Whenever people talk about Missouri Tigers football, the conversation focuses on the open competition at quarterback. While the lack of a clear-cut starter is obviously a concern for most Mizzou fans, the offense will have no trouble moving the sticks this season–regardless of who wins the three-way battle between James Franklin, Corbin Berkstresser and Maty Mauk.
While Gary Pinkel hasn’t said so publicly, the job is Franklin’s to lose. Sure, he struggled during his first season in the SEC, but it wouldn’t be fair to judge his performance based on what happened last fall. After all, Franklin had shoulder surgery in the spring, was clearly not 100% when the season started. Things didn’t get any better during the year as he missed significant time in five different games due to injuries, including a concussion which sidelined him for the season finale against the Texas A&M Aggies.
Finally recovered from all of these nagging ailments, Franklin should regain the form that made him one of the nation’s top signal callers in 2011. In his first season as the starting QB, Franklin terrorized opposing defenses through the air (2,865 yards passing, 21 TDs) and on the ground (75.4 yards per game, 15 TDs). More impressively, he averaged 295.85 yards per game of total offense, easily outdistancing SEC leader Tyler Wilson of the Arkansas Razorbacks.
However, the reason that Franklin is the favorite to win the job is because of his leadership ability. Anyone can compile big numbers when things are going well, but only a true field general can rally the troops when the chips are down. Franklin became such a leader in the second half of the 2011 season, sparking the Tigers to three come-from-behind wins during that time.
Despite these outstanding qualities, Pinkel and his staff have repeatedly declined to name a starter, saying that Franklin, Berkstresser and Mauk will have to compete for it.
However, an open competition does not mean that there’s a QB controversy. All it means is that the eventual starter will have to separate himself from the other two in practice. Since Franklin is finally back at full strength, Mauk and Berkstresser will need to play extremely well to wrestle the job away from him.
Either way, the Missouri offense wins.