Franklin Rolls Through First Two Games
COLUMBIA - James Franklin spent much of his 2012 season on the sideline instead of in the end zone, but after a 38-23 Missouri Tigers victory over Toledo, head coach Gary Pinkel said his quarterback looked more like the James Franklin of old.
"He's a very talented guy," Pinkel said. "Remember his sophomore year? That great sophomore year he had in his first year as a starter...I'm just happy he's playing the way he is," Pinkel said.
After piling up 2,865 yards in 2011, Franklin's passing yard total fell to 1,562 last season. Franklin missing several weeks due to injury can explain part of the drop; however, most of Franklin's non-cumulative statistics took a dive last season also. That means his performance was generally worse even when he was on the field. Franklin's completion percentage fell four points, his yards-per-attempt fell by about a yard, and his touchdown-to-interception ratio fell from 21-11 to 10-7.
But Franklin's numbers so far this year are even better than his sophomore year. He now possesses over one-third of his 2012 passing yard total through just two games and a 4-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Franklin said part of his success has come from the offensive line keeping his jersey clean.
"It feels really good back there having that time and taking advantage of, and being able to look for things downfield for more than just a couple seconds," Franklin said after the Tigers victory over Toledo.
Franklin certainly isn't on the list of Heisman hopefuls right now, and he hasn't faced one of those vaunted SEC defenses that gave the Tigers so much trouble last season, but
he has improved by leaps and bounds from how he played last season.
One issue Franklin could have is getting hit. Pinkel has said that there will be less designed runs for Franklin this season, but Franklin seems to be running a lot anyway. So far this season, Franklin has made the most of his rushing opportunities. Against Toledo, Frankiln led the team in rushing with 77 yards on 17 carries. Franklin said only four of those carries were actually designed. He also said Pinkel has asked him to be smart about rushing, pick his moments wisely and slide to avoid contact.
The crowd always goes wild when a team's quarterback can run over defensive players like Franklin did against the Rockets. That kind of play has earned him the "Frank-the-tank" nickname, but that could end up giving the Tigers a repeat of last season when Franklin played hurt and missed a few games.
So while it's possible Franklin can just run and pass all over defenses this season, and we've yet to see it happen against an elite defense, it might be better for the team if he runs less, stays healthy and continues the solid run he has going.