Alabama’s quarterback group is adding a new face this summer, but it’s not who you might think. It won’t be Everett Golson, Braxton Miller or any other big-name recruit.
Instead, it’s a 6’1” kid from just across the river in Northport, Alabama, who suffered some bad luck during his college recruitment but ended up at his dream school anyway.
Seth Franks, who grew up in Tuscaloosa county and played high school football just 10 miles from Bryant-Denny Stadium, will join the team as one of a small handful of preferred walk-ons—players who aren’t on scholarship but that the coaching staff still goes out of their way to put on the team.
Photo courtesy 247Sports
For Franks, who was rated a 2-star prospect by 247Sports and Rivals, it’s an opportunity to continue playing football at the school he grew up a massive fan of, like anyone from Tuscaloosa, spending Saturday afternoons tailgating on the quad and cheering from the stands.
“He’s just a really good player,” Nick Saban said. “His size is probably a little bit of a factor that probably had something to do with how he got recruited. It’s too bad that—I had the same issues when I was in high school—it’s too bad that’s the case. But some guys are really able to overcome that and do a great job anyway. So we just feel like he’s a really good player and a fine young man and somebody that we’re excited about having in the program.”
Franks won’t have quite the same problems that Saban had as a 5’6” defensive back who wound up at Kent State. 6’1” isn’t an insurmountable disadvantage by any means.
But Franks’ size issues were only compounded just as his recruitment was ramping up.
The summer after his junior year, when he led Tuscaloosa County High School to a 7-3 record and a playoff berth, Franks had an allergic reaction and his throat swelled up. Doctors put him on a strict diet that made him shed almost 20 pounds.
He was down almost 20 pounds from 180 to about 162, he estimates, as he was taking visits to schools like Southern Miss and Louisville that summer.
The quarterback that schools saw carving up defenses on film was just another skinny kid once he got to their campus.
Photo courtesy 247Sports
“That hurt me pretty bad, at least that’s what I think, as far as recruiting,” Franks said. “Only being 6’1” and then coming in at 160 pounds doesn’t look good, you know?”
His high school coach, Lee Gibson, was upset that schools wrote him off so quickly after seeing him in person.
“I just don’t think guys ever got past that,” Gibson said. “I don’t know what that says, I don’t know if they don’t trust their own training table or what, but I’ve had numerous guys say they thought he was too skinny. And my argument to that would be, that’s kind of your job to put back on him once you get him.”
In his senior year, Franks added that lost weight back, throwing for more than 2,000 yards, 20 touchdowns and four interceptions, Gibson said, taking the Wildcats to the second round of the playoffs. He was named to the Tuscaloosa all-region team by al.com.
At that point, though, he still only had offers from Jacksonville State and a handful of Division-III and NAIA schools.
So he had all but decided to quit football altogether to focus on academics when Alabama called.
Gibson is a longtime friend of Alabama’s new director of player personnel, Jody Wright, who had also recruited Franks at Jacksonville State. Wright called Gibson to ask if Franks had decided where he was going to play football. Gibson said he hadn’t.
So Wright called Franks, who wasn’t exactly a stranger to the program, going to camps and attending games as a fan and once as a recruit.
Franks visited an Alabama practice during the spring, sat in on a quarterback meeting and then got to talk to Saban as he came off the field from practice.
Wright told him they had a spot for a preferred walk-on. Franks took about a week-and-a-half to talk it over with his family to figure out how they were going to pay for school.
In the end, Franks ended up at his top school all along.
Photo courtesy 247Sports
“Especially when I first started coming to high school, getting recruited by small schools, that was definitely the dream to play for (Alabama),” Franks said.
If recent history is an indication, Franks won’t be written off just because of his preferred walk-on status.
Luke Del Rio joined the team in the same capacity in 2013, turning down offers from Oregon State and Oklahoma State. After his first season on campus, he was going to be right in the mix to replace AJ McCarron before he transferred to Oregon State.
Franks should have that same chance, if not now then down the road, in a quarterback pool that doesn’t have a sure thing right now.
“It’s like anything, they’ll put me at the bottom of the depth chart,” he said. “You’ve got to start at the bottom and work your way up, they’re not just going to give it to you.”
For now, he’s just happy to be staying close to home, where an unfortunate turn on the recruiting trail still landed him where he wanted to be all along.
“It’s just great to see him get this opportunity because he’s one of the better players I’ve ever coached, and people passed up on for some reason,” Gibson said. “I’m looking forward to him to prove a lot of people wrong.”
Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and reporting were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.