Brad Smith

James Franklin, sophomore Quarterback:

In recent years, Missouri has produced quality quarterbacks starting with Brad Smith who played from 2002 to 2005, Chase Daniel in 2006 and Blaine Gabbert who followed him. With all those players in the NFL, James Franklin has taken over the position with high expectations. Franklin is much more of a dual-threat passer in the mold of Smith. He is averaging almost 67 yards per game on the ground, with a 100-yard game against Oklahoma. He is averaging 243 yards per game passing with 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Most of those interceptions came in a three-game span against Kansas State, Iowa State and Oklahoma State. In three losses to Oklahoma, Kansas State and Oklahoma State, he completed less than 55 percent of his passes and threw five interceptions. Franklin is a dangerous player who can be effective in a variety of ways and can thrive in an offensive shootout.

Henry Josey, sophomore Running back

Josey is fifth in the country in rushing, and is the leading rusher in the Big 12 this season by a wide margin, averaging 127 yards per game this season. The next closest runner is Oklahoma States Joseph Randle with just more than 100 yards per game. He has rushed for more than 100 yards in all but three games, with a 263-yard game against Western Illinois. Kansas State is the only team in conference play to hold him to less than 100 yards. He is averaging 8.5 yards per carry this season, and has had at least one 20-yard run in the last eight games. At 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, he is more of a speed runner who will be getting his yards in space and off the edge.

Brad Madison, Junior Defensive End

A preseason All-Conference selection, Madison had his biggest game this season against Western Illinois where he posted four tackles, three tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a sack and a quarterback hurry. He had his best in-conference game against Iowa State, where he recorded five tackles with a tackle for loss, a quarterback hurry, a sack and even an interception. He has had some positive numbers in their wins, but he needs to be able to apply pressure against higher quality teams if the Tigers are going to win and become bowl eligible. Against a running team like Texas, he will have to be able to get penetration to keep the runs contained in the middle and take advantage against the few times that Texas drops back to pass.

Redshirt freshman James Franklin (1) runs the ball in a recent game against Oklahoma State. (Photo Courtesy of L.G. Patterson)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

James Franklin had thrown a total of 14 passes in his one season of collegiate play when he was handed the reins to the Missouri Tigers offense this season and asked to live up to his most recent predecessors: Blaine Gabbert, Chase Daniel and Brad Smith.

Charged with stepping into the position previously held by three now-NFL quarterbacks, the 6-foot-2 sophomore out of Lake Dallas High School in Corinth replaced Gabbert — the No. 10 overall pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2011 NFL Draft — at the helm of the Tigers’ offense this season and has led Missouri to a 4-4 record.

“This guy has a chance to be special,” said Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel. “He is further ahead at this time in his career than the three quarterbacks who preceded him.”

So far this season Franklin has thrown for 1,870 yards and 13 touchdowns with a completion percentage of more than 60 percent. Additionally, Franklin, who was ranked out of high school as the nation’s number four dual-threat quarterback by Rivals.com in 2010, is second on the Tigers’ roster for rushing yards with more than 540.

Despite what appear to be solid numbers, prior to Missouri’s come from behind overtime victory over Texas A&M on Saturday, Franklin was on the hot seat after struggling in previous games and committing four turnovers in the second half during a 45-24 loss to Oklahoma State the previous week.

“I think every quarterback goes through tough games. Certainly, especially for a young quarterback, you are always concerned about them not taking on too much themselves,” Pinkel said. “[Franklin’s] the kind of guy that would do that because that’s the type of person he is, so we’ve got to help him through that.”

Whatever Pinkel and the Missouri coaching staff did to get Franklin through the rough patch worked as he throw for 198 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 97 yards and two TDs against the Aggies.

“[Against A&M] you saw a player that said he was going to do everything he could to win the game,” said Pinkel about Franklin’s performance. “When you have a player like that that is your leader, and he’s throwing his body up a little bit, I think there is no question it has a huge impact on your team. I know our players responded in a very positive way.”

Despite praise from his coach, Franklin said he has a long way to go to reach the playing level of
his predecessors.

“I wouldn’t say [the A&M game] was my best performance because I didn’t do the best passing wise and didn’t have too many passing yards,” Franklin said. “I think I would have been a little more pleased if those were higher than they were. I think it was a pretty good performance for the most part.”

While Franklin is eager to match the performances of Gabbert, Daniel and Smith, Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Yost knows it will take time.

“We’re constantly working on building his confidence up, but he knows he’s capable of everything we ask him to do,” Yost said. “It’s just a matter of him going out and doing it and the guys around him helping him as much as they can. It’s not a one-man show by any stretch.”

Franklin will try to build his confidence at QB up more as he and the rest of the Tigers follow up their overtime victory with a matchup against Robert Griffin III and Baylor in Waco.

“He’s not Chase [Daniel], he’s not Blaine [Gabbert], he’s not Brad [Smith],” Yost said. “He has bits and pieces of all their games and what we need to do is use those to his advantages and within our offense to mold it to kind of fit him.”