There’s another big bruising fullback, another former defensive player, stepping in at Signal Mountain.
A year ago it was ex-tackle James McClellan, who finished the season with 1,974 rushing yards by muscling folks with a bulky 260 pounds while running both inside and out. In 2011 and 2012, it was Tim McClendon, who’s at College of the Sequoias in California and is being recruited by Fresno State, among other four-year NCAA programs.
Now it is William Franklin’s turn.
“Running the wing-T, you have to have somebody that can grind out 2-3 yards. It sets the whole offense,” Eagles coach Bill Price said.
“My fullback has to be able to block, to run in traffic — just be a physical presence. Our offense starts with the fullback. Everything is set up off what he does.”
Price has forged a career on big bruisers in the backfield, including Jarvis Smith, a 275-pounder at Soddy-Daisy who went on to Marshall; Blake Morris (6-foot-3, 230), who went from Bradley Central to Middle Tennessee State; and Jake Nunley, who used his 230 pounds for back-to-back 2,000-yard rushing seasons at Coffee County.
“Franklin weighs about 240, but he’s the quickest fullback we’ve had,” Price said.
The Eagles started almost from scratch with Franklin, who had to go from slide steps and one-step charges to picking up his feet, if not high-stepping.
“I played a little running back in little league,” he said. “When I got here I was on the defensive line, and now it’s running back.”
He has had to work extra and extra hard to make the adjustment. When Price began the grand experiment in the spring, he was starting with a hefty piece of clay. Instead of shuffling his feet, Franklin heard that holler from immediately next to him or from across the field: “William, pick up your feet!”
“I worked hard at it, but the blocking part comes naturally,” Franklin said. “I guess what I had to work on the most was taking the handoff and securing the football, but what I like is getting that handoff and running. I feel good about running between the tackles.”
As Price has made perfectly clear, the success of Signal’s normally high-octane offense rests on the shoulders and shoes of William Franklin.
“I guess there should be some pressure, but I don’t feel it. I guess our offensive line has a lot to do with that,” Franklin said.
— Ward Gossett
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN EAGLES
Head coach: Bill Price (57-12 in six years here; 165-100 overall)
Last year: 8-4; lost 38-37 in OT to Knoxville Catholic in second round of 4A playoffs
Returning starters (O/D/K): 7/8/0
(all games at 7 Eastern unless noted)
Aug. 22 — at East Hamilton, 7:30
Aug. 29 — at Tyner, 7:30
Sept. 5 — Bledsoe County*
Sept. 12 — Red Bank
Sept. 19 — at Grundy County, 8*
Sept. 26 — Bradley Central
Oct. 3 — at Notre Dame, 7:30*
Oct. 17 — at Chattanooga Christian, 7:30*
Oct. 24 — Greeneville
Oct. 31 — Sequatchie County*
- District 7-AA game
Control panel: QB Jack Teter (6-2, 215, Sr.). Price says the lefty has the strongest arm of any quarterback he’s had, and that includes potential University of Kentucky starter Reese Phillips. OT Harrison Moon (6-6, 285, Sr.) is the biggest player Signal has had, and he committed to Mississippi State in early July. A force on the other side of the ball should be DE/LB Tadarrius Hodge (6-5, 220, Sr.).
New producers: RB Skye Wilson (6-2, 217, So.) played sparingly as a freshman but has packed on 25 pounds since last fall. He’ll be joined by RB Nathan Johnson (5-11, 185, Jr.) and FB William Franklin (5-11, 240, Sr.), a converted DT. “Skye is one of the most athletic players I’ve been around in 30 years of coaching, and Nathan is probably the fastest guy we’ll have in the backfield. We expected a lot from him because he’ll be playing just one side. Franklin is the quickest fullback we’ve had,” Price said.
1 – Signal Mountain has one state championship (2010/2A) and the Eagles have missed the playoffs just once, that being 2011 when the TSSAA ruled they had played an ineligible player and forced them to forfeit six games. They are a Class 3A team that plays up in the postseason in Class 4A.
2 – Price’s current plan is to use two sets of running backs, rotating three fresh ones in for every offensive series.
71 – On a run-dominated offense in 2013, QB Jack Teter threw for more than 1,500 yards (including two playoff games) and completed 71 percent of his passes.