Mizzou QB Franklin has hushed doubters during 4-0 start

BY foxsports • September 30, 2013

COLUMBIA, MO. -- In this game a year ago, the quarterback spent three quarters in an all too familiar place.

From
the sideline, James Franklin favored a tweaked left knee as he watched
an early lead spiral into a 19-15 loss to Vanderbilt.

"MCL," Franklin said Monday, when asked what he remembered of the game played Oct. 6, 2012.

More injuries, more losses and more frustration were on their way.

It's
difficult to read into what Mizzou's 4-0 start, the first it has had
since 2010, really means after the team limped to a 5-7 finish last
year. But if non-conference wins against Murray State, Toledo, Indiana
and Arkansas State have told us anything, it's that a healthy Franklin
makes a dramatic difference. The quarterback has gone from a player
fighting to keep his starting role to the unquestioned leader of his
team.

"I think he is probably mentally tougher," Mizzou coach
Gary Pinkel said Monday. "Going through last year and all that goes with
it, the injuries and the criticism. ... I've mentioned before, I think
people learn the most when they go through adversity."

Franklin's
offense has yet to score less than 38 points in a game. The senior
holds a passer rating of 152.8, which is fifth best in the 14-team SEC.
He's completing throws at a 67.6 percent clip, and he has nine
touchdowns after totaling 10 last year.

And perhaps most notable
has been what Franklin is showing a tendency to do in crunch time: The
Tigers have outscored opponents 49-17 in the fourth quarter, late pushes
led by Franklin's play.

"When we've needed him to really step up
and make plays, he has done it," Mizzou offensive coordinator Josh
Henson said after the Tigers beat Arkansas State 41-19 on Saturday.
"What is it? I think you're just seeing who James Franklin is. I think
last year was just an aberration of who he is as a player."

As
Franklin has hushed doubters, he has become more reserved in the public
eye. The once happy-go-lucky quarterback seems to smile less. Answers
that used to be long-winded and winding instead are cut short. His
teammates and coaches describe the change in disposition differently.

"Now,
you feel this air of just levelheadedness and relaxation a little bit,"
Mizzou left guard Max Copeland said. "Not to say he is passive in any
way. But now he knows what the job is to do. It ain't a big deal. We've
done it a thousand times before. It's a calming presence."

The quiet confidence makes ripples.

"It lingers off to us," Josey said.

Perhaps
an undefeated start against four non-conference teams really means
nothing. But it does appear to be enough of a sample size to prove
Franklin has at least returned to his sophomore level of play, and more
than likely lifted that bar. Regardless, comparing him to the
quarterback who was knocked out of the Vanderbilt game one year ago is
an apples-to-oranges stretch.

"There is no comparison," Josey said. "It is a totally different person. He's a new guy out there."

Follow Ben Frederickson on Twitter (@Ben_Fred), or contact him at frederickson.ben@gmail.com.


share story