BOCA RATON — After allegedly running a 4.19 in a practice 40-yard dash, Florida Atlantic receiver John Franklin III’s numbers at the National Scouting Combine fell a bit short of historic.
Franklin and NLAE, the company representing the former “Last Chance U” star, confirmed to The Post that the speedy ex-quarterback ran a 4.32 in Indianapolis. Using laser technology to better gauge his pure speed, as opposed to his reaction time, Franklin instead ran a 4.40.
Franklin’s manager, Eugene Oldridge, said that the wide receiver was not sick or battling any type of injury.
“Just (a) bad time, I guess,” Oldridge wrote in a text.
In a video posted last week, the receiver ran what trainer Travis Shelton called a 4.19 dash, which would break the record set by now-Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross’ 4.22 at last year’s NFL Combine. Franklin’s 4.32 would have been the third-fastest time at last year’s NFL Combine, behind only Ross and Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel (4.31).
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. Franklin also served as FAU’s backup quarterback for most of the season, though he only threw one pass.
Franklin will have a chance to better that time and come closer to Ross’ record at FAU’s Pro Day on March 27. Franklin told The Post he will run the 40 that day even after partaking in the combine.
Other 40-yard dash times from the National Scouting Combine had not been released at the time of publication.
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).”
BOCA RATON — When defensive tackle CharlesCameron arrived in Florida from Mississippi last month, the three-star recruit immediately knew what topic was off-limits.
“I came from Copiah-Lincoln and we played East Mississippi one time,” Cameron said, referring to the junior college that currently fields two FAU players and tight ends coach Clint Trickett. “That was the time we beat them, but I ain’t gonna bring that up to them.”
Cameron, 21, was one of five players to sign during the inaugural early signing period on Dec. 20 and has already reported to FAU for workouts. Trickett, then the Lions’ quarterbacks coach in a loss to his future player, was instrumental in recruiting Cameron to Boca Raton.
The 13th-ranked defensive tackle in this year’s JUCO recruiting class by 247.com, Cameron (6-3, 305 pounds as officially listed by FAU) had ten sacks and 54 tackles over the past two seasons for the Wolfpack. With starting defensive tackle Jeremiah Taleni having exhausted all years of eligibility, Cameron could potentially work his way into first-team reps during spring practice.
“Hopefully, I can bring leadership and be a big impact on the defensive line,” Cameron said. “(Showing the) defense can hold up, that motivates me.”
Owls coach Lane Kiffin said on Signing Day that Cameron has already impressed in the team’s conditioning program.
“We were able to watch him work out and like a lot of kids (who come in), it’s a change from junior college,” Kiffin said. “It looks like he’s done a good job of staying in shape, fit right in there, and it’ll be exciting to get him in the mix.”
FAU has had strong results with two recent defensive line transfers. Taleni finished second on the Owls with five sacks after arriving in August following a transfer from the University of Pittsburgh, while Brandin Bryant — who spent a year at Fort Scott Community College (Kan.) in 2011 — tallied 9.5 sacks and 25 tackles for loss from 2012-15, earning stints with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets.
Copiah-Lincoln teammate Tre’Veon “Nero” Nelson, a three-star wide receiver and the No. 2 JUCO wideout in this year’s class, also signed with FAU in December and will arrive in the spring. Kiffin did something similar in his first recruiting class, signing EMCC teammates quarterback De’Andre Johnson and defensive end Tim Bonner.
Cameron said he enjoyed Kiffin’s infamous Twitter antics and was excited to play under the veteran head coach.
“He’s a really nice coach, real cool,” Cameron said. “(There were) no problems with the coaches.”
Cameron and FAU will begin practicing on March 20 in a spring camp which also features visits to Ft. Lauderdale (April 7) and Miami (April 14).
BOCA RATON — The good news for Florida Atlantic star linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, as he traverses the school’s Boca Raton campus, is that the rising senior is finally being recognized by some of his classmates.
The bad news, if one wants to call it that? Every conversation with Al-Shaair and other students includes them asking him the same question: What is Owls coach Lane Kiffin like?
“That’s the No. 1 question you’re gonna get!” a laughing Al-Shaair told The Post on Thursday.
Al-Shaair, Kiffin, and the rest of the 2017 Owls were honored at halftime of what turned out to be the FAU men’s basketball team’s 79-76 overtime loss to Rice. Al-Shaair and All-American running back Devin “Motor” Singletary (American Heritage) briefly spoke to fans, while wide receiver Kalib Woods gleefully held up the team’s Shula Bowl trophy.
As teammates posed for pictures after the ceremony, Al-Shaair spoke about how happy he was for the team to be recognized after an 11-3 campaign and a Boca Raton Bowl win over Akron. FAU had won a combined nine games from 2014-16 before Kiffin was hired in Dec. 2016. Several outgoing Owls players joined the team for one final reunion on Thursday night.
