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April 11, 2014
Q&A: Arkansas Director of Recruiting E.K. Franks
E.K. Franks is still settling into his new role as Arkansas' Director of Recruiting, but on Friday afternoon he took time to go one-on-one in an exclusive Q&A session with HawgSports.com.
Franks was asked about a number of topics, including how he landed the position, his ties to surrounding states, his vision for Arkansas recruiting and much more:
HawgSports: Congratulations and thanks for giving us some of your time. Can you walk me through the process of how this all came about and how you got here?
E.K. Franks: Knowing Bret at K-State and knowing coach (Michael) Smith at K-State, we built those relationships. I GA'd for Bret at Wisconsin, and me and Coach Smith have maintained a close friendship, and me and Bret maintained a close friendship.
So when this thing came up, Coach Smith called me and said, "Hey, is this something you'd be interested in?" He knew I was on the field and it'd be taking me off the field, and I said, "Yeah. Smitty, when the NCAA created that position, I thought that'd be perfect for me." As much as I enjoyed the coaching side, I love the recruiting side. I mean, I love that side of it. You're going to get young men and giving them an opportunity to change their lives, to go get an education, to help them, if they are blessed to make it to the NFL.
So, I called Coach B and said, "Hey." He said, "Wow, I didn't even think about that because you were on the field." He interviewed different types of people and different candidates. It was right after signing day when everything went down, but in the back of my mind I was like, "I'm going to get that job." I was full bore that this was a fit for me. To come here and be in Razorback country, as passionate as the state is about the Razorbacks, and as passionate as Coach Bielema is about recruiting, with the tradition here, it was a good fit.
I was like, "Just get me to my interview, just get me to my interview." So the interview came, he went back and I'm waiting on him to make the decision and talk to the coaches, and it's literally been a whirlwind. I mean, Tuesday I was coaching and getting off the field. Wednesday morning it was like, alright, hey, everything's going through. We're just waiting on the offer to go through so we can announce it and all of this stuff. I'm doing exit interviews down there, telling my boys I'm leaving, packing the car up and started driving at 8 o'clock that night. I get about halfway, slept in a hotel and then came on in.
HS: I know you just arrived here in the last day or so, but what do you know about Northwest Arkansas and what have you heard about the area?
E.K.F: Everybody in the country knows Walmart, but the passion of the people in the area. Bret said it's second to none. We've been in some good places. Out of the four places he's been at or coached at, I've been at three of them with him. When he was talking to me he said, "This place is passionate about football. They want to win. They're going to support me."
That was number one for me. I told him he doesn't have to tell me anything else. As long as I know that we'll get the support and the people are passionate about Razorback football, that's enough said.
HS: Arkansas has always been one of the more difficult SEC programs to recruit to simply because the state doesn't produce the same amount of SEC-caliber athletes that its surrounding states produce. You have strong ties to just about all of the surrounding states. How can you use that to help the program?
E.K.F: Number one, we're going to sign the SEC players out of Arkansas. We ain't going to let them leave the state. That's number one. After that, and I said this in my interviews to all the coaches, you've got to be effective in Texas. It's a must.
I have a cousins who are head high school coaches, another couple of cousins who are assistant coaches, and I have 15 aunts and uncles in Texas. I've already got a cousin calling me when I was driving in, "Hey, I've got this DB who's an SEC player." So I'm using them. I'm already bringing them up to the coaches. I called my contacts in Florida. I laugh because one of my running backs that I signed at Southeastern was from Florida. His step-dad is the high school coach, and he's calling and congratulating me and saying, "Hey, here are 15 SEC players right here in this area. I can help you."
When this announcement went public until the time I got here, I probably had no less than 200 phone calls and 250-300 texts, and 75 percent of them were high school coaches. It was "Hey, I've got this kid, I know these guys in this area, get me the camp dates, etc." They were from Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma. They all knew me and they know I was a good recruiter and I care about the kids. They knew I helped kids. Because even if I wasn't signing the kid, I was helping him. If I thought a kid was bigger than us, I was calling my friends, like, "Coach Smith, you need to see this kid."
When you do that, help kids, help coaches, the coach sees it and it makes him want to give you his kids. We're going to use all the ties. We're going to start in-state, but we're going to be in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia...we're going to get some work done.
HS: I know you guys don't spend much time looking at recruiting rankings, but according to Rivals.com this current class is Arkansas' best start ever. What's amazing is that it's coming off of Arkansas' worst season in decades. Without naming names, how much do you know about the guys you already have committed and what are some of the top priorities in this class?
E.K.F: The funny thing is, I was familiar with the class when I came to my interview. My vision for the class is, one, watching practice, seeing the roster and seeing where our needs are. I was talking to people this morning and said I've got to get a feel for what the coordinators want their side to look like. On top of that, knowing what the position coaches want their positions to look like. Get that together, and then go to Coach B and say, "What do you want your team to look like?"
That's going to help me adjust where we want to take this class. Bottom line, I want players that can help us win the SEC Championship and compete for the national championship every year. What players can we get to do that? I don't care if he's a no-star or a five-star. What players can help us get that job done?
HS: So much of recruiting seems to be about being able to relate to today's youth. It's a different ballgame for kids these days. How much does it benefit you that you're a younger guy and you've had so much hands-on experience in coaching athletes?
E.K.F: That's what it is. I got the question yesterday of how recruiting has changed since I've been in it. It's VHS tapes to DVDs to YouTube. In that same aspect, the way the kids communicate has changed just as drastically.
I tell people, being in athletics and dealing with teenagers will keep you young. It keeps you in that loop, the hands-on part of it.
HS: What is your message to recruits right now?
E.K.F: My thing is, come be uncommon. Come be the uncommon man. Come here and let's turn this place around. Let's take this place to the top of the SEC. If you want to be a part of it, and you're willing to come do that, then the rewards are going to be there.
HS: Any new ideas you're bringing in?
E.K.F: Yes. We've got some new ideas and I'm working with a company out there that's in the business. Me and the president and the VP all hit it off real well. I had an idea this morning, picked up the phone and asked him, "What do you think about this? Can y'all do this?"
He said, "Yes. Hold on." He clicked over and brought in the guy who designs the software, the developer, and now we're on three-way. He had me explain to him exactly what I wanted and then he said, "Alright, give me two weeks." So, we're going to be cutting edge technology. We're going to do some things.