Francis Finding Balance In First Spring
By Megan Walsh, UNC Athletic Communications
On just his second carry of the 2013 Spring Football Game, freshman running back Khris Francis took the ball for 24 yards.
Finding a gap in the defense and pushing forward, Francis made his first big play in a Tar Heel uniform after enrolling early this January. And while Francis didn't predict that run in particular, he does have high expectations after giving himself a head start with UNC football this spring.
"It set a tone for the White team period offensively considering we started off the game on offense," Francis said. "It really energized everybody, especially when we just make a big play... I honestly did not expect that at all, but I'm happy with the productivity."
By the game's end, Francis had rushed for a team-high 101 yards on 20 carries. He said he was happy with his performance, and that his main goal was to memorize the UNC playbook.
"Plays wise, I've pretty much got a good grasp on that," Francis said. "That's the biggest key and trying to prioritize my time and stuff like that between school and learning the plays. You want to put that playbook first, but you also have to get good grades so you can stay on the field."
Learning that balance has been one of the key advantages of early enrollment for Francis. Along with adjusting to classes, Francis is adjusting to a new style of play with head coach Larry Fedora's fast-paced offense.
Similarly, Francis is adjusting to the threat of stronger defenses. After rushing 251 times for 2,100 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior at Hillside, the Durham, N.C., native knows that he's now playing at a different level.
"Seeing the holes is still the same," Francis said. "The biggest difference is how fast the linebackers flow into those holes. That's the biggest change that I've had to cope with and deal with. I'm doing a pretty good job. It's not as many big runs as it was in high school, but five yard gains are all we need."
Francis' approach to being coached is one of the main things that stands out to Fedora beyond his impressive performance in the spring game.
"The thing about Khris is that Khris doesn't say a word," Fedora said. "It's hard to get him to talk. But he's listening all the time and he takes coaching very well and he can. What he does a nice job with is you can say something to him and he can just take it to the field immediately and make it happen."
Fedora added that he noticed that Francis got stood up and mentioned it to him once mid-game. The next time, Fedora said his shoulders were down and he was running just like they needed him to.
"Khris for his first time out there in a game-type atmosphere, I thought he did a good job," Fedora said. "I don't know what he ended up with, but he hit some holes and exploded in them. ... He did some nice things."