“Since I’ve been here as a freshman, those guys have been here, so this is like the last hurrah,” Al-Shaair said. “For a final, final last time and they’re going to build their lives. … It was good to see them.”
Given where FAU was only a year ago — not to mention Al-Shaair, who missed all of last year’s spring camp with a labrum injury — the senior linebacker said it was a different feeling to be part of a school-wide celebration like this.
“I think it was more so weird during the season as we were winning (because) it was a new feeling,” said Al-Shaair, who elected to return to FAU for his senior season rather than take a chance by declaring for April’s NFL draft. “Now, it’s something that we want to build the tradition for and the foundation has already been laid down. So if this was a year ago and we were talking about this, I think it’d be pretty weird.”
The often-controversial Lane Kiffin has lent his opinion to college football’s latest controversy: Who is the real national champion?
While Alabama, where Kiffin served under Nick Saban from 2014-16 as the team’s offensive coordinator, won its second College Football Playoff in three years last month, Central Florida has proclaimed itself the “true” national champion after going 13-o under Scott Frost. UCF was the only FBS team to finish the season undefeated, with win No. 13 coming against SEC powerhouse Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
So who does Kiffin, entering his second season at Florida Atlantic after posting an 11-3 record in his first year, believe to be the champion? He opted for the Crimson Tide, as Kiffin explained in a podcast appearance on “The Mitch Davis Show.”
Still, Kiffin has loads of respect for what UCF did on the field.
“I don’t know that we would [claim the national title like UCF], but they see that they had a great season,” Kiffin told Davis in an episode released Wednesday. “Finishing up by beating Auburn and they think they can beat the two teams from the SEC (Georgia and Alabama) who went to the national championship. There’s something to it.”
Several times this past season, Kiffin praised UCF’s sudden turnaround from 0-12 in 2015 to undefeated two years later, including saying he wanted his own team to follow the Knights’ model.
Kiffin also spoke about FAU’s non-conference schedule, which includes a Sept. 1 matchup with CFP semifinalist Oklahoma and a showdown with none other than UCF on Sept. 21 in Orlando. UCF and the AAC announced last week that the FAU-UCF game, originally scheduled for Sept. 22, would be moved forward one day in advance to accommodate national television.
“(We have a) very competitive schedule, but you never know when you schedule things how good teams are going to be because teams stay up and down,” Kiffin said.
FAU will begin its spring camp on March 20 and will hold its annual spring game on April 21. Kiffin announced earlier this week that the Owls will hold road practices in Ft. Lauderdale’s Carter Park (April 7) and Miami’s Charles Hadley Park (April 14).
BOCA RATON — Florida Atlantic head coach Lane Kiffin has talked about wanting to turn the Owls into a “national program.” Two of Kiffin’s best players, at least for one night, helped the coach make some progress in his goal.
Star running back and reigning Conference USA MVP Devin Singletary (Delray-American Heritage) and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, both of whom were first-team All-CUSA players this past season, were honored by the 63rd Touchdown Club of Columbus Awards as players to watch in 2018. Singletary led Division I with 32 rushing touchdowns and finished 80 yards shy of 2,000 as a true sophomore, while Al-Shaair finished third in the nation and led C-USA with 146 tackles.
“I would like to thank the Touchdown Club for inviting me to Columbus,” Singletary said through a university spokesperson. “I also want to thank them for labeling me as a player to watch in 2018.”
Singletary, who became the first Owls player in program history to be named an All-American, inspired a Heisman campaign throughout the season with his record-setting numbers. As FAU fans jumped on the #Motor4Hei5man movement, Singletary ran for more touchdowns in a single season than previous program leader Alfred Morris did from 2008-11. Morris had 27 touchdowns before becoming a sixth-round pick of the Washington Redskins in 2012.
Al-Shaair, a former USA Today All-American Freshman in 2015, surpassed Frantz Joseph as the leading tackler in program history in the Boca Raton Bowl and announced immediately after the 50-3 win that he would return to FAU for his senior season.
Singletary joined Justice Hill (Oklahoma State), Benny Snell Jr. (Kentucky), Alexander Mattison (Boise State), David Montgomery (Iowa State) and Darrell Henderson (Memphis) as running backs who were honored. Al-Shaair was one of three defensive players honored alongside Nick Bosa (Ohio State) and Buffalo Bulls linebacker Khalil Hodge.
BOCA RATON — In the wake of Wednesday’s mass shooting at Parkland’s Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida Atlantic University is prepared to upgrade security at its baseball games, the school told The Post on Thursday.
“We will implement the same procedures at baseball that we do at football as well as men’s and women’s basketball,” interim athletic director Brian Battle said through an FAU spokesperson.
