Miami (Ohio)-Missouri Preview
Missouri's offensive coordinator says the playbook might be scaled back for new quarterback James Franklin in the opener. But that's no knock.
Dave Yost said the three quarterbacks who preceded Franklin, all of whom are in the NFL, began their college careers with somewhat simplified game plans. It didn't stop Blaine Gabbert, Chase Daniel and Brad Smith from having immediate success.
Yost senses Franklin is ready to do the same.
"He tells me everything he sees on each play and he's seeing a lot and understanding it and kind of focusing on what matters each play," Yost said. "I expect him to play really well."
The 21st-ranked Tigers will do their best to ease the sophomore into the flow on Saturday against Miami, Ohio, perhaps using more of the running game. Franklin played sparingly last year as the backup to Gabbert, the 10th overall pick in the draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Franklin showed poise in his new role as one of the team's spokesmen on Monday, enjoying himself while surrounded by reporters and always remembering to tack on a "yes sir" or "no sir" to the end of each response. Players came and went, but Franklin stuck around just in case anyone else wanted to talk with him.
He'll approach game day not by piling on the adrenaline, but by calming down. Instead of listening to rap or heavy metal to get fired up, Franklin opts for the mellower tunes by John Mayer.
"I like to think a lot and not necessarily get amped up," Franklin said. "I just like to kind of relax."
Franklin did plenty of hanging back last year behind Gabbert, who left after his junior season. Franklin believes he got enough of a taste to prepare and likened the experience to that of a teenager waiting an extra year before finally getting the keys to the convertible.
"Some of the bigger games I only went in for like two plays or something like that, but I think overall it was enough to kind of get me used to it," Franklin said. "So, it's maybe like I'm 17 now and I can drive a car rather than when I was 16 and got my license."
Smith was coach Gary Pinkel's first star at Missouri and has carved out a nice career as an all-around threat and wildcat quarterback in the NFL. In his first game as a redshirt freshman in 2002, Smith passed for 152 yards and rushed for 138 yards and a 24-yard score that helped seal a victory over Illinois.
Daniel, now the Saints' backup quarterback, tied the school record with five touchdown passes in an easy opener against Murray State in 2006. Gabbert passed for 319 yards and three touchdowns and ran for a fourth in another victory over Illinois in 2009.
"That's the past, that's history," Pinkel said. "A new quarterback, a new team in a lot of respects. I really don't have any expectation except I want him to execute well."
Franklin's totals from 2010 flash the potential - 11 for 14 passing for 103 yards and 23 carries for 116 yards and two touchdowns. The 6-2, 225-pound product of Corinth, Texas, adds speed that Gabbert lacked for yet another running threat beyond the three-back combination of Kendial Lawrence, De'Vion Moore and Henry Josey.
"We don't have any expectations lined up for James to be in comparison to any other quarterback in Mizzou history, even though we've had great ones," Moore said. "What we want to see is James be James."
Though Missouri whipped Illinois 37-9 in Gabbert's first game, Yost recalls the flaws.
"Everybody kind of anointed him," Yost said. "Blaine said he got away with eight or nine things. There'll be some times I know on Saturday when James will look the wrong way or he'll do something wrong.
"That's part of the learning process and the growing process."
Franklin completed both of his passes for 46 yards in a 51-13 home rout of Miami last September. Following that defeat, the RedHawks went on to win eight of their last 10 and finished the season on a six-game win streak.
They completed a remarkable turnaround with a 35-21 win over Middle Tennessee in the GoDaddy.com Bowl, finishing 10-4 and winning the Mid-American Conference title under Michael Haywood after going 1-11 in 2009.
Haywood left after the season, and the RedHawks will now be led by former Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell.
"It's exciting," said starting quarterback Zac Dysert, who was injured late last season and missed the final four games. "We know everyone is going to be gunning for us."