John Franklin III Leaving Auburn: The ‘Last Chance U’ Star’s Journey From FSU To FAU

Some college athletes’ careers can be filled with ups and downs. That seems to be the case for John Franklin III.

Many know him from the Netflix series Last Chance U. Franklin transferred to East Mississippi Community College after sitting out of spring camp before his third season in Tallahassee. The setback was by way of injury. During that time, Florida State received an influx of talent at the quarterback position. Franklin was already considered the No. 2 guy behind Sean Maguire, but then FSU added freshman De’Andre Johnson and Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson to the depth chart. According to the Orlando Sentinel‘s Brendan Sonnone, the addition of Golson could have been the tipping point for Franklin. However, he was also asked to make a position change to wide receiver towards the end of his time at FSU, and eventually decided to take the JUCO route.

Franklin’s time at EMCC was short-lived, as the elite athlete failed to beat out local recruit Wyatt Roberts for the starting quarterback position. Though he never won the job outright, Franklin did see time on the field. He used that time to the best of his abilities. In the last game of the 2015 season, Franklin showed college scouts what he was capable of. That’s when he torched Mississippi Delta’s defense for 291 overall yards and accounted for six of the Lions’ touchdowns, five of which were on the ground. Rhett Lashlee (Auburn’s offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at the time) happened to be in attendance that night. While Lashlee was impressed enough to offer Franklin a scholarship, he wasn’t ready to name him the starter on the Plains just yet.

“In this case with John, he’s also like a true freshman,” Auburn’s offensive coordinator said on Saturday. “I know he’s coming from junior college, but he didn’t play either of his two years at Florida State and he split time last year. So he doesn’t have a lot of college snaps under his belt,” he told Opelika-Auburn NewsJosh Vitale. “I just hope everybody is fair with him with expectations, because we put so much on hype and expectations just because we have so much time and we need something to talk about,” Lashlee said. “He’s improving, but some guys just need to play the game. How it shakes out, I don’t know.”

Lashlee’s comments were probably spurred by hype surrounding the program. Given Auburn’s history of success with dual threat quarterbacks, many thought that history would repeat itself. The offensive coordinator’s comments were heard loud and clear when redshirt sophomore Sean White got the nod over Franklin. Franklin got scarce playing time in 2016, but showed flashes of excellence with his explosive speed.

Sean White watches as John Franklin III tries to lead his team to a Sugar Bowl victory.

Here we are a year later and Auburn is a completely different program. They’ve added Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham, who was once a five-star quarterback recruit out of Texas. The team appears to have the most depth they’ve seen at quarterback in years. While Tiger fans are hoping history isn’t repeating from last year, it seems as if this is FSU all over again for Franklin. The Auburn coaching staff asked him to move to wide receiver after spring training this year. Franklin had seemed to be content in his new role. He even went so far as to express this to 247sports Brandon Marcello in a feature piece on August 5:

“Transferring was the last option because it takes a lot out of you,” Franklin III said. “This is my third school and trying to make it a fourth? Four schools in five years doesn’t look good for anybody. Transferring wasn’t really an option. I had to figure out what I was going to do for this last year and me, coach (Gus) Malzahn and [offensive coordinator] (Chip) Lindsey sat down and came up with a plan. It’s working out for the best right now.”

That’s why, when the news of Franklin transferring to Florida Atlantic broke this afternoon, many Auburn fans were blindsided. Is it a demoralizing loss for the Tigers? Probably not. However, many love what he brings to the table, and thought he would be a good asset to the offense this year. The guy could have been the poster child for the team’s slogan “Auburn Fast.”

It’s just an odd decision coming two and a half weeks before the first game of the season. While many are not pleased to hear Franklin’s decision, plenty of fans have reached out to show their support for him today.

Franklin’s new head coach, Lane Kiffin, seems ecstatic about the new addition to his offense.

Franklin, who will play receiver for the Owls, is a graduate transfer and will be eligible to play immediately. He will reunite with Johnson, his former FSU teammate and fellow EMCC alum, who is the starting quarterback at FAU. Tim Bonner from Season 2 of Last Chance U is also on the Owls’ roster.

[Featured Image by Butch Dill/Getty Images]