Over the past couple of months, I’ve heard Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel say repeatedly that prior to his shoulder injury in October, Missouri senior QB James Franklin was “playing as well as anyone in the country”.
Indeed, Franklin was playing at a very high level. Since he’s returned from the injury which caused him to miss 4 mid-season starts, he’s continued to play well, and the Tigers advanced to the SEC Championship before falling 59-42 to Auburn. But by his own admission, he hasn’t played as well since his return from injury as he was playing before he went down in the second half at Georgia.
“I wasn’t quite back to where I was (before the injury),” said Franklin. “And, I definitely didn’t accomplish what I wanted to this season. But, I’ve gotten to do a couple of things. And, I’ve still got another game left.”
In reflecting on his senior season, Franklin expressed disappointment that he hadn’t remained healthy, and that he was forced to miss games.
“I didn’t play the whole season,” explained Franklin. “I had opportunities, and I didn’t make the best out of them.”
With one game remaining in his senior season, Franklin has shown improvement in his play over previous seasons, and he enters the Cotton Bowl 183-279-5 (66%) for 2255 yards and 19 TDs passing (152.37 passer efficiency rating), and he’s rushed for 474 yards and 4 TDs on 106 carries (4.5 yards/carry).
Franklin said that a win in the Cotton Bowl would probably be the best win of his career.
“I just want to go out and do the best that I can,” said Franklin. “We definitely want to win.”
As Missouri prepared for the Cotton Bowl, and just before the Tigers went home for Christmas, it had been more than two months since his shoulder sprain, and Franklin said that he feels good.
“(My shoulder) feels really good,” said Franklin. “I’m a little surprised by (how good it feels). I’m definitely getting back (to where I was before the injury).”
Heading into the Cotton Bowl, the 6’2” 230-pound Franklin has amassed 8481 yards of total offense during his oft-interrupted Missouri career, which ranks 3rd on the school’s career list, behind current Kansas City Chief Chase Daniel, and current Philadelphia Eagle Brad Smith.
For his career, Franklin has rushed for 1693 yards on 434 carries (3.9 yards/carry) and has scored 21 rushing TDs. And while Franklin’s running ability is always a concern for opposing defenses, it’s in the passing game where Franklin has been the most effective. For his career, Franklin is 571-903-24 passing for 6788 yards and 51 TDs. His 63.2% career completion percentage and his 139.70 career passer efficiency rating each rank second in Missouri history, trailing only Daniel in each category. In other words, James Franklin will leave Missouri as the second most accurate and efficient passer in school history.
Franklin talked about his Missouri career.
“There were some things that I wanted to do better,” explained Franklin. “I wish I would have performed better, and hadn’t gotten hurt………………………………………….. There were a lot of personal goals that I wanted to accomplish, that I didn’t get the opportunity, (by) keep being kept out of the game. And also, there were times where I was in the game, and I didn’t perform well. So, there were a lot of things that I wanted to. But, I still got a few things done.”
Franklin said that he’s thankful for the adversity that he encountered during his Missouri career because it’s helped him to learn and grow.
“I’m thankful for the experience,” explained Franklin. “It’s taught me a lot about how to handle adversity. So, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything else.”
In mid-December, Franklin graduated from Missouri with a degree in communications. He said that he’d like to pursue a career as a motivational speaker, and someday, possibly as an evangelist. But before that, he has the NFL in his sights. And, the NFL has him in their sights.
In researching the viability of an NFL future for Franklin, it's safe to say that his senior season performance has elevated him in the eyes of NFL scouts. By mid-December, most Draft experts were projecting Franklin to be drafted on Day 3 of the 2014 NFL Draft, between rounds 4-6. I’ve seen him ranked as high as the number 10 QB in this year’s draft, and no lower than number 15, although that latter ranking was from earlier in the season. Most NFL Draft experts seem to belief that there are at least 13 NFL teams who appear certain to draft a QB (maybe more).
NFL scouts are saying what I’ve been saying about Franklin for years; that he’s very accurate on intermediate and deep throws. They say he needs to improve on his shorter throws, and throws toward the sideline, and to improve the consistency of his accuracy and touch on swing passes out of the backfield. The general perception is that Franklin can make all of the throws, but that coming out of college, he’s consistently better on those deep and intermediate throws than on the shorter ones. NFL scouts like his size, his overall strength, and his arm strength.
“Hopefully, I’ll have (a career in the NFL),” said Franklin. “(After the Cotton Bowl), I’ll start training for the combine, and if I get the opportunity to get drafted or picked up by a team, I’ll do the best that I can to take advantage of (that opportunity).”