FAU’s De’Andre Johnson, John Franklin III, Tim Bonner featured on Netflix’s ‘Last Chance U’ special

De’Andre Johnson throws during spring football practice at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton on March 22, 2018. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Present at the 2017 Birmingham Bowl to watch former East Mississippi teammate Dakota Allen and the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Florida Atlantic defensive end Tim Bonner chuckled at a question from a fan: Is FAU head coach Lane Kiffin “a nut?”

“He just crazy,” Bonner tells the fan. “He’s crazy as a mother——. He fun, but he cool, though. I like him.”

Bonner’s reunion with Allen is one of the features in the new Netflix special “EMCC & Life After.” The special serves as a spin-off of “Last Chance U,” the critically acclaimed documentary series about JUCO powerhouse East Mississippi Community College. Former FAU wide receiver John Franklin III was on the series’ initial season in 2016, which detailed the Lions’ 2015 season, while Bonner and current Owls quarterback De’Andre Johnson appeared on the second season, which debuted last July.

After two years at EMCC, “Last Chance U” moved to Independence College (Kan.) for the third season. To coincide with the new season’s premiere, Netflix also released an hour-long episode serving as a “where are they now?” special for some of the key characters from the first two seasons.

Johnson signed with FAU in Dec. 2016, shortly after the school hired Lane Kiffin. Bonner signed with the Owls two months later and Franklin, who joined Auburn after his stint at EMCC, transferred to the Owls in August.

“It’s been a magical season, I can honestly say that,” Johnson says. “Team going from 3-9 for the past three seasons and just having Coach Kiffin come in, change the whole identity, the whole culture.”

Roughly seven minutes are dedicated to the three stars, detailing their 2017 seasons and their love of Kiffin. Though they were both viewed as transfers who could provide immediate impacts, Johnson missed most of the season with blood clots and Bonner was mainly a special-teams player. After switching from quarterback to wide receiver, Franklin caught seven passes for 95 yards and a touchdown, adding 229 yards and two scores on 16 carries, mostly as a Wildcat quarterback.

Johnson was surprised when he learned Franklin was transferring to FAU, a move that came less than a month before the Owls began their season against Navy on Sept. 1.

“I’ve watched him go through being in Florida State’s quarterback room to going to East Mississippi’s quarterback room, to then going to Auburn,” Johnson says. “And so when John went to receiver, I’m like, ‘How is he taking this?'”

“For my last year, I just really wanted to get a little experience before I got into the next level,” says Franklin, who signed with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent and will attempt to play cornerback in the NFL. “I ultimately knew if I wanted to play at the next level, I was going to have to make that change. I wanted to do it now before I got into the next level and it’s too late.”

Other topics explored in the special include former EMCC academic counselor Brittany Wagner’s 10 Thousand Pencils foundation, Lions coach Buddy Stephens celebrating a 2017 National Championship, Allen’s redemption at Texas Tech, and running back Isaiah Wright’s legal issues. Wright is currently in jail for his ties to a 2017 homicide in Tennessee.

Currently fighting Oklahoma transfer Chris Robison for the starting quarterback job, Johnson praised Kiffin as a “dynamic play-caller.” Both Johnson and Bonner, who was one of the defense’s top players this spring, are expected to have major roles for the Owls this season.

As he did while at EMCC, Bonner steals the show with one-liners, comparing Franklin at one point to the popular cartoon character, Franklin the Turtle. While signing an autograph for a fan, Bonner makes reference to his nickname “Slim Boogaloo” and poses with young fans of the show.

“It’s cool to go to another state and city and they know who I am,” Bonner said. “I ain’t ever think it would come up like that, but they be real-deal liking me or something. It’s different, but I’m still myself, like I ain’t changed nothing.”

[Heisman in Paradise: FAU places billboard of star running back Devin Singletary on I-95]

[FAU coach Lane Kiffin: “What’s the most important thing? Long-term health, or how the game looks?”]

[Will Florida Atlantic find quarterback of future in either De’Andre Johnson or Chris Robison?]

