Through the regular season, Missouri QB James Franklin has completed 63.2% of his pass attempts (223-353-10), for 2733 yards and 20 TDs. The sophomore has a passer efficiency rating of 142.24 in his first year as a starter. He's also gained 839 yards (4.2 yards/carry) on the ground and rushed for 13 TDs. His 297.67 yards of total offense/game ranks fifteenth in the NCAA, and his 3572 yards of total offense ranks sixth on Missouri's single season list. Franklin is 334 yards of total offense shy of surpassing Chase Daniel's sophomore season (2006) for third place on Missouri's single season list.
After Henry Josey went down against Texas, Franklin has had to carry more of the offensive load for the Tigers.
"I think James (Franklin) has really grown," said Coach Pinkel. "I think the whole thing with James is the consistency of play. And, I'm not talking about game to game. Certainly, that's part of it. But, it's even within a game. It's from the first play to the last play. And, from the first play in a series to the last play in that series. And, that consistency of playing your very, very best. And, we're seeing a lot of that. It's at a lot greater level than it was at the beginning of the season. But, he's capable of even doing better. And, when he does that, it will have a huge impact on our football team, because of the impact of the position that he plays."
Missouri has become James Franklin's team.
Early in December, Franklin reflected on his first season as the starter, and talked about a couple of things that he wanted to work on during the early bowl practices. Franklin is always working on improving his footwork, and fine tuning his throwing motion. The season took quite a toll physically on the sophomore QB, and he played through a number of injuries, including broken ribs, and a hand sprain. He didn't want to make any excuses, but he recognized that playing through pain and physical limitations had at times affected his throwing mechanics. So, tuning up his footwork and his throwing motion was something that he wanted to work on as he started to recover from the various injuries.
Franklin also talked about wanting to work on reading defenses.
"I think I'm always going to need to get better at reading the defense," explained Franklin. "Seeing what they're doing pre-snap, on the snap of the ball, after the snap……………………………………….. I need to be aware of where the defenders are…………………………………….. That's something that I can definitely get better at, just knowing the defense as good as I can."
Later in the month, Franklin told me that he had spent a lot of time working on reading defenses since the end of the season, and that he thinks he's making progress. As the bowl game approached, Franklin said that he's "feeling a lot better" physically, after more than a month between games.
"(Franklin's) doing well," said Coach Yost, talking about Franklin prior to the Independence Bowl. "The best thing that he's doing right now is he's getting healthy again. Just all of the little nicks and scrapes that you get going through the season as a QB who runs the football; ribs, shoulder, thumb, fingers, ankle, knee, neck, just all of the things you get as a QB when you run the football, and take shots. He's not the best at getting down of all of the guys I've coached."
"I think he's got a good feel for (North Carolina)," continued Coach Yost, talking about Franklin. "He's spent extra time working on their defense…………………………….. I think he's got a real good feel for what they do and where they're going to be. Now, it's going to come down to our guys winning one on one battles, and him making the throws (in the game). He's had real good practices. You can tell he's feeling better. The bounce in his step is back."
Coach Yost agreed that Franklin is getting better at reading defenses. He credits a season of game experience for increasing the speed with which Franklin processes what the defense is doing. Coach Yost pointed out that during some games this season, that Franklin would do a better job of recognizing what the defense was doing as the game moved into the second half, and that accounted for some of his improved play in the fourth quarter.
"There were games where he got better as the game went along," explained Coach Yost, speaking of Franklin's development. "By the middle of the third quarter, he'd know what they were doing. And, he got better as the year went along, and he (recognized it) faster. But, that's all part of the learning curve of a quarterback."
Coach Yost pointed out that Franklin has gained enough experience that he's recognizing defenses more quickly, and that he's learning at a faster rate as compared to six months ago, or a year ago. Both Coach Yost and Coach Pinkel seem to be suggesting that Franklin is just beginning to come into his own.