Miami's Franklin welcoming pressure of left tackle

Aug 14, 2010 - 7:14 PM By TIM REYNOLDS AP Sports Writer

CORAL GABLES, Fla.(AP) -- At 6-foot-7 and 310 pounds, Miami left tackle Orlando Franklin cannot be considered tiny.

Except by his own standards.

The last time Franklin was this small, relatively speaking, was four years ago in high school. He dropped more than 20 pounds this offseason alone and is 35 pounds less than his collegiate peak, which leads to a somewhat ironic twist: The Hurricanes' season largely rests on his slimmed-down shoulders.

Aside from a brief stint as an injury fill-in last season, Franklin has the marquee spot on Miami's offensive line for the first time. After playing guard almost exclusively for the first three seasons of his college career, Franklin is the left tackle, making him Jacory Harris' primary protector and one of the biggest keys to Miami's success.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself," Franklin said. "I've got to step up. I've been here the longest. I've got the most snaps. I've got to do whatever I can to get better, show these other young guys. ... I've just been working, try to be working hard at it, showing these younger guys how to do it, you know. Every day, I'm just trying to get better."

Franklin says doesn't want to stop at being the leader of the offensive line. He wants to lead the entire Miami roster. So this summer, instead of going back to his nicely furnished apartment after grueling training-camp practices, Franklin retreats to an empty dorm room for solitude and study, stopping at times to remind younger players that chances to win can't be wasted.

"I'm very confident in Orlando and my entire offensive line," Harris said.

It's not going to be easy for Franklin, though. He was a fine left guard, though if he falters at tackle, there could be others on Miami's roster - possibly Jermaine Johnson, even highly touted freshman Seantrel Henderson - who could be in line to compete for snaps at the position this fall.

He welcomes the challenge.

"Every other person is telling us how good we can be," Franklin said. "Fact of the matter is, if we don't come out here and work every day, every play, to become the best, we're not going to be that great."

Franklin filled in at left tackle for two games at the end of last season, with mixed results. Miami went 1-1 in those two games, easily beating South Florida, then falling to Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl.

"Whenever you get a loss, everybody thinks you did bad," Franklin said.

After those games, Franklin decided to lighten up, running more this summer than ever before, getting his weight down and looking noticeably slimmer than he was just a year ago when he tipped the scale at 322 lining up at left guard.

"I want to be able to play 99.9 percent of the snaps this year," Franklin said.

When his helmet is off, Franklin doesn't smile much. A scowl is the typical expression.

Oddly, on the field, that changes. The place he's happiest is on that offensive line, the thing he's happiest doing is sending a defender flying backward.

"Game day's fun. Practice is fun," Franklin said. "When you hit a blocker the right way, you hear coach (Jeff) Stoutland jumping up and down, yelling 'Good job,' that's great. Ain't no other feeling. When you put someone in the dirt, ain't no other feeling. I'm smiling all the time on the field."

Besides, the way Franklin sees it, there's not much sense to him looking happy all the time.

"I'm 6-7. I can't walk around with a smile on my face," Franklin said. "I'd look like Barney or something."

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