Those procedures, which have been used at football games for years and began at basketball games last month, include full metal-detector scans and increased police and security for all ticketed events. Officers from both the school’s police department and Boca Raton’s own department join staffers in making sure those attempting to enter the stadium do not have anything dangerous.
Fans who leave the ballpark/stadium may be forced to go through the metal detector again upon re-entering. The new security plan will begin Friday night when the Owls baseball team begins its season against George Washington University (6:30 p.m., FAU Baseball Stadium).
Baseball and men’s basketball are the only on-campus athletic events this weekend, though the women’s golf team will host a Winter Warm-Up, per a school release.
FAU has not confirmed how this will affect media availability and entry. Media could originally enter basketball games as early as two hours before tip-off without checking in, though this was initially changed to 60 minutes — when gates opened for fans — before being moved to 90 minutes prior to the game’s start.
This terrible event hit particularly close to home for many FAU students and staff who call Parkland home. I know I speak for everyone connected with FAU when I say that our thoughts are with everyone who was affected by this terrible tragedy. https://t.co/JmdkVM6Dwdpic.twitter.com/kP2sZAVFQ3
BOCA RATON — When Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic team goes on the road to play Central Florida in September, the up-and-coming powers will square off on a Friday night, UCF and the American Athletic Conference announced Tuesday.
Originally, the second-ever matchup between FAU and UCF was set to take place on Sept. 22, but it has been pushed back a day. Neither the game time nor the broadcast information has yet to be announced.
FAU’s matchup with UCF will be a battle between two of college football’s more surprising teams from 2017, with the Owls winning more games in their first season under Kiffin (11) than they did from 2014-16 (nine). Meanwhile, two years after going 0-12, UCF finished with a perfect 13-0 season and has crowned itself the national champion after a Peach Bowl win over Auburn last month. The Knights have graduated many of their impact players and lost the entire 2017 coaching staff to Nebraska, where former UCF head coach Scott Frost moved following the bowl win.
The two schools will be playing a home-and-home series the next two years, with UCF coming to Boca Raton on Sept. 7, 2019.
FAU has not played UCF since a 33-29 loss in Sept. 2003, the Owls’ third year as a program and their final year before moving to Division I. In that game, current New York Giants star wide receiver Brandon Marshall caught five passes for 104 yards and a touchdown against the Owls.
How long has that been? New FAU offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. was only 10 years old at the time.
FAU played two Friday-night home games last year, losing to Navy 41-19 in the Owls’ first game under Kiffin. Two months later, FAU clinched bowl eligibility for the first time since 2008 in a 30-25 win over Marshall on Nov. 3.
BOCA RATON — Lane Kiffin began his tenure at Florida Atlantic in Dec. 2016 by saying he wasn’t intending to send any types of messages, subliminal or otherwise.
After his second recruiting class, Kiffin has sent two vocal messages: FAU is en route to becoming a “national program” and the foundation of the old program, a heavy recruiting base in South Florida, is being left in the past.
“When we came here, there were people that said there so many great players [that] there is no reason to go outside South Florida,” Kiffin said earlier this week. “I get that and … we’re going to recruit South Florida. It’s more important than any other area, but at the same time, too, we didn’t come here to be the old FAU. We came here to be a national program.”
Among the nearly 20 players Kiffin signed this year, Palm Beach Lakes defensive back Teja Young was the only high school player to come from Palm Beach, Broward or Miami-Dade counties. Former Tulane center Junior Diaz (Miami-Central) and ex-West Virginia wide receiver Jovan Durante (Miramar) each played high school football south of FAU.
Kiffin did add two local stars as preferred walk-ons, with Dwyer defensive end/linebacker Dalton Hustad signing with the Owls on Wednesday and Seminole Ridge offensive lineman Nicholas Screicu doing the same on Friday.
“How many programs only recruit their area, national programs?” Kiffin asked. “They don’t. … You want to be a top-20 program year-in and year-out. You don’t say, ‘I’m going not going over there.’ We’re developing into a national program that we can go into California, we can go into Alabama, we can go into Georgia.”
With FAU having long been considered a realistic option for local players who either don’t have many Division-I offers or who want to stay closer to home, Kiffin’s decision to stray away from his base has some worried about the long-term implications. Former FAU coach Charlie Partridge made such a habit of recruiting within South Florida that 49 of last year’s Conference USA-winning Owls came from the aforementioned South Florida counties.
Though Palm Beach Lakes High coach Al Shipman has tried selling his players for years on the potential good of leaving Florida to “experience some different things,” FAU’s newest philosophy of focusing less on local kids might not work out.
“I think if you don’t recruit the hot bed of the country, you’re making a big mistake,” Shipman told The Post. “You’re making a huge mistake. This is the most-recruited state in the country and for you to openly … say you’re going to recruit this area less, I just personally think that’s mistake. Like a Teja, you have a lot of local kids who want to stay home and have that opportunity.”
