During the last five years, from 2006 through 2010, Missouri has posted a 48-19 record, for a winning percentage of 72%. Extending back six years, to include 2005, Coach Pinkel's Tigers are 55-24, for a winning percentage of 70%, which is identical to Missouri's winning percentage during Dan Devine's tenure as the Missouri coach.
For three straight seasons, Missouri has in each year completed the winningest four-year period in school history. This illustrates the recent upward trajectory of the program. In addition, Missouri's 40 wins over the last four years ranks 10th nationally, which illustrates the program's recent level of success, as well as the Tigers' current standing.
This is Coach Pinkel's most talented team. There's more depth of talent than any of Coach Pinkel's previous teams, and once again, Coach Pinkel is fielding a team with great team speed. This is also a very experienced group, with 20 scholarship seniors, 17 returning starters, and 50 returning players with game experience. There is also a tremendous infusion of young talent on this team, with 17 players who red-shirted last season entering the competition for playing time. And, that's not including the potential for an immediate contribution from some of the 2011 recruiting class.
With so many positives, are there any negatives? What about the fact that Missouri will have a new starting QB this year? I definitely don't consider the new QB to be a negative. The insertion of a new starter at any position raises questions, until that player answers those questions. For this year's Tigers, I don't see the QB position as any more of a question than any other position where a new starter will be called upon. There are positions on this team where a new starter will likely out-perform last year's starter.
On multiple occasions, I've heard Coach Pinkel say that, "We'll always have great quarterbacks." Each of Missouri's last three starting QBs are currently in the NFL. So, let's take a look at the QB position for this year.
During the spring, Coach Pinkel stated, regarding the QB position for the 2011 season, that he's never had a first-year starter with more around him. The talent, experience, and depth of talent surrounding sophomore James Franklin 6'2" 225 in his first year as Missouri's starting QB is the best that Coach Pinkel has ever had.
Franklin came in early out of high school, where he was viewed by many to be the top QB prospect from the state of Texas in 2010. Franklin quickly took charge of the back-up QB position more than a year ago, and saw some action during the 2010 season. He rose to the top of the depth chart following the long anticipated early departure of Blaine Gabbert to the NFL. Franklin then staved off a challenge, in the spring, from the now departed Tyler Gabbert, in a fair and square competition that wasn't as close as many had reported.
Franklin is, of course, very talented. He is perhaps Coach Pinkel's first true dual-threat QB at Missouri, and he brings a team-first attitude to the position. In 2010, Franklin appeared in 10 games, despite a mid-season illness that left him 18 pounds lighter. He completed 11 of 14 passes, for 106 yards, and 1 TD, against 1 INT. He also rushed the football 23 times, for 116 yards, and 2 TDs, including a crucial 4th quarter TD run in Missouri's 36-27 win over Oklahoma.
I have high expectations for James Fra
nklin, and a high level of confidence that he will deliver. He's already demonstrated toughness, mobility, very good pocket presence, and an ability to complete the deep ball, as well as having shown good touch on his shorter throws. He does a nice job of leading receivers away from the defense, and allowing them to run after the catch.
I also have the expectation that there will be quite a bit of competition during fall camp for the back-up QB position. In May, following Tyler Gabbert's departure, sophomore Ashton Glaser 6'0" 205 moved up to the number two spot on the depth chart. Will Glaser, in his third year at Missouri, grab hold of the back-up job?
This summer, a couple of new QBs have entered the picture. Former walk-on, and back-up QB, Jimmy Costello 6'3" 212 was recruited back onto the team for his final year of eligibility. He brings maturity, experience, and a big arm to the competition. One of his objectives will be to help mentor freshman Corbin Berkstresser 6'4" 220, who is another true dual threat with a big arm. How quickly Berkstresser, who ran a spread offense last year, and who has been on campus since early June, can begin to master the Missouri offense, will go a long way in determining where he ends up on the depth chart this fall, and whether or not he sees the field this year. Berkstresser is a big-time talent, who should be able to compete for the back-up job this year, and will be a candidate to start at some point during his time at Missouri.
The Tigers also have another freshman, in walk-on athlete, Kortland Webb 5'10" 170, who will begin his Missouri career at QB. His football future at Missouri may involve catching rather than throwing passes, but this fall he'll add some depth to the QB position.
There will primarily be two things to watch for in fall camp, regarding the QB position. Of course, everyone will want to know how Franklin's doing. There have been very positive reports regarding his continued growth and development throughout this off-season, and we will be watching him with great interest.
The biggest question to be answered during fall camp regarding the QB position is who will be Franklin's back-up? Will Berkstresser demonstrate enough proficiency to warrant second-string status? Or, will one of the veterans, Costello or Glaser, be called upon in that capacity?
Pre-Season Analysis: While the Missouri Tigers lose a 1st round NFL draft pick at QB in Blaine Gabbert, they appear to have a very capable dual-threat college QB at the ready in James Franklin. James won the job in the spring in a heated battle with the since transferred Tyler Gabbert and the experience help make him a better quarterback in the long run.
Franklin not only showed the ability to lead and move the team up and down the field, he more importantly showed the ability to lead his squads to scores and primarily into the end zone more often then not. His running ability will add another dimension to the offense that was not there last year. He has also shown a better pocket presence and ability to stay in there to the last second and make the throw.
What Franklin will need to continue to develop is his decision making,accuracy and assertiveness as the Tiger signal caller. He has the goods to lead this team to a lot of victories.
The real battle will likely be for the #2 spot. Incoming freshman has been very impressive in summer workouts and 7 on 7. He could possibly be the best overall QB prospect on the roster once camp starts. However, he still has a lot to learn and it looks right now as too big of a hill to climb in a short amount of time for him to seriously compete for the starting position. What you may expect is for him to be used in a similar role as Franklin last year if the coaching staff feels comfortable with his abilities and the need to have him gain that experience over red-shirting.
Ashton Glaser has a lot to prove in this pre-season camp. He has shown flashes of ability and then taken steps backward right after. He is capable of being a solid college QB and now is the time to make his move if he wants a chance at seeing the field with Berkstresser coming in and the recent commitment of 2012 standout Maty Mauk.
Jimmy Costello returns as insurance since he is familiar with the program, and incoming walk-on Kortland Webb, who is very fast and athletic, may get a shot at the position or could ultimately wind up at receiver.
The bottom line at this position is that the Tigers will go as James Franklin goes and as long as he stays healthy. After him there is more of an unknown at the position. The Tigers have seen themselves in the same position under Blaine Gabbert.The good news is that there is talent behind him and more on the way.
Overall, if Franklin stays healthy and continues to progress as we feel he will, the Missouri Tigers will continue their winning ways under Gary Pinkel this season.