The road to redemption begins Saturday for Missouri senior James Franklin, and it should probably come as no surprise that a 6-foot-2, 230-pound quarterback nicknamed “Tank” is ready to show his mettle.
“It’s inside,” Franklin said with a chuckle. “Some people, when it happens, they may not even notice it.”
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After last season, Franklin — who is known for his quick smile and good nature — insists his reservoir of motivation runs deeper than it ever has. He took the brunt of fans’ frustration during a disappointing 5-7 season in which he struggled with injuries and inconsistency and saw his 2011 numbers — 3,846 total yards and 36 total touchdowns — slashed by more than half to 1,684 yards and 15 touchdowns).
“After last season and having all the injuries and disappointing performance,” Franklin said, “I’d say the edge is there and it’s ready to be unleashed.”
Franklin is hardly the only Tiger with something to prove this season, which starts at 6 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium against Murray State. All eyes will also be on the schemes and play calls of 38-year old Josh Henson, the former co-offensive line coach who was promoted to offensive coordinator when David Yost left the staff in December.
“I’ve had nerves every day since I took the job,” Henson said. “I think that’s just natural. I don’t even remember, as a player, getting to the point where you didn’t have a few butterflies. That’s what you like about it, that’s the fun part of it.”
Henson has largely been coy about the changes the offense will take under his direction, though he’s talked about his desire to utilize the tight end a bit more and push the tempo.
“I don’t think it will be radically different, but I think you’ll see a lot of differences,” Henson said. “We still are what we are. We’re a spread team that has a lot of good receivers. That’s probably, right now, our best personnel. They can make a lot of plays, the quarterback is playing well, those things will just help us be as potent as we can.”
Franklin said bad plays often derailed any attempt to play fast last season.
“A sack, incompletion, dropped pass, something like that … that would really be a deflator for us and take us a while to get back from that,” Franklin said. “It’s only going to hurt on us if we dwell on it.”
Henson feels good about the progress Franklin has made since last season, which seemed to be backed up by his performance in three preseason scrimmages. Combined, Franklin completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 439 yards, five touchdowns and one interception, numbers that include an uneven performance in the final scrimmage of the preseason in which the offense struggled as a whole.
“I really feel good about where he’s at right now,” Henson said. “I think he’s practiced real well. It’s the old cliche, you play like you practice. But it’s true.”
Franklin, to his credit, embraces the pressure.
“That’s the reason I wanted to play quarterback in the first place when I was younger — that’s the position you can help out the most,” Franklin said. “If a game ever did go bad, even though it’s not just one player’s fault, I’d rather the blame be on me than somebody else.”
Yet, after a 5-7 season in which he experienced just that, he’s motivated to show everyone exactly what he’s made of.
“We train for the 280-plus days, only” to play “the equivalent of 48 hours all season,” Franklin said. “So having that motivation to do good and not let those guys down and let all their hard work go to waste is really big for me.”