LAKE CORMORANT, Miss. —
The list of major programs pursuing Kamarion Franklin
only has continued to grow since Tennessee gave him his first SEC scholarship offer nearly six months ago. But the Vols are still one of the teams that have caught his attention in the early stages of his recruitment.
The four-star Class of 2024 defensive lineman from Lake Cormorant High School, just outside Memphis, Tenn., has visited Tennessee twice since November, and he said he’s hoping to visit the Vols again this summer. Tennessee defensive line coach Rodney Garner
stopped at Franklin’s school last week to check on him, and while he’s not ready to name any early favorites, he said he holds the Vols’ program in high regard.
“I really like it,” said Franklin, who’s ranked by 247Sports as the No. 45 overall prospect and No. 6 defensive lineman in the 2024 class and the No. 1 sophomore from the state of Mississippi. “I wanted to get up there for their spring game, but, of course, they’re having renovations done on their field, so we couldn’t really just come make that happen.
“I like Tennessee, though. Tennessee’s pretty cool.”
The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Franklin now has received offers from 13 schools, including Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas, Florida State and Arkansas. He has visited Alabama, Mississippi State and LSU since late March.
The competition for him has continued to heat up, and it’s not likely to slow down any time soon. But he said he hasn’t forgotten that Tennessee was one of the first schools to extend an offer to him, and the Vols already have made it clear that he’s important to them.
“They were really the first school to start recruiting me hard,” Franklin said. “They haven’t stopped yet. They’re letting me know that I’m still wanted. After all the offers and stuff like that, they’re letting me know they still (want me).”
Garner is one of the coaches who have already started to build strong relationships with Franklin, he said, along with LSU defensive line analyst Patrick Hill
and Texas defensive line coach Bo Davis
. Franklin said he has enjoyed getting to know Garner during his two trips to Knoxville, including his most recent visit with the Vols on Jan. 22 for their first junior day of the year.
“He’s been watching me closely,” Franklin said of Garner. “He told me he’s been watching me. He’s going to continue to keep watching me and recruiting me hard.
“He can’t really just do much because I’m Class of ‘24, but as time goes on, he’s going to be watching me pretty hard. He says he loves me. He loves my film. He loves how I get after it and stuff like that. …
“I know he’s put a lot of guys in the NFL. I like that about him. That’s a good thing. He knows what he’s talking about. We sat down and talked for a little bit. He showed me, like, some type of stuff that will help me out on the field and stuff like that. He knows what he’s talking about.”
Garner and Tennessee running backs coach Jerry Mack
, who recruits the Memphis area for the Vols, both have started to stay in contact with Franklin, although college coaches aren’t allowed to directly contact Class of 2024 prospects at this point.
With Tennessee coming off a 7-6 season last year, and with the Vols currently having a top-10 recruiting class — headlined by five-star quarterback commitment Nicholaus Iamaleava
— in the 247Sports Composite team rankings for the 2023 class, Franklin said he also believes Tennessee is on the right track under second-year head coach Josh Heupel
“I feel like they’re going to be good,” Franklin said. “I’m only in 10th grade, so a lot can change as I’m getting closer to my junior and senior year.”
He said he also has started to talk more with LSU since the Tigers extended an offer to him on April 1 during his first trip to Baton Rouge, La. He said he’s “talking to LSU more than anybody right now.”
“LSU, I talk to the coach at least once a week,” Franklin said, referring to Hill. “Ever since they offered me and I visited the school, he’s letting me know that he wants to get a closer relationship with me, even if I don't attend Louisiana State.
“Either way it goes, he wants to get close to me. He wants to keep the relationship, build something. I talk to him every week, though. He lets me know that they’re going to be recruiting me hard, as well, and stuff like that.”
In-state schools Ole Miss and Mississippi State also are making Franklin a priority.
“Ole Miss, Mississippi State, they hit me up all the time letting me know they want me and stuff like that, in case I want to stay home or anything,” he said. “Ain’t nothing like home, so stay somewhere like that.”
Growing up, Franklin said he didn’t have a favorite college football team, adding that he “really wasn’t into college ball like that.” He said his family “all like NFL and stuff like that.”
Tennessee is one of at least a couple schools he expects to visit this summer.
“This summer, I’ve got a lot of camp invites,” he said. “But I haven’t figured out, like, which ones I’m going to. I want to make them all, but I’m trying to see how they’re going to fit into my schedule. … I’m supposed to be going to a camp at Tennessee, and I wanted to go to an Oklahoma camp. They invited me. They sent me something. That’s pretty much it right now.”
As Franklin continues to explore his options, he said he’s hoping to find a school where he can make an early impact on the field.
“When I’m looking for a school, I want to come early — I’m going to early enroll into college — so I want to go into school early and have a chance to play early,” he said. “I want to go to a place that feels like home and stuff like that.”
His timeline for a decision remains open-ended for now, with Franklin entering the final days of his sophomore year.
“I’m not even sure,” he said. “My recruiting’s, like, expanding, so I don’t know when I’m going to just lock down. I want to do it kind of early, but I’m not sure yet.”