COLUMBIA, Mo. - Missouri quarterback James Franklin says he doesn’t intentionally go against the wishes of his coaches.
When there’s an opportunity for a few more yards, he isn’t afraid of lowering his shoulder - even if there’s a higher chance of getting injured.
Franklin said he knows the consequences of concussions and torn muscles. They marred his junior season, relegating him to the bench for four games and the sideline for parts of others. Now in his final year with the Tigers, he’s met with coaches to discuss altering his running style and sliding more often to avoid absorbing big hits.
Still, Franklin leads the team with 36 rushing attempts for 182 yards and a touchdown heading into Saturday’s game against Arkansas State. In his last two games, he’s bowled over defenders to preserve second-half leads.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound native of Corinth, Texas, says his scrambles are calculated decisions based on what the defense is showing him. Coach Gary Pinkel just wants to make sure the leader of his offense stays healthy, but said he thinks Franklin is making strides toward better protecting himself.
“I can’t say, ‘Don’t scramble,’ ” Pinkel said. “If he protects himself, he can run a bunch. It helps us. The pressure to defend a quarterback that can run is a tremendous asset that you have, and he has that.”
Franklin sidesteps talking about his running, preferring instead to focus on how he trusts his arms more than his legs, a change from his breakout sophomore season in which he passed for 220.4 yards per game and 21 touchdowns and ran for 75.5 yards per game and 15 touchdowns.
It helps that Missouri (3-0) hasn’t played two top-10 teams as it had a year ago through four weeks, but staying healthy has boosted Franklin’s confidence in the throws he can make. Last season, he barely spoke above a whisper at times after losses and admitted to struggling to keep his mind in the right place after reading criticism from fans.
“As far as handling critical situations with a lot of negativity, it’s really helped me to attack it and not really let it bother me,” said Franklin.
Sports, Pages 21 on 09/27/2013
Print Headline: Missouri QB not afraid of making, taking hits