2012 Missouri Preview - Offense
Missouri QB James Franklin
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Missouri Tiger Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Only in the Big 12 could a team finish 12th in the nation in yards and still finish fifth in the conference in total offense. Life will be vastly different in the SEC with the Tiger running game likely to have a tougher time. Henry Josey isn't expected back until 2013 after suffering a horrible knee injury late last season, and while QB James Franklin has the mobility to keep the ground game going, SEC linebackers aren't going to let him run wild. There's just enough talent to come up with yet another strong year with superstar receiver recruit Dorial Green-Beckham potentially adding more firepower to the passing game, while Franklin and a promising group of backs should keep the running game moving. The healthy return of tackle Elvis Fisher is a huge boost for the line, and the starting five should be great, but the depth is thin.
Star of the offense: Junior QB James Franklin
Passing: James Franklin
238-376, 2,865 yds, 21 TD, 11 INT
Rushing: Henry Josey
145 carries, 1,168 yds, 9 TD
Receiving: T.J. Moe
54 catches, 649 yds, 4 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore C Mitch Morse
Unsung star on the rise: Junior OT Justin Britt
Best pro prospect: Freshman WR Dorial Green-Beckham
Top three all-star candidates: 1) OT Elvis Fisher, 2) Green-Beckham, 3) Franklin
Strength of the offense: Running Game, Versatilty
Weakness of the offense: Power Runner, Proven Tight End
Junior James Franklin wasn't Blaine Gabbert as a pure passer, but he found his game as the season went on making more and more big things happen and playing with more and more confidence. At 6-2 and 225 pounds he has decent size and excellent mobility, but he's more of a baller than a runner, taking off when needed but first looking to keep the passing game going by spreading the ball around. He threw for 2,865 yards and 21 touchdowns, but he threw 11 picks with three coming in the loss to Oklahoma State and in the surprising struggle against Kansas. With a year of experience as the starter, he should play an even bigger overall role in the attack, like he did after Henry Josey went down late in the season.
Franklin ran when needed, carrying the ball 20 or more times in three games, but he was at his most effective in two of the final three games with Josey out rushing for 152 yards and two scores in the win over Texas Tech and 142 yards and two touchdowns in the win over North Carolina. It'll be tempting to get him running even more, but he should be an even steadier passer. He's a smart decision maker and a high-character leader who's going to be the star of the franchise for the next two years, and he can handle it.
Franklin is the main man, but there are several other good options at the ready. Redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser was one of the team's top recruits last year with 6-3, 220-pound size and a pro-style arm. He's not going to run much, but he'll get the passing game rolling if something happens to Franklin.
Watch Out For … Franklin to throw for 3,000 yards. He threw for 2,865 in 13 games last year, but he's not going to be able to run as much against SEC defenses. He'll use his mobility and skills to move around to make more passing play and get the ball to his targets; the SEC isn't going to let him take off.
Strength: Talented options. The pecking order is going to be rock solid with Berkstresser and Glaser each good enough to step in something happens to Franklin. Missouri has become a quarterback factory, and the talent is stockpiled.
Weakness: Backup experience. There isn't any. There might be talent among the reserves, but if Franklin gets hurt the Tigers are starting from Ground Zero.
Outlook: Franklin had a good first season as the main man, and while he might not make a big jump forward statistically because of the move to the SEC, he should be steadier and more consistent. It would be nice if some of the backups could get some work in early on, but the season will hinge on Franklin's ability to carry the offense through a brutal schedule.
Unit Rating: 8
Henry Josey isn't going to come back this year. The extremely talented junior was one of 2011's breakout players, running for 1,168 yards and nine scores with six 100-yard games in seven weeks, and then he suffered a horrific knee injury against Texas and was gone for the year. It was such a major problem that he had to undergo a few surgeries and is being kept under wraps. The coaching staff isn't going to risk his future and is almost certainly going to kept on the shelf until next year with a redshirt season still to take.
With Josey almost certainly out, senior Kendial Lawrence picked up the slack down the stretch to finish with 566 yards and five scores. He did next to nothing over the first half of the season, but came through when needed after Josey went down against Texas with 106 yards and a score. The 5-9, 195-pounder is the typical Mizzou speed back with a great burst when he gets a whole to run through. While he's not powerful, he has nice hands and can cut on a dime.
