Franklin's versatility, toughness on display as Tigers start to roll

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Redshirt freshman James Franklin (1) runs the ball in a recent game against Oklahoma State. (Photo Courtesy of L.G. Patterson)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

James Franklin had thrown a total of 14 passes in his one season of collegiate play when he was handed the reins to the Missouri Tigers offense this season and asked to live up to his most recent predecessors: Blaine Gabbert, Chase Daniel and Brad Smith.

Charged with stepping into the position previously held by three now-NFL quarterbacks, the 6-foot-2 sophomore out of Lake Dallas High School in Corinth replaced Gabbert — the No. 10 overall pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2011 NFL Draft — at the helm of the Tigers’ offense this season and has led Missouri to a 4-4 record.

“This guy has a chance to be special,” said Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel. “He is further ahead at this time in his career than the three quarterbacks who preceded him.”

So far this season Franklin has thrown for 1,870 yards and 13 touchdowns with a completion percentage of more than 60 percent. Additionally, Franklin, who was ranked out of high school as the nation’s number four dual-threat quarterback by Rivals.com in 2010, is second on the Tigers’ roster for rushing yards with more than 540.

Despite what appear to be solid numbers, prior to Missouri’s come from behind overtime victory over Texas A&M on Saturday, Franklin was on the hot seat after struggling in previous games and committing four turnovers in the second half during a 45-24 loss to Oklahoma State the previous week.

“I think every quarterback goes through tough games. Certainly, especially for a young quarterback, you are always concerned about them not taking on too much themselves,” Pinkel said. “[Franklin’s] the kind of guy that would do that because that’s the type of person he is, so we’ve got to help him through that.”

Whatever Pinkel and the Missouri coaching staff did to get Franklin through the rough patch worked as he throw for 198 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 97 yards and two TDs against the Aggies.

“[Against A&M] you saw a player that said he was going to do everything he could to win the game,” said Pinkel about Franklin’s performance. “When you have a player like that that is your leader, and he’s throwing his body up a little bit, I think there is no question it has a huge impact on your team. I know our players responded in a very positive way.”

Despite praise from his coach, Franklin said he has a long way to go to reach the playing level of
his predecessors.

“I wouldn’t say [the A&M game] was my best performance because I didn’t do the best passing wise and didn’t have too many passing yards,” Franklin said. “I think I would have been a little more pleased if those were higher than they were. I think it was a pretty good performance for the most part.”

While Franklin is eager to match the performances of Gabbert, Daniel and Smith, Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Yost knows it will take time.

“We’re constantly working on building his confidence up, but he knows he’s capable of everything we ask him to do,” Yost said. “It’s just a matter of him going out and doing it and the guys around him helping him as much as they can. It’s not a one-man show by any stretch.”

Franklin will try to build his confidence at QB up more as he and the rest of the Tigers follow up their overtime victory with a matchup against Robert Griffin III and Baylor in Waco.

“He’s not Chase [Daniel], he’s not Blaine [Gabbert], he’s not Brad [Smith],” Yost said. “He has bits and pieces of all their games and what we need to do is use those to his advantages and within our offense to mold it to kind of fit him.”