When head coach Gary Pinkel took over the Missouri Tigers 13 years ago he was tasked with reviving a program that was faltering and going to only two lower level Bowl games in 1997 and 1998, their first two since 1983. Pinkel was fortunate to find quarterbacks in Brad Smith, Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert who ran his system perfectly. Under Pinkel, the Tigers were ranked as high as seventh in the nation mid-way through the 2010 season. Last year, the program took a step back and fell to 5-7. This year, the Tigers’ fate rests on the arm of quarterback James Franklin who will need to take the next step is Missouri has any hope of going to a Bowl game.
The Tigers have been waiting for Franklin to take the next step ever since Blaine Gabbert was drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft. Franklin looked like he would continue the lineage of Missouri quarterbacks in 2011 when he threw for 21 touchdowns and 2,895 yards while completing 63.3 percent of his 376 pass attempts.
However, 2012 was a big step back for Franklin who missed three games due to injuries and was just not the same quarterback he was the year before. For the year, Franklin threw 234 passes, 139 of which were completed for a 59.4 percent completion percentage. He added 1,562 yards and tossed only 10 touchdowns and was picked off seven times. It was hardly the season Tigers’ fans were expecting from the six-foot-two, 230-pound junior.
Now, Franklin is a senior and must show he is capable of leading Pinkel’s offense. He will have three of his top four receivers from last year returning although the Tigers’ running game will need to replace the departed Kendall Lawrence and his 1025 yards and 12 touchdowns. That could mean the Tigers will rely on the passing game even more this season and if that is the case they will need a strong year from Franklin to get back into Bowl contention.
Franklin and the Tigers won’t have a creampuff schedule either with games against Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M. If they get the strong play they expected last year from Franklin this year it could be a huge difference maker. Whether or not Franklin is up to the task is the question Pinkel and Tigers’ fans need to wait to have answered.