Missouri quarterback James Franklin is ready for the SEC spotlight
In each of the past two college football seasons, we’ve seen a supremely athletic dual-threat quarterback rise up and take the sport by storm.
In 2010, it was Auburn’s Cam Newton, who became the most-talked about player in the country, as he carried the Tigers on an incredible run all the way to the BCS championship game before ultimately becoming the No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 NFL draft.
Then, of course, last season, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III turned out to be the most exciting and explosive player in the nation, as he stepped up and snatched away the spotlight as well as the coveted Heisman Trophy from media darling Andrew Luck.
Now, as we prepare for the approaching kickoff of the much-anticipated 2012 season, many fans are wondering if the trend will continue and a new star dual-threat quarterback will emerge this fall.
Players such as Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas, Michigan’s Denard Robinson and Washington’s Keith Price have all garnered their fair share of preseason publicity and recognition this summer. But one intriguing dual-threat signal-caller who has seemingly been flying under the radar is Missouri’s James Franklin.
Franklin will enter his second season as the starter in Columbia, facing the tough task of having to lead the Tigers into the treacherous waters of the SEC East, where the likes of Georgia, South Carolina and Florida will all be waiting.
The good news is that the 6'2", 225-pound junior should be ready for the challenges that he's about to face.
Last year, Franklin had big shoes to fill, replacing the No. 10 overall pick of the 2011 NFL draft, Blaine Gabbert, but he proved that he’s the type of composed quarterback who can step up and thrive under pressure.
In just his first year as a starter, Franklin completed 63 percent of his passes for over 2,800 yards, and he also proved to be a dangerous threat running the ball as well, rushing for 981 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Rarely do you see a first-year starting quarterback total over 3,800 yards of offense and account for 36 total touchdowns and receive as little fanfare as Franklin did in 2011, but there are a few factors to explain why he was largely overlooked.
The most obvious reason is that Missouri finished the 2011 season with a disappointing 8-5 record after starting the year ranked No. 21 in the preseason polls. The Tigers quickly disappeared from the national scene after losing to Arizona State in Week 2 of the season, and they never really seemed to be a team that fans around the country cared all that much about.
Also, it obviously didn’t help that Franklin happened to be playing in the same conference with quarterbacks such as Robert Griffin III, Brandon Weeden, Landry Jones, Collin Klein and Ryan Tannehill, who all put together great performances of their own last year.
Now, the former 4-star recruit from Texas’ Lake Dallas High School will get the chance to have a fresh start in a new conference in 2012, and his one year of starting experience should prove to be extremely beneficial.
Franklin certainly won’t have to do it all alone, as Missouri’s offense welcomes back plenty of firepower with the return of receivers T.J. Moe and Marcus Lucas and the addition of highly touted blue-chip freshman Dorial Green-Beckham.
With that type of supporting cast, Franklin will have the opportunity to really put his tremendous natural talent to good use this season and show his new SEC foes what he really has to offer.
Admittedly, it would certainly be premature to say that James Franklin is destined to be the next Cam Newton or RG3. However, he’s clearly the type of versatile and dynamic dual-threat quarterback who has the potential to grow into a truly special standout playmaker this season.
Many stubborn SEC fans seem to be expecting Missouri to come in and just be another conference also-ran in 2012. They may be in for a rude awakening, though, especially if Franklin plays up to his potential and takes the next step toward national stardom like he's capable of.