[Beyond Devin Singletary, how good can Florida Atlantic’s running backs be this year?]

[Rising star sophomore Willie Wright headlines deep Florida Atlantic wide receiver core]

[After impressive 2017 season, junior Harrison Bryant ready to lead talented FAU tight end group]

[Brandon Walton, Reggie Bain remain steady offensive tackles for FAU amid changing offensive line]

FAU receiver, ex-‘Last Chance U’ star John Franklin III hoping to star at NFL combine

Florida Atlantic Owls wide receiver John Franklin III (12) celebrates prematurely as he drops the ball before crossing the goal line against the North Texas Mean Green at the 2017 Conference USA Football Championship at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida on December 2, 2017. North Texas recovered the ball in the end zone. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

BOCA RATON — Referring to former Florida Atlantic wide receiver John Franklin III’s five years in college as a “journey” would be like saying Franklin’s head coach with the Owls, Lane Kiffin, enjoys using social media. It’s a major understatement.

A three-star recruit from South Plantation when he signed with Florida State in 2013, Franklin played two years with the Seminoles — winning a national championship in 2013 as Jameis Winston’s backup — before transferring to East Mississippi Community College, best known for the Netflix series “Last Chance U.” After a year in Scooba, Franklin transferred to Auburn and played quarterback for the Tigers in 2016 before returning home to play for Kiffin’s Owls last August.

“Living it was even more crazy than talking about it,” Franklin told The Post earlier this month. “I feel like everything happens for a reason and throughout all those stops and all those different journeys to those places, I learned a lot and I learned more about me in how I grew as a player, how I grew as a man. Each place taught me something different, and if I had to do it all over again, I would.”

Now, after going viral for allegedly posting a 4.19 40-yard dash time, Franklin is preparing for the National Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and hoping his blazing speed can earn him job in the NFL.

“(I’m just hoping to show) the transition has been expanded upon, that it was working at FAU,” Franklin said. “Whatever I need to play in (the NFL), I can showcase my ability in front of all those top-level scouts.”

In his first year as a wide receiver after moving from quarterback while at Auburn, Franklin caught seven passes for 95 yards and a touchdown while adding 229 rushing yards on 16 carries. After Dwyer alum/quarterback Daniel Parr’s demotion from the starting job in Week 4, Franklin essentially served as the Owls’ backup quarterback and often operated out of a Wildcat formation.

Franklin says he will continue to play wide receiver at the NFL level, so teams may be willing to look past the 23-year-old’s lack of experience at the position and give him a chance based on his speed. Franklin will have a chance at the combine on Wednesday to tie, or even potentially break, the 4.19 time he ran in a video posted last week.

There’s a history of college quarterbacks transitioning into successful NFL wide receivers, with New England Patriots star Julian Edelman having been a starting signal-caller at Kent State. Former Pittsburgh Steelers stars Hines Ward (Georgia) and Antwaan Randle El (Indiana) both played wide receiver in the NFL after spending time under center in college.

“I don’t try to compare — I pick up little things here and there,” Franklin said. “I’m just trying to perfect my best version of myself. … Even when I started playing quarterback, I figured that at the next level, I’d have to play receiver just because of my skill set and my speed, really. That’s appealing to put outside and use in multiple ways.”

Though Franklin was slowly phased out of the receiving game as true freshman Willie Wright emerged and Kalib Woods dominated after returning from suspension, the fifth-year senior remained a viable threat in the offense because of his legs.

Franklin also agreed with recent FAU signees that Kiffin and his staff give him a good chance of making it to the NFL.

“I feel like that’s a very appealing thing and from my experiences at FAU, that was the first time we practiced a similar schedule (to that of pro teams),” Franklin said. “Just the fact that we weren’t always out there practicing, but we were getting work in and I feel like that correlates to how the NFL is now. … This is a great environment, a great atmosphere and this is how (things would be) at the next level.”

