Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel Confident with James Franklin at Quarterback
When Gary Pinkel arrived in Columbia, Missouri 10 years ago, he took over a football program that had manufactured two winnings seasons in the previous 17 years. Pinkel, who came to Mizzou after accumulating a 73-37-3 record at Toledo, vowed then to keep the Tigers stocked at the quarterback position. The Don James’ disciple has delivered on that promise with Missouri bringing in the likes of Brad Smith, Chase Daniel, and Blaine Gabbert during his decade long tenure. Now sophomore signal caller James Franklin will get an opportunity to continue the Tigers recent run of strong quarterback play as he assumes the field general duties. Pinkel seems to think the Texas product has what it takes to excel at the job.
James Franklin has some big shoes to fill as Blaine Gabbert, a first round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, threw for 6779 yards and 40 touchdowns in two seasons as the Tigers starting quarterback. Franklin, a 6′ 2″ sophomore out of Lake Dallas High School, cannot afford to worry about what Gabbert accomplished under center, though, but instead must stay within his skill set.
Pinkel, who has indicated he will not alter the team’s spread attack, told reporters gathered at yesterday’s Big 12 football media days that Franklin has enough talent to run the offense, even comparing the young passer to his first quarterback recruit at Mizzou.
“I think he can extend the play,” Pinkel said. “I think he can also do damage with his feet, not only in the passing game but the running game. We really haven’t had that since we had Brad Smith. But [he's also] got a good arm. Throws the ball well. He’s got a good touch. He’s got a lot going for him. And I’m excited for him.”
Pinkel, though, despite his obvious belief in Franklin’s abilities, appears to be taking more comfort, at least for the time being, in the Tigers’ returning offensive experience. Missouri welcomes back nine starters from last season’s unit, including top receiving targets T.J. Moe and Michael Egnew.
“Most experienced players I’ve ever had around a new quarterback since I’ve been a head football coach,” Pinkel said in reference to the team’s returning talent. “So that’s what I’m concerned with, can those four offensive lineman, receivers, running backs, tight ends, can all those guys play up their game to a different level. If they can do that, James Franklin is going to be fine.”
Given Pinkel’s sunny outlook, Tigers’ fans should be encouraged about Franklin, who completed 11-of-14 passes for 116 yards, one touchdown and one interception last season. If there is one thing the Kent State graduate has proven it’s that he knows a thing or two about finding a good quarterback.