Franklin, Missouri look to spread the wealth

Missouri quarterback James Franklin doesn’t mind doing a little bit of everything, but he also knows he doesn’t have to do everything.

He has plenty of help.

And if the Tigers’ season opener is any indication, that help will come from a lot of different places this season.

“We have a lot of playmakers on this team, and I’m talking about defense and special teams, too,” Franklin said. “That takes a lot of pressure off the offense. Any time you can change a game with one play, that’s a huge help in getting the momentum flowing your way.”

Franklin made quite a name for himself as a playmaker a year ago in the Big 12. In his first season as the starter, Franklin made a run at 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing. He ended the season with 2,865 passing yards and 21 touchdowns, also rushing for 981 yards and a team-leading 15 touchdowns.

“He’s one of those guys that, the more you watch him play, the more he impresses you with everything he can do,” said Missouri senior receiver T.J. Moe, the Tigers’ leading receiver last season. “He can beat you a number of different ways.”

Franklin, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior, thinks the same can be said for this entire team.

“It’s a huge comfort level for me, that I have the playmakers around me who are capable of getting so much done,” Franklin said. “It’s really nice as a quarterback knowing that you don’t have to make the perfect throw or the perfect read on every play. With the guys I have around me, you hand it off or throw it 5 or 10 yards and they’re going to turn it into a big play.”

Franklin wasn’t called on to do much in the 62-10 season-opening rout of Southeastern Louisiana. He threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Moe to open the Tigers’ scoring but was done by the midway point of the third quarter.

Missouri scored four non-offensive touchdowns in the game, including punt returns of 72 and 70 yards by sophomore tailback Marcus Murphy. Senior tailback Kendial Lawrence, who was slowed by a cracked fibula early last season, also had a 76-yard touchdown run.

Defensively, the Tigers aren’t very big, but they’re fast and added an interception return and fumble return for touchdowns last week.

“There are always going to be those times when you have a tough couple of drives on offense, but nothing gets a team going like a kick return for a touchdown or a touchdown on defense,” Franklin said. “I don’t think you’ve seen the last of that from this team.”

For Franklin’s part, he wants to be more consistent this season, and he knows that will have to start this weekend against No. 7 Georgia. The Bulldogs were hard on opposing quarterbacks last season and had a stretch when they knocked several out of games.

“I want to be smarter with the ball and do the little things to get the ball in my playmakers’ hands,” said Franklin, who threw 11 interceptions last season. “I just want to be more consistent as a player and not have as many ups and downs.”

And, yes, he still plans to run when the situation calls for it – even against SEC defenses.

Franklin said somebody on Twitter tagged him after South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw was injured running the ball against Vanderbilt in the opener.

“They said something like, ‘I hope James Franklin is watching this game, that quarterbacks don’t run in the SEC,’” recounted Franklin, who said he hasn’t had any problems out of his surgically repaired right (throwing) shoulder.

“I thought it was funny but didn’t let it get under my skin. It’s not going to affect the way I play the game. Maybe it motivates you, and maybe you work harder, but none of us are focused on what other people are saying.

“We’re a lot more grounded than that.”