Practice battles with Christian Gonzalez prepared Oregon's Troy Franklin for breakout season
Troy Franklin is officially in the midst of a breakout season, in case you didn’t know. The Oregon receiver is seventh among all Pac-12 receivers in yards and sixth in yards per catch. There are levels to this, right? Franklin might not be a star yet, but he’s building toward it. A year ago, the 6-foot-3 wideout had 18 catches in 14 games. It wasn’t until literally the final game of the year when he was unleashed, and that only came after the former head coach left.
This season, Franklin has four straight games with at least 50 receiving yards and touchdowns in three of his last four.
“It’s playing out really well,” he said of Kenny Dillingham’s offense. “I think everybody likes it way better than what they were used to.”
Franklin hauled in what was essentially the game-winner against Washington State two weeks ago. A week prior, he had a circus catch working back across his body on a deep ball from quarterback Bo Nix. Last week, he showed off his footwork and spatial awareness with a toe-tapping touchdown on the edge of the endzone.
Every week it seems like Franklin gets more and more comfortable as the top receiver in a top offense.
“Troy is a baller,” said Nix. “He really is one of those guys that is a gamer. When the lights turn on he shows up. He’s constant all the time. He makes big explosive plays as we saw two weeks ago, and that really good catch he made at the goal line this week.
“To be honest, when I threw it, I was expecting it to be a throw-away or he’d have to make a crazy catch, and that’s what he did. I was really pleased with that — just his effort. He’s really turned it on this year. He’s started to play like a veteran.”
Franklin is on pace for one of the best receiving seasons a Duck has had in the last decade. He attributes the success, at least in part, to practice. Franklin lined up against Stanford’s Kyu Blu Kelly a week ago — widely viewed as one of the best corners in the Pac-12. But Franklin feels he won’t come across a guy better than the once he sees Monday through Friday.
“I definitely think Gonzo’s one of the best corners in the conference, if not college football, so working with the best every day just gives me the confidence to go out there and know that no one else can mess with me,” Franklin said, referring to Oregon corner Christian Gonzalez. “I’m going against the best every day.”
He certainly doesn’t feel like he’ll face many others who bring the blend of physicality and length the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Gonzalez plays with. A young player, so adding good weight was already going to be an emphasis, but Gonzalez’s presence made it necessary for Franklin to bulk up this offseason in order to survive. And we’re seeing the fruits of that labor.
“I’m not gonna lie, in the spring it was way different than what it was in the fall,” he said. “When I put more weight on, things started falling into place more for me.”
And now his natural talent is shining.
“He’s a very savvy guy,” said Nix. “I think he’s got great football instincts, and that’s one of the great things that he has. That allows him to be even better on the field. When you put his talent with his instincts and his awareness, he’s able to do things like (Saturday’s touchdown catch). … I expect a lot out of Troy because he’s shown a lot already and he’s proven that he can handle a lot.”