Missouri Football in 2013: The quarterback race will dominate the narrative

Bill Carter

James Franklin will be healthy, Corbin Berkstresser will have had time to correct some faulty footwork, and Maty Mauk will be saying hello to the world. I think I know what position is going to get about 95 percent of the attention in spring ball.

This was going to be part of the Mizzou-A&M BTBS post, but because it is such a popular topic I decided to let it stand alone.

Corbin Berkstresser attempted 177 passes in 2012. He completed 88 (49.7 percent) for 1,059 yards (6.0 per pass). He threw five touchdowns (a 2.8 percent TD rate) and seven interceptions (a 4.0 percent INT rate). Ten of his completions (11 percent) went for more than 25 yards.

James Franklin attempted 234 passes in 2012. He completed 139 (59.4 percent) for 1,562 yards (6.7 per pass). He threw 10 touchdowns (a 4.3 percent TD rate) and seven interceptions (a 3.0 percent INT rate). Nine of his completions (6 percent) went for more than 25 yards.

Typically in life, the source of your best quality is also the source of your worst. My brain moves very quickly, which means I often reach a correct conclusion faster than most. But when I am off-track, it means I go careening off in the wrong direction just as quickly. This theory is certainly correct when it comes to Franklin & Berkstresser. For James Franklin, his calmness and poise have benefited Mizzou many times. When (mostly) healthy, his poise was one of the primary sources for Mizzou's three comeback wins and two other near-comebacks. At the same time, however, he took 20 sacks in 2012, a 7.8 percent sack rate, and their average loss was a whopping 8.2 yards. Poise can quickly turn into indecision. And when you combine that with an iffy shoulder and old man's gait, you get a pretty poor quarterback. The shoulder and knee should heal this offseason. Hopefully he will also regain the proper balance between calmness and playmaking.

Berkstresser, meanwhile, seemed unable to harness his obviously strong arm at times. While he was perfectly capable of throwing gorgeous intermediate and long passes -- think about his long touchdown pass to Bud Sasser against Vanderbilt; it was thrown on such a rope, for such a long distance, that we assumed it was accidental, but by all accounts after the game, it was not -- his touch betrayed him quite often. Under a modicum of pressure, his footwork fell out of whack, and what seemed like semi-easy passes would fall terribly off-target. His arm strength couldn't bail him out, either. Instead, it ended up turning inaccurate passes into woefully inaccurate passes. As we learned from Blaine Gabbert, footwork and pure instincts are really, really difficult to correct at this stage in your development. Perhaps Berkstresser's instincts will improve with experience (that's how it's supposed to work, anyway). But will they improve enough for him to become the next great quarterback in the Smith-Daniel-Gabbert lineage?

I have made it perfectly clear that I think James Franklin is currently the best quarterback on the roster and will most likely be Missouri's starting quarterback in 2013. But he will have to earn it, and it should absolutely be that way. In fact, that's a very good, very healthy thing. Franklin dealt with a ridiculous amount of adversity in 2012, and he took an incredible amount of ridiculous, embarrassing flack from Missouri fans in the process. I have supported him all year, but if he isn't the best quarterback on the roster in 2013, he shouldn't start. And he won't.

If Berkstresser's mechanics clear up, or if Maty Mauk lives up to even 50 percent of the increasingly unreasonable hype (seriously, people are basically painting him as next year's Johnny Manziel at this point, and while I would love for that to be true, it is unfair to set the bar there), then we could have a really, really interesting race. The quarterback is one of quite a few interesting (for reasons good and bad) position races we will have to look forward to in the spring, and while it will almost certainly get a disproportionate amount of the attention, it is potentially the biggest key to Mizzou's success in 2013, bigger than potential defensive holes, bigger than offensive line issues.

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