While Lawrence provides the speed, 5-11, 250-pound senior Jared McGriff-Culver will bring the thump. He has the size and he has some special teams experience but he hasn't gotten much work in the offense running just 16 times for 111 yards with a touchdown last season. His role should change this season, while 6-1, 215-pound sophomore Greg White could grow into a major factor. He only ran for 38 yards in four games, with most of the production coming in the blowout over Western Illinois, but he's a good enough athlete to be an Arkansas all-state basketball player and was one of the team's top recruits a few years ago.
Watch Out For … James Franklin to finish third on the team in rushing. The quarterback helped pick up the slack when Josey went down and finished second on the team with 981 yards and 15 scores, but he's not going to find SEC defenses as easy to run through and he'll be needed more as a passer. The Tiger backs will do more of the heavy lifting.
Strength: The system. Missouri always seems to find a 100-yard back when it needs one, and while there isn't a runner like Josey ready to go this year, there are a slew of nice backs who can step in like Lawrence did late last season and produce.
Weakness: A proven thumper. There's more size to the mix this year with McGriff-Culver and White expected to do more to provide some power. However, the offense likes its speed backs and it'll try to get Franklin going in the open field.
Outlook: It'll take a village. Lawrence isn't a 25-carry-a-game back, and Josey isn't going to be part of the mix. That'll mean it'll take several options and a regular rotation to get close to the 3,172 yards and 30 scores the attack came up with last season. The SEC is going to be far tougher to run through, but the ground game should still be effective.
Unit Rating: 7
Is he ready yet? Missouri might have a nice receiving corps in place, and the passing game will be fine with or without the freshman class, but getting the No. 1 overall prospect, Dorial Green-Beckham, suddenly provided a major boost. The 6-6, 220-pound NFL star-in-waiting has all the size, all the athleticism, and all the speed to be special with great open field moves and terrific hands. According to Scout.com, he's the best wide receiver prospect to come out in years, and big things will be expected of him right away.
Green-Beckham might be the team's most talented receiver, but T.J. Moe should be the team's leading target once again. While his production might have dipped with James Franklin at quarterback in place of Blaine Gabbert – catching a team-leading 54 passes for 649 yards and four scores after making 92 grabs for 1,045 yards and six scores in 2010 – he was still effective. At 6-0 and 200 pounds the 2008 Missouri Player of the Year is extremely quick and is ultra-reliable on third downs, but he only came up with two 100-yard games last season and he didn't have any explosive games like the 15-catch performance he came up with in the bowl loss to Iowa two years ago. He'll be Franklin's go-to target at the H.
Junior L'Damian Washington is a 6-4, 195-pound speedster with great size and terrific potential. Very smart, he's not going to make too many mistakes and last year he finally started to produce with 20 catches for 364 yards and three scores with key touchdowns in the losses to Arizona State and Baylor along with a 45-yard scoring play against Oklahoma. He'll start out on the Z, while 6-5, 215-pound junior Marcus Lucas will get the first look at the outside X after finishing third on the team with 23 catches for 414 yards and five scores. He became more and more reliable as the year went on, scoring four times over the final five games of the regular season, and he has the talent and the tools to grow into a devastating deep threat with more passes thrown his way.
6-3, 200-pound senior Rolandis Woodland has size and deep play speed as the No. 2 man at the X, but he only caught one pass for 16 yards last season. 6-0, 215-pound sophomore Jimmie Hunt only came up with one catch, but he made it count with a 54-yard score against Western Illinois. He'll become more and more of a factor at the inside Z, while 5-10, 190-pound senior Gahn McGuffie will see a little time working behind Moe after coming up with three catches for 18 yards.
So who's the next great Missouri pass catching tight end? Michael Egnew and his 147 career catches are gone, and now it's up to 6-4, 240-pound junior Eric Waters to show what he can do. A strong athlete with all the tools, he has the talent and the potential to be a special player with a little more time. With basketball player athleticism and soft hands, it's his turn up after making just two catches for 46 yards and a score. Also in the rotation will be 6-4, 220-pound junior Jaleel Clark, who's more of a big wide receiver than a true tight end. He hasn't been a part of the offense yet, but he should be a decent pass catcher with a little more time and development.
