To the surprise of absolutely no one, Missouri Head Football Coach Gary Pinkel named James Franklin the starting quarterback for the Missouri Tigers on his website yesterday afternoon. Franklin , a senior out of Corinth, TX, had an up and down 2012 season, as he fought off a series of injuries and did not look much like the quarterback who put up over 2,800 passing yards and nearly 1,000 rushing yards as a sophomore in 2011.
Which version of Franklin shows up for 2012 is anyone’s guess. However, the preseason is supposed to be a time for optimism. So here are four reasons to believe that Franklin will have his best season in 2013.
1. Franklin is healthy for the first time since the start of the 2011 season. Even throughout Franklin’s stellar sophomore campaign, he fought off a lot of bumps and bruises throughout the season. By most accounts, he played hurt part of that season. After a labrum injury in spring practice, he had off season shoulder surgery before the start of the 2012 season. Despite claims that he was healthy going into the season, he never quite looked like himself. He was more hesitant when he ran, and his throws did no appear as crisp. Throw in another shoulder injury in the Georgia game and a concussion which knocked him out of the Syracuse game and a left knee injury in the Vandy game, and it was just an all around rough year for Franklin.
By all accounts, Franklin is back to good health in camp this year. Franklin should have a lot more confidence in his body holding up than he did last year, and that will bode well for the Tigers.
2. Franklin’s offensive line is healthy. Much was made last year of Mizzou’s horrible luck when it came to health on the offensive line. Seven of the Tigers top ten lineman missed time, and only true freshman Evan Boehm started every game. At SEC Media days, Pinkel stated that the Tigers have had the most injuries they’ve ever had in his coaching career over the past two years. Pinkel has gone as far as making changes to his practices to ensure the health of his team this year. A healthy line means less hits taken by Franklin throughout the year. It means more time in the pocket. It also means a better running game, which leads me to the next point.
3. Henry Josey’s return should open up the field for Franklin. Kendial Lawrence was a nice running back last year. He was one of the bright spots on the offense, and had a decent season. But he’s no Henry Josey. Josey is a game breaker. In 2011, Josey averaged a ridiculous 8.1 yards per carry en route to 1,168 rushing yards and first team all-conference honors. But Josey went down with a severe knee injury in the Texas game which cost him the entire 2012 season.
Henry Josey is back for the 2013 season, and is slated to start at tailback. If Josey can return to 2011 form, it will help Franklin out tremendously. Opposing defenses will have to key on Josey, which should open running lanes for Franklin on the read option. In addition, a strong running game will open up the play action pass as well.
4. Franklin was voted as a captain by his teammates. And that means something after last season. One of the biggest
controversies of last season arose from Pinkel seemingly throwing Franklin under the bus for not taking painkillers so he could start the Arizona State game. It led to some comments by former Missouri WR TJ Moe which many interpreted to be a shot at Franklin. Franklin’s toughness, and his ability to lead a locker room full of players questioning it, was one of the main story lines of the disappointing 2012 season.
So being voted as a team captain by his teammates for the 2013 season is a big deal for Franklin. It shows his teammates view him as a leader and have confidence in him. Even more than that, it signals that the team has put the controversies of last season behind them. Normally, who the team selects as captains is largely irrelevant. However, Franklin’s election is a positive sign for Mizzou heading into the 2013 campaign.