- KC Joyner, NFL Insider
LAST FALL, these players were dogged for not fully tapping into their potential. Then along came new coaches and a fresh approach on how to play their positions. After comparing this season's stats with last season's, it's clear their schemes have pushed each player to the front of the pack.
The All-Around Back
RB Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
Franklin (5'11", 195 pounds) was the every-down back in former coach Rick Neuheisel's run-first pistol offense, which posed no threat through the air (No. 11 in Pac-12). So his receiving skills were underused (9 catches, 74 yards), and opponents were able to stack the box, holding him to just 69.7 ypg. A loose grip (seven fumbles, six lost) didn't help either.
New coach Jim Mora asked former Arizona State O-coordinator Noel Mazzone to install an aggressive spread attack.
Resembling Mike Martz's 2001 St. Louis Rams, Mazzone's Bruins force D's to cover the entire field, as evidenced by a top-27 passing game. The spread has opened lanes, allowing Franklin (1,042 yards, 156 carries, 6.7 ypc) to do most of his damage bursting between the tackles. The senior has also served as a safety valve (16 catches, 199 yards). Bonus: zero fumbles.
15hSam Khan Jr.