FAU has officially signed a total of 10 in-state players among their 17 total recruits this year, down from 13 (of 24) last year and 17 (of 19) in 2015. Of last year’s 12 in-state high-school recruits, however, five came from the three South Florida counties.
Quarterback De’Andre Johnson (2016) and Diaz both opted to return to Florida after out-of-state stints, though Johnson had originally signed with Florida State in 2015 before being dismissed following an assault charge.
“The issue, I think, with FAU is that now they’re more known so they can go outside the county and grab kids they think might be better,” former Seminole Ridge High coach James Parson added. “I think when Kiffin came in, they went (with) a lot of bigger-school, D-I guys who weren’t happy, got those guys and some JUCO kids. … When [Partridge] was there, Charlie brought a few more Palm Beach County guys in.”
Parson did bring up a point that may interest some local players in wake of the changes at FAU. With its heavy emphasis on recruiting locally, Keiser University — which will play its first season this fall under former Oxbridge coach Doug Socha — could become the next FAU in terms of its in-state impact.
“Keiser snatched up a lot of guys,” Parson said. “You can actually stay at home and go to Keiser!”
BOCA RATON — Lane Kiffin’s first recruiting class at Florida Atlantic proved to be a hit, as the Owls won 11 games and a Conference USA title. Will his second class do as well?
A year after his first signing class included “Last Chance U” stars and former Power 5 players, Kiffin and FAU enjoyed another strong signing day this time around.
With the early signing period and the normal national signing day, Kiffin added nearly 20 players who will be expected to help FAU repeat as C-USA champions.
“Our thought was, let’s make sure that we keep ourselves available and spots open to be able to sign the best players that we can,” Kiffin said. “I think that model worked, we battled a lot of Power 5 schools on a lot of these kids and our coaches did a really good job.”
Jason Driskel and Daniel Parr (Dwyer) may be gone, but Kiffin now has two quarterbacks for the future in Chris Robison and Cordel Littlejohn. Robison still figures to be the favorite in spring camp, but the addition of Littlejohn – especially after redshirt junior De’Andre Johnson was cleared for action – adds an unexpected layer to the quarterback battle. Last year’s quarterback battle alone proved that the least-expected candidate (Parr won the job out of camp, only to lose it early in the season to Driskel) will have a chance to start under Kiffin so long as they perform to expectations.
“We bring quarterbacks in as true freshman and we give them a shot – I liked the Cordel story,” Kiffin said. “This was a school that (Illinois) had and one of those things where he just becomes available … this is a dynamic player that can run, can throw, and a really special kid.”
2. No major flips
Signing day had plenty of last-minute choices and flips across the country, but nearly every recruit who had announced either a prior commitment to FAU or narrowed the Owls to their top three schools signed with the school Wednesday. FAU did get a surprise signing in Austin (Ala.) offensive lineman Marquice Robinson, who had interest from Auburn and Mississippi State before they shied away because of academic concerns.
Robinson has reportedly righted the ship and could be an interesting option to earn playing time in 2018 if he qualifies academically.
“I want a shot at playing in the NFL, and Coach Kiffin and his staff have a lot of experience at getting guys to that level,” Robinson told the Decatur Daily at his signing day ceremony.
3. Defensive line surprisingly earns heavy focus
Maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised that Kiffin prioritized the defensive line when Hunter Snyder, Ernest Bagner, and Steven Leggett all will graduate after this season, but FAU added two JUCO defensive linemen in Charles Cameron (Copiah-Lincoln, Miss.) and Marcel Southall (Tyler, Texas). Given how Jeremiah Taleni – a proven starter at Pittsburgh who arrived as a grad trasfer – was the only transfer lineman to really contribute last season, Kiffin’s decision to stockpile talent with shortened eligibility in the trenches is a curious choice.
4. FAU quietly upgrades wide receivers
No wide receivers may have been among the players to sign with FAU on Wednesday, but former West Virginia wideout Jovan Durante and ex-Auburn Tiger Kyle Davis are both among the official signing class after transfers in the past six months. FAU also added JUCO wideout Nero Nelson (Copiah-Lincoln) and DeSean Homes (College of the Canyons) during the early signing period.
Kalib Woods and Kamrin Solomon may be gone, but Kiffin and new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. will have plenty of tools to play with at wide receiver – and don’t forget, catch/yards/touchdown leader Willie Wright is only entering his sophomore season.
5. Linebackers, secondary among positions left out
Not every position was going to be addressed, but the failure to add another linebacker was notable. Three-year starter Azeez Al-Shaair is entering his senior season and Rashad Smith is a rising junior. The same arguably goes for the secondary, where Armani Adams, Meiko Dotson and athlete-turned-cornerback Teja Young (Palm Beach Lakes) were the Owls’ only signings this year.