By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The job Jon Franks has done entering Year Five at Rolla is nothing short of remarkable.
In the six seasons prior to his arrival, the Bulldogs posted just a 16-46 mark with one winning season and zero district championships.
Under Franks, Rolla has won seven or more games in two of the last three seasons, with a pair of district title appearances, including a championship and Elite Eight run in 2017.
With his first full graduating class under his belt, Franks will look to continue to build the program with 10 returning starters this fall.
But, one of the most important aspects of the offseason will be replacing the void left by All-Ozark Conference standouts Colton Franks and Darius Facen.
Franks not only led Rolla in rushing with 668 yards and eight touchdowns, he also led the Bulldogs with 101 tackles. Facen was a mainstay on the offensive line for the last three years.
“Losing two players like Colton and Darius is always difficult,” said Franks. “Those are the type of guys you don’t replace, you just move forward and their absence provides someone with opportunity. They will have great careers at the next level.”
Rolla will look to reload behind several players that saw Friday night action.
Senior Isaac Hunter returns as a two-way starter at receiver and defensive back, leading Rolla in receptions (18), yards (515) and touchdowns (5). Defensively he added 39 tackles and a pair of interceptions, also leading the team in PBUs.
Junior linebacker Ty Locklear finished second in tackles as a sophomore (66). Franks believes he’ll be able to play even faster this fall.
Senior Gus Gremp started at free safety a year ago, tallying 50 tackles, and junior Reese Clark will look to make an even bigger impact at nose tackle.
Junior Ben Tiddy will compete for a spot in the secondary, Waylan Kinder will see time at linebacker and the trio of Hayden Crider, Joe Oxner and Broc Owens will see defensive line reps.
Franks is excited about the potential growth of the defense under defensive coordinator Cody Sneed.
“Defense is probably the most difficult culture to change in a program,” said Franks. “I think we have a chance to make a move forward in this department. This will be Cody Sneed’s second year as our defensive coordinator. We are excited about the unit we could put on the field this season. Isaac is one of the better corners I have been fortunate to coach. You can put him on a No. 1 receiver or on the tendency side of a formation. Isaac has a lot of next level qualities.”
Offensively the return of junior Ethan Crouch will help solidify the line. He’ll look to free up space for senior Malachi Ray, who rushed for 381 yards and five touchdowns as a junior. He’s expected to shoulder even more carries this fall.Hayden Fane will also see increased touches.
Franks is excited about several newcomers as well. Junior Adam Hounsom will likely start at quarterback, with Broc Lyle pushing him for his starting spot or finding a role at receiver or in the secondary. Classmate Gage Klossner will slide into the slot position and David Redding will see tight end reps.
The OC will look a little different this fall with the swap of Bolivar for Springfield Central, giving the league yet another Class 4 team that has been to the Elite Eight in the last decade (Camdenton, West Plains, Rolla, Bolivar).
The added competition will help a Rolla squad look for yet another deep district run.
“Bolivar is a great add to the OC,” said Franks. “We saw them at camp last year. They are coached extremely well and had lots of talented kids and they were very physical in the trenches. They’re a good program.
“For us, it’s about staying healthy and hopefully creating a few breaks for ourselves.”
Rolla will open the 2020 season on Aug. 28 at home against Bolivar.