Franklin not shying away from all the Johnny Football hoopla

COLUMBIA, Mo. — It might be OK for someone in Missouri senior
quarterback James Franklin’s position to simply ignore all the attention
being showered on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
 
It might even be best to go with the head-in-the-sand philosophy regarding Manziel.
 
But
Franklin isn’t ignoring the pregame talk, nor is he dismissive of
Manziel’s talents. In fact, Franklin dutifully recorded last week’s
LSU-A&M game and watched it just to get a peek at his opposing
quarterback this week.
 
“Sure, I watched it,” Franklin said. “It’s cool to watch.”
 
And what are Franklin’s impressions of last year’s Heisman winner?
 
“He’s
just a playmaker,” Franklin said. “He can do a lot of things. He can
scramble around in the backfield and then find guys open. It’s pretty
cool.”
 
It might not be so cool for Missouri’s defense, but then
again, A&M is bound to have its own issues trying to contain
Franklin, who bounced back from a long layoff because of a shoulder
strain to lead the Tigers to a 24-10 road win over Mississippi last
weekend.
 
Save for a handful of snaps against Kentucky, Franklin
hadn’t played since Oct. 12 against Georgia, but he looked sharp,
passing for 142 yards and rushing for another 42 against the Rebels.
 
“I felt great,” he said. “No problems.”
 
Not
that Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel expected any. He said Monday that
Franklin had been throwing for three weeks and had warmed up prior to
the last two games. It was just a matter of making sure Franklin’s
shoulder had healed enough to sustain some hard tackles.
 
It was.
 
“He looked like he didn’t miss a beat,” Pinkel said.
 
And
now comes one of the more intriguing matchups of the season, matching
Franklin’s athletic skills against Johnny Football’s. But Franklin isn’t
taking the bait on that comparison and instead says he’s focusing on
what is at stake for the Tigers — a trip to the SEC title game with a
win.
 
The pressure is on, and Franklin knows it.
 
“I am
sure there is a little bit of pressure, but we just need to try our best
and not think about it,” Franklin said. “We need to focus on playing
football and doing what we have done well all season. Hopefully, we
won’t let the outside stuff affect us.”
 
But some of the outside attention is a blessing after last year’s disappointing season.
 
“It’s
not something that is a total surprise to a lot of us, that we are
where we are,” Franklin said, “but it’s definitely a good feeling after
last season.”
 
Which makes some of that building pressure
welcome. The Tigers, after all, have not only SEC title visions, but BCS
dreams as well.

“We have a lot of opportunities, and it’s OK to
think about them,” Franklin said. “But we really have to focus in on how
to get there. That’s what we’re doing. It’s hard not to think about
those things but you still have to focus on what is in front of you.
 
“I
think it’s more fun because of the pressure. You try not to get caught
up in all the hoopla, but it’s still fun. This is still one football
game and you can’t try to think this game is any more important than the
other ones we played.”
 
But it is. And it also will be Senior Night on Saturday at Faurot Field, ending a home career for Franklin.
 
“I’ve
thought about that a lot,” he said. “After all the adversity I’ve gone
through, it’s taught me a lot. Taught me a lot of life lessons that I
can apply later on in life. But for now, I’m just trying to enjoy the
moment.”
 
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflangankc or email jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.