Missouri quarterback James Franklin is one of the top players at his position in the entire country. Franklin made a name for himself as a first-year starter in 2011, but he did so as a quarterback that can both run and throw. Head Coach Gary Pinkel has had some extremely successful quarterbacks in Columbia such as Brad Smith and Chase Daniel, and it appears that Franklin is on pace to build a similar legacy as those two. Franklin is a strong, physical runner who makes good decisions on in the zone read and speed option game. He does a great job of pressing the line of scrimmage as a runner, and has the lateral quickness to get to the correct hole. He also has the power to pick up tough yardage when a big seam isn't there, and lead the Tigers in rushing touchdowns a year ago with 15 scores. Franklin has the ability to scramble, but he does a good job of standing in the pocket and making plays down field. He actually doesn't scramble as much as many would think for a quarterback with his skill set. As a passer, Franklin isn't polished but gets the job done. He has a tendency to fade away from his throws and throw off his back foot. He will also telegraph them at times. He threw 21 touchdowns to 11 interceptions in 2011, so he is prone to a few mistakes if under pressure. Franklin was only sacked 18 times in 2011, and does a good job of escaping the rush to extend the play.
The loss of Henry Josey, the Tigers leading rusher a year ago with over 1,000 yards, to a knee injury isn't something that should be taken lightly, but the Tigers still return plenty of talent in senior Kendial Lawrence.
Lawrence is a small, slashing style running back that has very good speed in the open field. He isn't one you would call electric with the ball in his hands, but he has excellent vision and the ability to explode through a seam once he sees it. Lawrence had over 10 carries for 121 yards and a two scores in Mizzou's first game against Southeast Louisiana, and he did most of that damage on an explosive 76-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Lawrence will likely be used as receiver out of the backfield quite a bit as the Mizzou running backs combined for almost 30 receptions in 2011 and he is the go-to guy in 2012. The senior starter has improved every season since arriving in Columbia, but has been prone to injuries in the past.
It would be tough to find a coach in the country that wouldn't like to have Mizzou's leading receiver from 2011, T.J. Moe. Moe is a very good athlete that can do it all. He runs it, he catches it, he returns it, and he blocks very well. He is the all-everything offensive weapon for the Tigers and he does it all. Moe isn't a big time speedster, but he has plenty of speed to hurt a defense. He is the epitome of a football player, and is as sure-handed of a receiver as any in the country. The weapons don't stop there for the Tigers. Dorial Green-Beckham, the nations top rated recruit from the 2012 class is another dangerous weapon for the Tigers. Green-Beckham is a 6-foo-6, 220-pound speedster that can get behind any defense and can make big plays in jump ball situations. Green-Beckam isn't Mizzou's only big receiver as juniors Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington are 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-4 respectively, and were among the Tigers' top five receivers a year ago. Mizzou did, however, lose two of their top pass catchers from 2011 in Wes Kemp and tight end Michael Egnew who is with the Miami Dolphins. Those two accounted for eight of Franklin's 21 touchdowns in 2011.
Missouri started three offensive lineman, all on the interior, last week that made their first career start. Guards Evan Boehm and Max Copeland had decent games against Southeast Louisiana, but did allow some penetration and struggled with a few blitz pick ups inside. Both are good athletes and moved well in the second level and on screen plays. Sophomore Mitch Morse also made his first start last week, and he played a little better than the offensive lineman on each side of him. Morse is very quick and does a good job of snapping it and getting to the edge on the outside zone. He moves very well in the run game, and has good feet in the pass game. He didn't have a guy on his nose very often in the first game, so that will likely be a test for him in game one. The Tigers return most of the experience at the tackle position. Junior Justin Britt is the only returning starter, and he will man the right tackle position while Elvis Fisher, who sat out all of the 2011 season due to injury, will get the start at left tackle. Mizzou does a good job of putting their tackles in a position to succeed, but neither is particularly strong at protecting the pocket. Both have tendencies to overset and be beaten to the inside, but both are also quick, athletic run blockers that do a good job on the edge blocking for the quarterback sweep and outside zones.
• First down - Missouri is a team that tends to run the ball on third down (58%). While it isn't a glaring tendency, it is what they prefer to do no matter what their position on the field. Their stronger tendency on first down is to either run the ball or get the ball to the running back in the passing game. They will go with a quarterback run, running back run, motion sweep to the wide receiver, or pass to the running back 67% of the time on first down.
• Second Down and long (seven yards or more) - The strong tendency on this down and distance is a run to the running back. The Tigers go with some sort of running back run 63% of the time on second and long.
• Second down and medium(four to six yards) - The Tigers have no tendency on this down and distance.
• Second down and short (under four yards) - Despite the fact that this down and distance for most teams is a play action down to stretch the field, Mizzou has a slight tendency to run the ball with their quarterback or running back (58%).
• Third Down - It is important to note that Missouri was next-to-last in 2011 in the Big 12 on third down with just under a 40% conversion rate.
• Third down and long - If the distance is over 10 yards, Mizzou tends to play it save and run the ball with the running back or quarterback (67%). When they do throw the ball on third and 10 yards or more, it is usually when they are in their own territory and trying to climb out. If the distance is long but less than 10 yards, Mizzou goes to the air 85% of the time and 81% of the time to their wide receivers or tight end.
• Third down and medium - The Tigers are almost 50/50 on this down and distance with a slight propensity to run the quarterback rather than the running back on second and medium when they do keep it on the ground.
• Third down and short - This is a clear run down for the Tigers as they keep it on the ground 71% of the time. Even when they go to the air, it is in a controlled, intermediate manner to move the sticks.
• The Tigers love to use Franklin inside the 10-yard line as their primary scoring threat.
• Mizzou turned the ball over 19 times in 2011. Franklin had all 11 interceptions and opponents recovered eight fumbles. The team finished with a plus three turnover margin.
• The vast majority of Mizzou's vertical passing game in their first game was to the outside in the safety/cornerback gap in cover 2.
• The Tigers averaged just over 32 points per game last season, but are dealing with the loss of a Egnew, Josey, Kemp, and four offensive linemen.
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