Missouri sophomore QB James Franklin has been making steady improvement in his play throughout the season. He's currently completing 63.1% of his pass attempts on the season, and has thrown 16 TDs to 7 INTs. His 238.1 passing yards/game, and his 139.7 passer efficiency rating, each rank sixth in the Big 12. He's also sixth in the conference (#15 nationally) in total offense, with 302.3 yards/game. And, he's directing the #12 offense in the country.
Franklin's put up these impressive numbers against the nation's #1 toughest schedule, according to Sagarin's Ratings Index, and the #2 toughest schedule, according to the NCAA.
Missouri's last three starting QBs are playing on Sundays. How does Franklin's first 10 starts at Missouri compare with what those three QBs did in their first 10 starts?
In Franklin's first 10 starts, he has faced 6 ranked teams. In 2002, Brad Smith played 3 ranked teams in his first 10 starts. In 2006, Chase Daniel played 1 ranked team in his first 10 starts. In 2009, Blaine Gabbert played 3 ranked teams in his first 10 starts. Franklin is the only one of the four to have beaten a ranked team in his first 10 career starts. He's 2-4 against ranked teams this season, and I think it's fair to say that he's played well enough to have an even better record in those games.
Franklin's 27 total TDs, 16 passing and 11 rushing, are more than the TD totals of his three predecessors, for each of their first 10 starts. Only Daniel had a better completion percentage, at 63.3%, or a better passer rating, at 140.15. With the way that Franklin has been improving, and with Missouri's final two games coming against two of the worst defenses in the country, Franklin has a chance to finish his first season as a starter with better passing statistics than any of Missouri's three previous QBs.
Earlier this week, I spoke with Franklin, and I asked him if he's pleased with his development as a QB?
"Yes sir. Definitely," replied Franklin. "That has a lot to do with how Coach Yost has been coaching me to take what the defense gives us…………………………….. But, at the same time, I'd like to be 100% completion percentage. There are some throws where maybe I shouldn't have tried to force it in there, or threw it too low. I'd just like to kind of make it a little bit easier, so the receiver has a chance at the ball, rather than just not giving him one at all."
I pointed out to Franklin that, statistical speaking, he's measuring up to Daniel and the other previous Missouri QBs, all of whom are playing in the NFL. I asked him how that affects him? At first, Franklin laughed, as if he was almost embarrassed to learn that his performance thus far does measure up to Daniel, Gabbert, and Smith.
"It does give me a little bit of confidence. Yes sir," replied Franklin. "The only thing that really sticks with me is kind of the wins. Because, just as a natural teammate, as a competitor, I would rather have the wins over the stats. So, that's the thing that's a little frustrating. It does give me a little bit of confidence to know (those stats). But at the same time, I know that they won. They found a way to win. And that something that I wish I could've done a better job of this year; helping my teammates win, and just performed a little better."
At this point, I want to point out that in 2002, Missouri finished 5-7. In 2006, and in 2009, Missouri finished 8-5.
Against Texas, Franklin stood firm in the pocket, and delivered a perfect pass just as he was about to get hit. The Texas defender unloaded on Franklin, knocking the air out of him, and Franklin went to the sideline for a single snap. I inquired about this play, and as Franklin relived the play, it was apparent that his focus on completing the pass had been singular. I asked him if this was indicative of the growth in his development as a QB?
"A little bit. Yes sir," replied Franklin. "That's what I want to do a little bit more of it, is kind of move around in the pocket, manipulating the pocket………………………………….. That's something that I want to work on. There were a few times on Saturday, where I could've just moved to the side, or slid over a little bit, and delivered the throw, rather than just running out, and throwing it away, or trying to run it."
Franklin talked about the use of video in his development as a QB.
"I'll get the different camera angles, so that I can look downfield," explained Franklin, "see what I missed, see what I can do to better help me see that next time, for the next game. I'll try to think back to what was I thinking in the game?"
"I do go back, and I slow thing down a little bit, and see the things that I could've done differently," continued Franklin, who agreed that it's a quality learning experience. "I think the biggest thing is seeing yourself in the film, because you notice things that you may not in the game. For instance, I've had a struggle this year with footwork. I don't notice it in the game, but when I watch film, I go back and I see it. And, I realize that it's just not right. "
Franklin has been working on his footwork.
"It was a little bit better (this week)," said Franklin, referring to improvement in his footwork. "That's something that I want to continue to (improve upon) as the rest of the season goes."