Heading into fall camp 2012, the Missouri Tigers are in good shape at the QB position, where Mizzou returns a junior starter with a season of experience under his belt.
Projected QB Depth:
James Franklin 6'2" 225 (J)
Eric Laurent 6'3" 200 (F)
In his first season as Missouri's starting QB, James Franklin 6'2" 225 was very impressive, and he posted one of the top seasons by a QB in Missouri history. On the season, Franklin completed 63.3% of his pass attempts (238-376-11) for 2865 passing yards, and 21 TDs through the air. He also carried the football 217 times for 981 yards (4.5 yards/carry) and 15 TDs on the ground. His completion percentage and his passer efficiency rating of 139.88 have Franklin well-positioned behind only Chase Daniel to become the second-most accurate and efficient passer in the school's history.
Franklin finished the year with 3846 yards of total offense, which ranked him 15th nationally, including first nationally among freshmen and sophomores, and which placed his 2011 season fourth on Missouri's all-time single-season list, behind each of Chase Daniel's three seasons at Missouri. Franklin was just 60 yards short of Daniel's total offensive output for his sophomore year, which was also his first year as a starter at Missouri.
Those of us who watched closely saw Franklin improve throughout a season in which Missouri finished at 8-5, the same record that current NFL QBs Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert posted as sophomores and first-year starters at Missouri.
The numbers, including the statistics and the won-loss record, suggest that Franklin performed very well in 2011, and it's clear that his performance measures up to the standards established by those who preceded him at the position. And, Franklin's Tigers faced a tougher schedule in 2011 than did either of Daniel or Gabbert during their time at Missouri.
Franklin would be the first one to say that he should have played better in 2011. There's every reason to believe that he will play better in 2012.
Coach Pinkel and Coach Yost have each said that Franklin continued to get better from the beginning of the season until the end of the season, and they've both said that he will be a lot better in 2012.
The lone caveat regarding Missouri's QB situation is the status of Franklin's right (throwing) shoulder, following surgery in March to repair a torn labrum. All reports have been positive regarding Franklin's recovery and rehab. Both he and Coach Pinkel have publicly stated that Franklin is ahead of schedule in his rehab, and that he is expected to begin throwing the football in time for the start of camp.
Franklin says that his shoulder "feels good", and he has given every indication that he'll be ready to play football on August 1.
Following Franklin's injury, red-shirt freshman QB Corbin Berkstresser 6'3" 220 moved up to work with the number one offense, and in the spring scrimmages, his passing statistics totaled 50-88-3, for 651 yards, and 3 TDs. That's a 57% completion rate, and an average of 7.4 yards/pass attempt. But, those numbers were skewed by a 10-25 performance in the very first scrimmage. If you subtract that first scrimmage, then Berkstresser completed 63% of his passes this spring, and averaged 8.7 yards/pass attempt.
Berkstresser made the most of the opportunity afforded by Franklin's absence, and established himself in the eyes of the coaching staff. According to Missouri Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach David Yost, Berkstresser's development is about on par with where Franklin was after just one year with the Tigers. Berkstresser lacks game experience, but he has demonstrated that should he be called upon, he will be able to give Missouri a chance to win.
Entering fall camp, true freshman QB Maty Mauk 6'2" 200, is the third-string QB. The athletic Mauk comes in from high school as the national career record-holder in passing yards (18,932), TD passes (219), pass completions (1,353), and total offense (22,681 yards). Last fall as a high school senior, Mauk completed 67% of his pass attempts, while averaging 9.56 yards/pass attempt.
Overall, Missouri appears to be in very good shape at the QB position. Entering fall camp, there's going to be a number of things to watch, including first and foremost Franklin's health and ability to throw the football, Berkstresser's continued development, and the rise of the freshman Mauk.
At the beginning of camp, all eyes will be on Franklin. I don't expect it to take very long however, before he puts everyone at ease by demonstrating that he's fully recovered from his shoulder injury. And, it won't take him very long to get into sync with his receivers.
QB Position Outlook: The health of returning starter James Franklin will determine the Tigers season as they wrap camp and start the 2012 season. He is the straw that stirs the offense as it needs to be run at it's best among the available QBs on the roster after a very successful sophomore season. His true dual threat ability make him a difficult weapon for opposing defenses to stop
Corbin Berkstresser has proved himself to be very capable, and will serve as a solid back-up option at the position based on his strong spring performance. The hope is that the Tigers will have some early game well in hand and allow Berkstresser to get some reps in live game action.
Maty Mauk has been impressive since arriving on campus. He has the physical tools, athleticism, football IQ and competitive nature that will push the other QB come August camp.
It looks like the Tigers will have sufficient walk-on QBs to help run practice the way they have become accustomed to doing.