Mizzou QB James Franklin is back to being bold

BY foxsports • September 27, 2013

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) Missouri quarterback James Franklin says he doesn't intentionally go against the wishes of his coaches.

When
there's an opportunity to gain a few more yards, he isn't afraid to
lower his shoulder -- even if there's a heightened chance of incurring
an injury.

Franklin knows the consequences of concussions and
torn muscles. They marred his junior season, relegating him to the bench
for four games and the sideline for parts of others. Now in his final
year with the Tigers, he has met with coaches to discuss altering his
running style and sliding more often to avoid absorbing big hits.

Still,
Franklin leads the team with 36 rushing attempts for 182 yards and a
touchdown. In his last two games, he's bowled over defenders to preserve
second-half leads.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound native of Corinth,
Texas, says his scrambles are calculated decisions based on what the
defense is showing him. Coach Gary Pinkel just wants to make sure the
leader of his offense stays healthy, but thinks Franklin is making
strides toward protecting himself better.

"I can't say, 'Don't
scramble,'" Pinkel said. "If he protects himself, he can run a bunch. It
helps us. The pressure to defend a quarterback that can run is a
tremendous asset that you have, and he has that."

Franklin
sidesteps talking about his running, preferring to focus on how he
trusts his arm more than his legs. In his breakout sophomore season, he
averaged 220.4 yards passing per game with 21 touchdowns and 75.5 yards
rushing per game with 15 touchdowns.

Last Saturday in a 45-28 win
at Indiana, Franklin accounted for a career-high 404 yards of total
offense, including a career-best 343 yards passing. He threw two
touchdown passes and two interceptions and added another score on the
ground.

It helps that Missouri (3-0) hasn't played two Top 10
teams, as it had a year ago through four weeks, but staying healthy has
boosted Franklin's confidence in the throws he can make. Last season, he
barely spoke above a whisper at times after losses and admitted to
struggling to keep his mind in the right place after reading criticism
from fans.

"As far as handling critical situations with a lot of
negativity, it's really helped me to attack it and not really let it
bother me," said Franklin, who still reads every tweet directed his way.
"People always say things. You start to doubt yourself. I just gained a
stronger mentality not to pay attention to that and just to really let
it go and be positive about everything."

Franklin's new demeanor
hasn't gone unnoticed. Teammates say he has increased his communication
with them, which translates into better results on the field. The Tigers
enter their final non-conference game this weekend against Arkansas
State (2-2) ranking in the Top 10 nationally in total offense (567.0
yards), scoring offense (47.0 points) and third-down conversion (59.6
percent).

"He has more confidence in us," said receiver Marcus
Lucas, who caught 10 passes for 101 yards Saturday. "It's easier to make
plays whenever you've got guys who you know will make a play for you."

A
year ago, Missouri limped to an 0-4 start against the Southeastern
Conference and finished 2-6 after injuries to Franklin and half of the
offensive line. Now with just a week left before conference play, a
healthy Franklin insists he's ready for whatever comes his way, saying
the game has slowed down and allowed him to think more efficiently about
where and how to throw.

"He found out the reality of the
position and the criticism that goes with the position," Pinkel said.
"You get all the accolades, but the other side goes with it, too. And
obviously, most of the stuff that happened to him was not his choice.
But you learn from it, you become tougher. We all do."


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