Watch Out For … Green-Beckham. It's not going out on a limb to call him one of the most talented receivers in the SEC without even setting foot on the field. Moe is a nice veteran, but Green-Beckham is the superstar who can take the offense to another level.
Strength: Size. Green-Beckham looks like an NBA 3, Lucas is 6-5, Washington is 6-4, and there are a slew of six-foot targets across the board. This group looks the part.
Weakness: Quarterback. James Franklin is growing into his own and is a terrific, smart leader, but he's not a pure passer and the opportunities aren't going to be there like they were with Blaine Gabbert a few years ago. The passing game took a backseat to the running attack last year.
Outlook: Everyone was back last year, and the passing game was effective and decent. However, it wasn't devastating. Franklin will spread the ball around and the production will come from several different big, athletic targets, but a tight end has to emerge right away and Green-Beckham has to be half as good as the hype. Even if he's not, Moe and Washington are a good place to start.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Elvis is back in the building. The old man on the lot, senior Elvis Fisher returns after missing last year with a knee injury. With 40 starts under his belt, the two-time honorable mention All-Big 12 performer is back and healthy at left tackle where he has the 6-5, 295-pound size and the moxie to be one of the Big 12's best blockers. With a good frame and nice feet, he has all the raw tools, but he has to stay healthy after having problems with a shoulder as well as his knee.
6-2, 295-pound senior Travis Ruth spent most of last year working at center, but he'll move over to guard where he'll give it a shot on the left side. An Academic All-Big 12 performer, he's smart and tough on the interior. With him moving over, 6-5, 295-pound sophomore Mitch Morse is about to be the main man in the middle. Very smart and extremely physical, the Austin, Texas native has offensive tackle size but has been groomed over the last few years to be ready at center.
Austin Wuebbels is gone at right guard, opening up a hole for 6-6, 310-pound senior Jack Meiners to step in and get a full-time role. Versatile, he saw time as a true freshman and has moved around where needed, but now he has a home. A great prospect coming out of high school, he has excellent size and the strength needed to bury his man.
Taking over for Dan Hoch at right tackle is 6-6, 300-pound junior Justin Britt, who stepped in for Fisher at left tackle last season and did a terrific job. Beefed up, he has packed on the pounds over the last few years and has filled out his frame, and after last year he has the experience and the talent to handle himself on the other side without a problem. Smart and versatile, he could even step in at center if absolutely needed.
6-8, 325-pound sophomore Chris Freeman is a hulking huge tackle option who saw a little time in three games. He still needs more time and technique work, but he's a top talent with the raw bulk the coaching staff wants in a right tackle. Junior Max Copeland added 20 pounds to his frame to get up to 290 pounds, and now he'll see time at left guard behind Ruth. At left tackle, with Fisher's injury history, 6-5, 290-pound redshirt freshman Taylor Chappell has to be at the ready. If disaster strikes again Britt will move back over to left tackle and the 6-5, 290-pound Chappell might end up seeing time at right tackle, but Freeman could be a better fit to step in.
Watch Out For … Morse. The hope is that he's ready to step up his game just enough to allow Ruth to stay at left guard, but there could be a shake-up on the inside by the time the season starts.
Strength: Smarts. It only seems like every Mizzou offensive lineman is an academic all-star. The line doesn't make a slew of mistakes and the parts are just interchangeable enough to move around the right pieces where needed.
Weakness: Proven depth. The starting five is still a question mark and needs to come together in a hurry, but there will be big, big problems if the injury bug strikes. There's promise and talent waiting in the wings, but the Tigers will have to develop some redshirt freshmen in a hurry to be ready to roll if needed.
Outlook: The line patched things together with injuries and newcomers causing concerns early on, but the running game finished ninth in the nation and the pass protection wasn't all that bad considering the problems. The return of Fisher gives the line a good veteran to work around, and if Morse can handle the work in the middle, everything else should fall into place. Depth might be a problem, but the starting five should be terrific as long as Fisher holds up.
Unit Rating: 8
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