MU coaches, teammates impressed with Franklin (with PODCAST)

James Franklin is looking to overcome an injury-filled 2012 season and lead the Missouri Tigers back to another bowl game this season.

James Franklin is looking to overcome an injury-filled 2012 season and lead the Missouri Tigers back to another bowl game this season. Photo by The Associated Press.

Audio clip

Missouri Tigers Season Preview

COLUMBIA — There was a time when Missouri quarterback James Franklin might have been considered one of college football’s rising quarterbacks.

He finished the 2011 season with 3,846 yards of total offense, the fifth-highest mark in school history. He appeared ready to be the quarterback to lead Missouri into the Southeastern Conference.

But after finishing with nearly 300 yards of total offense in the 2011 Independence Bowl victory against North Carolina, things seemed to spiral out of control.

His breakout sophomore season was followed by an injury-riddled 2012 season that saw the Tigers fall to 5-7, their first losing season since 2004. Then came an announcement after the season the starting quarterback position would be an open competition during the spring and summer.

To those around the program, it came as no surprise Franklin turned that adversity into a positive.

He ultimately retained his job after outperforming redshirt freshman Maty Mauk during fall camp.

Despite not being named the starting quarterback until one week was left in camp, the work he put in seemed to leave no doubt in the mind of his coaches and teammates as to who the starting quarterback was going to be.

“He matured a lot,” Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said. “I think he’s more determined. I think he wants to run this team, he wants to lead this team. ... Some of the best lessons in my life I’ve ever had have been through adversity. You learn and you grow from it and you become better. That’s where I would look at him now.”

Franklin was solid during Missouri’s three scrimmages, as he completed more than 64 percent of his passes for 430 yards and five touchdowns to go along with just one interception.

Scrimmages are hardly the only measuring stick when assessing a player during the three weeks of preseason camp, but his performances were a positive sign for the Tigers.

“I think he’s in command of everything,” offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. “That’s what you’re asking for from your quarterback is to be in command, be in control and keep a calm demeanor, keep everybody moving.”

Pinkel said Franklin has a great grasp on the X’s and O’s portion of the game, something he said comes with just being an experienced quarterback.

His receivers noticed a difference in camp from him as well.

“He seems a lot more comfortable throwing the ball to each and every one of our receivers,” receiver Dorial Green-Beckham said. “The progression has gotten a lot better since last year.”

And then there’s Franklin’s football mentality he takes with him every play.

Even during an injury-plagued season, he was never afraid to do what it took on the field to help his team. Take, for example, trying to get extra yards instead of sliding.

“Anytime I’ve gotten hurt I never thought I should have slid,” Franklin said. “Anytime I’ve gotten hurt it’s just like, ‘Ow, that hurts.’”

Pinkel said he likes Franklin’s mentality and his toughness, but he doesn’t want him continuing to take hits. He even said he expects there to be fewer designed runs for Franklin this season.

“I’ve never really slid before,” Franklin said. “I never really slid in high school, I never really slid in college either. It’s just something I’ve got to get used to.”

A healthy Franklin could go a long way in getting the Tigers back on the winning track.

He missed all or parts of six games last season. He was solid in games against Syracuse and Vanderbilt before getting knocked out of both games with injuries. The Tigers were leading both games when he exited, but wound up losing both games in the final minutes.

But maybe just as important for Missouri is a quarterback ready to lead. His teammates voted him one of four team captains before camp started and Pinkel said Franklin has been a much better vocal leader so far.

“He wasn’t crying, moaning or complaining about it,” Pinkel said of last year. “But he also didn’t quit. He battled through it and I think he’s a lot tougher for it.”

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