As the Missouri Tigers prepare for life after Blaine Gabbert, all eyes will be focused intently on sophomore James Franklin as he attempts to keep the Tigers from taking a step back at the quarterback position.
Gabbert was up to the task of replacing former quarterback Chase Daniel, and many feel Franklin can do the same, albeit in a different manner. Gabbert was a prolific passer, while Franklin is expected to be more versatile, using his legs as much as his arm to move the Tiger offense.
Even though Tyler Gabbert transferred from MU, Franklin isn’t guaranteed to finish the season as the Tigers' starting quarterback. Incoming freshman Corbin Berkstresser could contend for the starting role if he continues to improve. Berkstresser is familiar with Missouri’s style of offense and could supplant Franklin if he struggles early in the season.
Lack of offensive weapons won’t be what derails Franklin. Wide receiver T.J. Moe had a breakout year in 2010, his first as a starter. Moe caught 92 passes from Gabbert, totaling 1,045 yards and six touchdowns.
Along with Moe, running back Henry Josey was impressive, racking up 476 yards and five touchdowns on only 76 carries as a freshman. Josey has the potential to stop the Tigers' “running back by committee” philosophy. If he can become more consistent, look for coaches Gary Pinkel and David Yost to insert him in the backfield on a more regular basis.
The Tigers are stacked on the defensive side of the ball in 2011. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson is the biggest name coming into summer ball and should push for a starting position on MU’s defensive line.
Although Aldon Smith was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, defensive end Brad Madison should be able to fill in after gaining valuable experience last season when Smith missed games with a broken leg.
All in all, the reloaded Tigers appear to be on the prowl for a run at the title in the wide-open Big 12 race.