“I don’t think my journey was supposed to be easy, clearly,” Franklin said, “but for some reason I’m still where I am today. There’s a reason behind it — and I don’t know it now — but I know it’s a blessing through the struggles and I think all that was preparing me for (now).”

Lane Kiffin’s second recruiting class at FAU taking shape

Florida Atlantic Owls head coach Lane Kiffin at the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Florida on December 19, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

With just over a week until signing day, Lane Kiffin’s second recruiting class at Florida Atlantic has shades of his first class.

As of Tuesday morning, Kiffin has 16 players who have either signed a letter of intent or announced their commitment to FAU. Per 247 Sports, 10 of those players (247 has 12 listed) are three-star recruits. 247 gives the Owls’ 2017 class a current overall grade of 83.51, higher than last year’s 82.

The Orlando Sentinel first reported Longwood-Lyman defensive back Deon Woods’ commitment last week. FAUOwlAccess.com wrote on Tuesday morning that Tulane center Junior Diaz will be signing with FAU as a graduate transfer, while safety Armani Adams (St. Petersburg-Lakewood) has not publicly announced his commitment, but did confirm his intention with The Post earlier this month.

Former Auburn wide receiver Kyle Davis transferred to FAU and already is enrolled in classes for the spring semester. Davis was a four-star recruit in 2016 who caught 19 passes in two years before being dismissed from the program in October.

The Owls will also likely list quarterback Chris Robison (Oklahoma) and wide receiver Jovan Durante (West Virginia) among their 2018 signees, despite the two having been with the team since last August. Robison is the likely front-runner for the Owls’ starting quarterback job after Jason Driskel’s retirement and ex-Dwyer star Daniel Parr’s transfer to Duquesne University.

Palm Beach Lakes star Teja Young is one of the more notable commits so far, though he is the only Palm Beach County player at this point to commit to FAU for next year. Three-star quarterback Cordel Litlejohn (Roswell, Ga.) announced his commitment on Sunday, days after two in-state prospects, offensive lineman Doug Johnson (Fort White) and running back Malcolm Davidson (Osceola), did the same. Both Johnson and Davidson are listed as three-star recruits.

Landing top recruits at FAU has become a slightly easier task for Kiffin after leading the Owls to an 11-3 finish in his first season. Even after three straight 3-9 seasons from 2014-16 under previous coach Charlie Partridge, Kiffin had what many recruiting services called Conference USA’s best signing class last season.

“It’s always easier for (recruits) to buy into something that has proof,” Kiffin said late last season. “When you first get to a place, you’ve gotta say, ‘Well, OK, here’s what we did with Reggie Bush or these people and here’s all these records,’ and then people have to believe that to come.”

Kiffin landed five players in the first-ever early-signing period in December, three of whom came from junior colleges. Kiffin reached out to the junior college ranks for several of his 2017 signees, leading to him joking that FAU was becoming “Last Strike U” in reference to JUCO powerhouse East Mississippi. Ex-EMCC stars De’Andre Johnson and Tim Bonner will return for their second seasons in Boca Raton, though a third former Lion — quarterback/wide receiver John Franklin III — has exhausted his eligibility.

Defensive tackle Charles Cameron (Copiah-Lincoln, Miss.) is the only early commit to have enrolled on campus for the spring semester. Cameron will practice in spring camp before being joined this summer by three-star wide receiver and former teammate Nero Nelson.

Nelson will compete for snaps against another JUCO transfer in DeSean Holmes (College of the Canyons, Calif.), a former USC commit for Kiffin as the Trojans’ head coach in 2013. When Kiffin was infamously fired on an airport tarmac by USC athletic director Pat Haden that September, the school’s hiring of Steve Sarkisian led Holmes to de-commit.

“When [Kiffin] left and I went down to USC the next year to meet the new coaching staff, I didn’t get the same feeling I did with Kiffin,” Holmes told The Post by phone earlier this month.

National signing day is set for Feb. 7. Kiffin is expected to speak to the media that day for the first time since FAU’s 50-3 win over Akron in the Boca Raton Bowl on Dec. 19.