Through Missouri’s first three games, senior QB James Franklin is off to a great start to the season with a 67.3% completion percentage, a 146.48 passer efficiency rating, and an average of 291 passing yards/game. His 351.7 yards of total offense/game ranks 2nd in the SEC, and 10th nationally. He has Missouri off to a 3-0 start, and ranked 7th nationally in total offense (567 yards/game), 8th nationally in scoring (47 points/game), and 6th nationally in third-down conversion rate (59.6%).
Last Saturday, Franklin led his team to a 45-28 win at Indiana, which was Coach Pinkel’s 94th career win at Missouri, tying him with Dan Devine for the second-most wins in school history. Coach Pinkel trails Missouri’s all-time winningest coach, Don Faurot, by just 8 wins. When he was asked about it, Franklin said “I think that would be really cool” to be a part of Coach Pinkel’s milestone wins.
Franklin talked about how being healthy this season has translated into being more confident.
“Especially with feeling healthy, I know that I’m confident in the throws that I can make, or have to make, or the runs,” explained Franklin. “It feels really good!”
One of Franklin’s favorite targets is fifth-year senior and fellow team captain, L’Damian Washington, who was asked about his QB?
“Whenever you’re not healthy, you can’t play to your full potential,” explained Washington. “And, I think the James Franklin that we’re seeing this year is more mature. He’s reading the defense s better. He’s making the correct reads. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the nation!”
“He’s making the throw down the field,” said Washington, continuing to talk about Franklin. “He’s throwing the fade ball. He’s checking out of plays into plays that better exploit the defense. I think he’s doing a great job!”
“James (Franklin) definitely leads the team! He’s always a guy that you want to follow, because he’s a guy that leads by example,” explained Washington. “He’s a guy that, me being a senior myself, I don’t mind following at all, because he leads the right way.”
“I think the whole team feeds off of (James Franklin’s confidence),” continued Washington. “Whenever you’ve got a quarterback, and the quarterback is basically the leader of your team, whenever your quarterback has confidence in himself, I think the whole team gets behind it. The defense will play better. The receivers will play better. The running backs. The line will block better. So, it’s one of those things that will uplift the whole team.”
Franklin is an admitted perfectionist on the football field, who is often his own harshest critic. I asked him to grade his individual performance thus far this season?
“Maybe okay,” replied Franklin. “Because there are things that are frustrating, just missing throws. I’m seeing everything well, but not (always) executing…………………………….. It’s tough to say. I guess I’d say it’s average. It’s not really too high. It could be a lot better. There’s just a lot of things that I saw (on the film) where I could be better.”
He enjoys working on improving his craft, except for the painful part of having to break down his own performance.
“I just don’t like making mistakes,” explained the senior QB.
So, of course, everyone had to inquire about his two biggest mistakes last Saturday, the two interceptions that he threw at Indiana. And, Franklin graciously explained.
“The first one, I just tried to beat the safety,” said Franklin. “And, the second one was just kind of a miscommunication, a misread on my part…………………………………. I was more upset with there were a lot of throws that I missed. I was seeing the field really well, and that was the only thing that was really frustrating.”
Franklin went on to explain what he meant by “seeing the field really well”.
“It seems like a lot has slowed down,” explained the senior QB. “It’s like I needed contacts all the way until now, and I finally got them…………………………………… I think it just seems like your mind works a lot faster, so it seems like more thoughts are going through my head, and possibilities. Like on a certain throw, I’m thinking like I could either back shoulder this, I could put it over the top, or I could throw a jump ball, things like that. Those are the things that go through my head when I see things that are open.” Coach Pinkel talked about James Franklin.
“The neat thing about James is it’s fun talking to a real experienced quarterback,” said Coach Pinkel. “Because in talking to him, he’s seeing, it’s so slow out there for him. It’s great for him, because he can see everything………………………………….. His mental toughness is at a little bit higher level than it was.”
“I think my mentality is a little bit better, and I’m not really focusing on the negatives too much,” explained Franklin. “When I threw the two picks, I wasn’t really even upset about it. I mean, when I tried to beat him, I was kind of like, “Man! I thought that I could get him.” But it wasn’t like I was upset about the picks. So, that was something that I think is a big improvement from last year, that I didn’t let it affect the rest of my play.”
“I (always) thought James (Franklin) was going to be a great quarterback,” said Coach Pinkel. “He’s very, very determined. I’m very happy for him. He’s healthy. He feels good, and he’s just very, very focused. He just wants his team to win.” Franklin was asked what kind of a legacy he wants to leave behind at Missouri? His answer shed considerable light on Franklin’s true ability as a real leader. “Just a winning team,” replied Franklin. “A really good winning team.”