Last year, as the starting QB for Missouri, sophomore James Franklin led the Tigers to an 8-5 record, and put up some very impressive statistical numbers along the way. Everyone expected that he would be even better in 2012. But early in spring practice, Franklin suffered a shoulder sprain that required surgery to repair a torn labrum, and he missed the rest of spring practice. He resumed throwing the football about a month ago, and he has been leading his teammates in 7-on-7 workouts.
So, with The Opening on Thursday of Missouri's Fall Camp, I wanted to get a good look at how Franklin was doing. Now heading into his junior year, Franklin appears to be throwing the football better than ever.
"James Franklin is doing pretty good," explained Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel. "If you just walked out here, and didn't know that he had surgery, you wouldn't think anything was up. I just marvel at him. He's obviously a remarkable athlete to be able to do what he's doing after (missing) that amount of time and that surgery. We've got a month left before he plays. That's very, very encouraging, to think of where we were back in the spring when he went down. He has a great attitude, and obviously, he's genetically gifted."
I spoke to Franklin after his first practice, and he suggested that he was a little rusty, but he indicated that he had no pain, and that he feels really good.
"I was excited to get back out there," said Franklin. "From what I learned today, I'm not going to have any problem with my shoulder."
"At one point, I almost felt like a rookie, since it's been so long since I've been out here," said Franklin.
Watching Franklin on Thursday, I noticed that his throwing mechanics appear to be more consistent from pass to pass. He looks better throwing the football than he did last season, and the ball seems to come out of his hand a little better. But, the biggest thing I noticed was the compactness and the consistency with which he threw the football. He was consistently repeating a delivery that appears to me from a mechanical standpoint to be an improvement in his throwing motion.
I asked Franklin how he feels?
"It feels good! Coming out here today, it felt good to be back," replied Franklin. "My shoulder felt good! Obviously, I was being cautious today. I was just kind of seeing if I didn't have any tweaks or anything. And, I didn't. So, I'm really excited about it!"
"One of the things that I stressed when I was doing the rehab, was obviously getting the strength back," explained Franklin. "Then once I started throwing the nerf ball, I was really working on the fundamentals."
Franklin pointed out that the training staff had helped him to watch his mechanics during his rehab.
"He made sure that I had my elbow up, and wasn't dipping it down or anything," continued Franklin. "So, that's something that really helped out, just coming back. I feel like I had better mechanics."
Franklin explained that last season he was throwing with an already injured shoulder.
"I think one thing that makes my delivery look better now, is that I hurt my shoulder last summer," explained Franklin. "So I think that because of the injury, I would do things to make it not hurt as much, and my form would be terrible. But coming out here and how good it's feeling, and really emphasizing good mechanics, and getting all of those bad habits out of the way from last year, I think that I have improved. And, it feels like I've improved. Then, I'll really get to see it once we watch film."
Franklin talked about his goals for camp.
"I think really I just want to pick up from where I left," said Franklin. "Before, at the start of spring, I felt like I kept getting better and better, and everything was really easy. Then, coming out today, it kind of felt the same. But at the same time, I felt a little flustered at points. So, I really want to get back on track to where it's feeling really easy and everything's clicking really well."
"It was good to be back on the field," concluded Franklin. "It felt really good! Overall, we'll see it on film and see how it really was."
After seeing Franklin on Thursday, and after talking with him, it appears to me that Franklin will assuredly reach one of his stated personal goals for this season, which is "just to keep getting better".