James Franklin eyed the defense, saw daylight and sped off. Twenty-eight yards later, he was in the end zone, completely untouched – exactly the kind of run that made him one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the Big 12 last season.
“Thankfully, everyone (on defense) was tired,” Franklin joked in the aftermath of Missouri’s final scrimmage of preseason camp Thursday at Memorial Stadium.
Now, it's worth noting that Franklin was wearing a green non-contact jersey on the run. However, he sped through the defense so fast that no defender was even in striking distance. The run was arguably the highlight of a scrimmage performance that was much better than the one he turned in last Saturday, when he struggled early and was later challenged to do better by Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel.
“He’s a tremendously different player than he was a year ago at this time,” said Pinkel, who noted that Franklin did well Thursday. “He’s potentially really good. We’re just pushing him to get it out. The good news is he wants to be really good, too.”
Franklin’s scrimmage stats were fairly modest – he completed 7-of-12 passes for 80 yards, and rushed twice for 30 yards and a touchdown – but he did not turn the ball over. In the previous scrimmage, he lost a fumble and tossed an interception.
“I know I can always do better,” Franklin said, “but it’s definitely better than throwing a pick.”
Offensive coordinator David Yost was also pleased with Franklin’s performance, though he also noted that his star quarterback wasn’t so bad in the previous scrimmage, when he completed 16-of-25 passes and tossed a touchdown despite the turnovers.
“I was actually happier with his scrimmage last week after I watched the video than I was after the scrimmage,” Yost said. “It normally is like that. I tell the guys all the time – when we get done with a scrimmage, it’s never as bad as you think and it’s never as good as you think, because normally something sticks out to me that just irritates me throughout the day, and it’s normally a negative. I don’t really remember the positives all that well.”
Right on cue, Yost followed by rehashing one of Franklin’s misfires on Thursday, an overthrow to a streaking (and wide open) T.J. Moe down the seam. He went on to joke that the doctors fixed Franklin’s shoulder too good – he had offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum – which caused the overthrow, but followed by praising his quarterback’s solid effort.
“I thought he did the right things with the football,” Yost said. “He was protective of the football, he got the ball to the playmakers.”