A Healthy James Franklin Poised for Bounce-Back Season at Missouri

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri quarterback James Franklin regressed during his junior season a year ago after a breakthrough sophomore campaign in 2011. He will be facing competition for his job this spring when practice gets underway on March 12.

Franklin played in only nine games last season, making eight starts, with redshirt sophomore Corbin Berkstresser viewed as his top challenger for the starting job after appearing in 10 games last year while starting in place of Franklin four times–albeit with limited success.

Last season was a disappointing and trying one for Franklin who entered 2012 with a great deal of promise after a scintillating sophomore season that saw him pass for 2,865 yards on 63.3% passing and toss 21 touchdowns to only 11 interceptions. As a runner, he was one of the more dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation with 981 yards and 15 touchdowns.

However, the first year in the SEC was rough on Franklin who battled shoulder injuries all season long and his statistics suffered. He only passed for 1,562 yards and 10 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He proved to be a tentative runner and only carried the ball 88 times for 122 yards. That’s more than three yards less per carry than the 4.5 he averaged in 2012.

He also battled a knee injury and suffered a concussion late in the year which opened the door for Berkstresser who showed great maturation during spring practice when he served as the starter while Franklin was injured–an ominous sign of the things that would come–but struggled when given an opportunity during the regular season.

This leads me to a dark horse candidate who could push Franklin and Berkstresser for playing time in 2013 and that’s former prep phenom, redshirt freshman Maty Mauk.

He holds the national record for career passing yards and touchdowns in high school and is an ideal fit for the Missouri offense because of his accuracy in the short to intermediate passing game. Mauk possesses excellent awareness and can run when the pocket breaks down. He has been compared to former Missouri quarterback, Chase Daniel, and will get a chance to prove those comparisons are spot on with an impressive showing in the spring.

However, Mauk and Missouri will be best served if he doesn’t need to play this season. Franklin has to be the guy for the Tigers this season if they hope to turn things around and make it back to a bowl game after missing the postseason for the first time since 2004. His health is tantamount to the success of the team in 2013 and a strong spring camp will be the first step to get his confidence and swagger back.

Another good thing for Franklin is that he’ll be pushed by two quality quarterbacks gunning for his job, which will push him to be at his peak for his senior season. That will put Berkstresser and Mauk in good position when they take over for Franklin, but hopefully for the Tigers that won’t happen until 2014.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” on Sportstownchicago.com airing Wednesday mornings from 8-10. View his show’s website here.

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