vandal. One, his dad, Stanley, who played at Compton College, began teaching him football at an early age. Two, his mother made him tackle his homework as a youngster. Three, Division I-A coaches didn’t think Franks was big enough.
It was during his sophomore season at Downey when Emma Adams convinced her son of the importance of education. Franks was a starter and he’d let his school work slide. He admits to a swollen ego.
"You know how that goes," Franks said, smiling at the memory. "I brought home a ‘D’ and I just remember that talk. I said to myself, ‘Well, I’m playing football and everything and she won’t make me quit.’
"She let me know real quick that didn’t mean anything. I had to get the grade up and I had two weeks to do it."
Franks did so and went on to earn first-team all-conference honors – on both sides of the ball – but that resulted in limited recruiting interest. He was recruited by then-Idaho State assistant coach Johnny Nansen, who is now the linebackers coach at Idaho. Hawaii and Portland State also showed interest.
Franks chose Long Beach City College, where despite sizable statistics his smaller frame (he was 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds) left him with roughly the same post-high school recruiting list. Washington State took a brief look at him, but opted to sign Franks’ Long Beach teammate, Brian Williams.
"They won’t tell you up front, but when you go back and ask the coach what happened, it (size) was one of the major issues," said Franks, who had to play an extra season of flag football when he was in grade school because he didn’t meet the 98-pound limit for Pop Warner.
Franks is listed at 167 pounds in Idaho’s media guide, but insists he’s 185.
"I’ve put on 10 pounds since I’ve been here, drinking (protein) shakes and eating right," he said. "I’m trying to get in five meals a day."
And an occasional interception for dessert.