Sophomore James Franklin has three starts under his belt, as the Tigers head into Norman this Saturday to play the #1-ranked Oklahoma Sooners, in what will be Franklin's first conference road game as the Missouri starting QB. Earlier this week, ShowMeMizzou.com spoke with Franklin, and with his QB coach, David Yost, to try to gauge the progress of Franklin's development.
"I think he's steadily improved each week," said Coach Yost. "We're also figuring out what he does well, in the heat of the battle. We've been able to find some things that he kind of excels at. We'll get the ball down the field a little bit differently than what we have in the past……………………………… Just kind of figuring out what he does well, and using him that way. But, he's steadily progressing, and you can see that he's starting to put a bank of knowledge together, so he can kind of go back to it, and say, "I've seen this before, and I've done this before. This is what's happening!" And, he just keeps adding to it ."
Each of Coach Yost and James Franklin were asked about handling the kind of environment that the QB will be in this Saturday?
"I think that playing in the (ASU) situation, playing in that hostile environment, with all of the noise, I think we handled that about as well as you could in that game," replied Coach Yost. "We didn't really have any noise issues, or communication issues. Now, it will be louder at Oklahoma. It's as loud as any place we go. Still, it's communicating. That's something that we work on. It was good that we handled it in the Arizona State game. When you play in this conference, when you go on the road, it's going to be loud. (Oklahoma) is as loud as it gets."
"(Franklin) really didn't get rattled (at ASU) throughout the game," continued Coach Yost. "Even when we were struggling some, he was able to keep himself focused, and moving on to the next play, and doing the things the we need to do. So, he's got to kind of use that as a reference point, and go do it again."
"I heard noise," replied Franklin, who smiled, then laughed, as he remembered the ASU game. "I heard it the most when we were coming through the tunnel. They were all around, and they were yelling, and saying stuff. That's really when I heard them. I know that they were obviously for Arizona State. (During the game), they were going crazy when (ASU) made a play, or any time that we messed up.…………………………… The coaches do a great job of making sure that we're not trying to worry about that. I mean, I heard noise. But, it was just in the background."
I asked Franklin about the comments coming from Oklahoma players that the Sooners are looking to settle the score against Missouri, to avenge last year's loss in Columbia.
"Well, it's actually kind of funny, because there's a man from my church services back in Texas, who was a big OU fan," replied Franklin. "He always told me in high school, when I was playing games, that the past doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if your team is 11-0. It doesn't matter if they're 0-11. What matters is the game that you're about to play. You're not going to change the past. It's not going to affect the future. Going into this game, (Oklahoma) may be saying that they're going to settle the score, or anything like that, but just think of it as just another game. We're playing OU. They're a good team. We have to study film from the past, to try to learn to apply it to the future. And, that's something that we're going to do a good job of."
"Really, the biggest thing is whenever we're going quick, when we're snapping it on the hand (signal)." explained Franklin. "Travis does it as soon as I give the hand (signal). Jayson does it about a half- second later. That's really the biggest adjustment for me."
I asked Franklin about getting some of his injured teammates back on the field?
"It's really great (to get the injured players back on the field)," said Franklin. "It's been a little bit of an adjustment. But it's always easy to get used to throwing to more good receivers. The more the merrier. Hopefully, I can get a touchdown to every one of them."
I asked Franklin about his preparation for Oklahoma?
"I'm just preparing to make plays, really," replied Franklin, who then joked that he was trying to get their game plan from his former high school teammate, Daryl Williams.
Franklin appeared to be very loose on Monday, and was demonstrating his sophisticated, dry wit. When I asked him about facing his father's alma mater, he said that he hadn't really thought about that, just that the Tigers are going against OU. He said that his dad was just excited to see him play, and that nothing had been said about going against his dad's former team. When pressed by several reporters, Franklin reiterated that he hadn't even thought about it. He did seem excited about the prospect of getting to see his former teammate, Daryl Williams, on the field. He said that since high school, that the two of them had "gone our separate ways", and that he was looking forward to seeing Daryl.
This was not the first time that I've heard Coach Yost talk about the process of figuring out what Franklin does well, and utilizing those things. He's stressed that the young QB continues to improve, and that the list of things that he does well continues to grow. Still, they want to utilize the kind of things that Franklin does well now, and is comfortable with at present.