Illinois Adds Zakhari Franklin From The Transfer Portal

After four successful seasons at UTSA and a disappointing one at Ole Miss, Zakhari Franklin finds a new home with Illinois.

Brett Bielema just secured a major win for his Illinois Fighting Illini through the transfer portal. Former Ole Miss receiver Zakhari Franklin is headed to Champagne. Illinois will be Franklin’s third school as he spent his first four seasons with the UTSA Roadrunners.

Franklin represents the 13th incoming transfer to the Fighting Illini, according to 247Sports. He is the first wide receiver to commit after the program lost three via the portal and two to the NFL. His commitment moves Illinois to 11th in the conference, just above the reigning Big Ten and National Champions, Michigan.

Illinois Adds Zakhari Franklin From the Transfer Portal

Franklin has a long history of being a talented receiver, he was just not able to show it with the Rebels in 2023. In Fall camp, Franklin suffered an injury that kept him out of the first three contests of the year. Then, he appeared in the Alabama, LSU, Auburn, and Texas A&M games. In those four games, Franklin only managed 38 yards and a touchdown off four catches. This performance was a far cry from his impact at UTSA.

As a true freshman in 2019, Franklin appeared in nine games and led the way with 38 catches, and finished with 491 yards and three touchdowns. As a true freshman, he was a yard behind the receiving leader. He made his presence known early and even broke the program record with a 134-yard performance in the win over Old Dominion.

As a sophomore in 2020, Franklin kept getting better. He added four 100-yard games en route to a 694-yard, seven-touchdown season off 49 receptions. In his junior season, Franklin led the Roadrunners to a Conference USA title off four more 100+ yard games. In total, the receiver amassed 1,027 yards and 12 touchdowns by hauling in 81 passes.

With all eyes on him, Franklin continued his dominance. He willed his team to victory to secure back-to-back Conference USA titles with a 10-catch, 144-yard, three-score performance against North Texas. At the end of it all, Franklin accounted for 1,136 yards and 15 touchdowns off 94 receptions.

He earned First-Team All-Conference USA honors in both 2021 and 2022. Franklin should be a reliable receiver for the Illini offense in his final season of eligibility.

Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

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