With a full spring under his belt, Khris Francis has a leg up on his freshmen counterparts as he battles for playing time at running back.
Francis played just down the road at Durham (N.C.) Hillside High School, rushing for 2,100 yards and 27 touchdowns during his senior season. When it came time to make a collegiate choice, the decision was rather simple.
"First, I've always been a Tar Heel fan and second it just had to be the coaching staff," Francis said. "I talked to them on the phone and [head coach Larry Fedora] sounded like a cool guy. Then I met them in person and I think it was at the Duke vs. Carolina basketball game and then they came to my school to visit. Ever since then, I knew this was the place for me."
The process quickly transitioned from determining the destination to expediting the move to Chapel Hill. Francis wanted to get on campus as soon as possible and enrolled in January to get a head start on his Tar Heel career. Francis knew the tough task of jumping from high school to the collegiate level would be a process and for him to contribute early, he needed to begin working sooner rather than later.
"Learning the playbook helped give me an edge on the other freshmen," Francis said.
Francis was also able to upgrade to UNC's strength and conditioning program to prepare his body for the rigors of college ball.
The potential exuded on the field during spring ball as Francis rushed for a game-high 101 yards in the spring game on Apr. 13.
Francis possesses a knack for getting in-between the tackles and is strong enough to take the punishment and finish out plays. Romar Morris referred to Francis's thick legs as "tree trunks," which is evident in comparison with the other running backs on the roster.
Francis credits his size, as well as his familiarity with Fedora's running schemes, for his early success.
"I'm really good at the inside zone run," Francis said. "That's what we did when I was in high school so I was already familiar with that aspect of the offense. I think that's where my strength is."
Strength and conditioning coach Lou Hernandez worked with Francis on finding the right regiment to fit the type of physique he will need to thrive on the field. The weight room work has been all-encompassing – squats, hand cleans, power cleans and bench presses, to name a few.
As far as a dietary plan, Francis follows a similar method as Morris. The goal is to add bulk yet continually stay hydrated throughout the three-meal-a-day plan, filled with numerous snacking opportunities.
"My goal weight is 195, but coming into training camp I was 200," Francis said. "They knew I was going to lose it out here running in the heat with all these pads on, so I lost about five or six pounds. I'm back at 195 now."
Training camp has been brutal as expected for all players participating but the preparation and on-field success thus far leaves no doubt that Francis will be a contributor on Saturdays this fall for the Tar Heels. While A.J. Blue and Morris are expected to be UNC's top options at tailback, Francis is expected to see the field.
When asked about the possibility of red-shirting this fall, Francis responded: "No, not at all. No one has talked to me about red-shirting."