It is that time of year again. Basketball season is in full-swing, but football is never completely off the table. Now that the season has ended, and a majority of recruiting has been figured out, it is time to begin looking at the team Mizzou will field in 2012.
We start, of course, with the quarterback position. As mentioned in the August walkthroughs, "Missouri fans are starting to fancy the program as a bit of a quarterback factory." The 2011 season -- one that saw high-quality quarterback play for the 10th consecutive season -- did very little to dissuade that notion.
(A note from The Beef, who will be making contributions throughout this series: "Just so everyone knows, what I say here is based on two assumptions. The first is that anyone I reference is going to complete their career as a Tiger. The second assumption does not take potential injuries into account. With that out of the way, let me make Bill regret sending that email to me "sharing" this document!")
James Franklin (6’2, 225, Jr., Corinth, TX)
2010: 11-for-14 (79%), 106 yards (7.6 per pass), 1 TD, 1 INT; 23 carries, 116 yards, 2 TD
2011: 238-for-376 (63%), 2,865 yards (7.6 per pass), 21 TD, 11 INT; 217 carries, 981 yards, 15 TD
Bill C.: Before the 2011 season began, we established the baseline statistical expectations for James Franklin entering his first season as Mizzou’s starting quarterback. It was the average stat line from each of Mizzou’s previous three quarterbacks -- Brad Smith, Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert -- in their first year as starter:
248-for-421 (59%) passing, 3,151 yards (7.5 per pass), 22 TD, 8 INT; 148 rushes, 537 yards, 5 TD
Remember, this includes a 2,000/1,000 season from Brad Smith, the first season for eventual Heisman finalist Chase Daniel, and the first season from eventual Top 10 pick Blaine Gabbert. James Franklin exceeded the completion rate, the per-pass yardage, and the touchdown rate, and he nearly doubled the rushing yardage. He did suffer some glitches in the interceptions department (his interception ratio was 2.9%, as compared to 1.9% above), but that difference was minimal, and he also exceeded the rushing touchdowns threefold.
And there is a pocket of Missouri fans that still thinks Franklin could, or should, be overtaken by others in the spring.
We all know that the backup quarterback is always the most popular player on the team -- there was a similar-sized pocket of Missouri fans who thought Chase Patton should start over Daniel heading into 2007 -- but … good luck with that. Barring injury, James Franklin will be the face of the Missouri football program for the next two seasons, and that is a very good thing.
We feared we were being unfair to Franklin by labeling him as a combination of Smith, Daniel and Gabbert, but in most ways, it turned out we were not giving him enough credit. Against a tougher schedule than any of the three faced, he produced better stats in almost every category.
That isn’t to say he doesn’t have things on which he can work this offseason. The next step in his development will be his ability to shrug off mistakes. He played quite a few nearly error-free games, but when a glitch occurred, a second was sure to follow. He threw an interception in the opener versus Miami (Ohio), and his next pass went through a defender’s hands. Against Western Illinois, he twice overestimated his ability to throw a deep ball while rolling right (and he was twice saved by his receivers; Eric Waters broke up one sure interception, and L'Damian Washington wrestled another one away for a long reception). Against Kansas State, he threw an interception on his first pass, then froze up and took a huge sack on the next drive. Against Iowa State, he misread the defense and threw a pick six to A.J. Klein, then threw another interception on the next possession. After a quality first half, he turned the ball over four times (three interceptions and a fumble) in the second half against Oklahoma State. And then, of course, he threw back-to-back-to-back interceptions at Arrowhead versus Kansas.
These series of glitches gave ammunition to the crowd of Franklin doubters, just as it did with Daniel in 2006 (we forget now just how bad he looked against Nebraska and Oklahoma). But his overall resume tracks beautifully with those posted by other great Missouri quarterbacks. He threw for 291 yards and rushed for 103 versus Oklahoma, 289 and 84 versus Iowa State, 198 and 97 versus Texas A&M, 325 and 67 versus Baylor, 172 and 152 versus Texas Tech and 132 and 142 versus North Carolina. He overcame his glitches enough to lead three second-half comebacks in the final five games and lead Mizzou to their first win over Texas since 1997, and he leads a team that won five of six games to finish his first season.
The Beef: Gary Pinkel has not replaced a returning starting quarterback in the off-season since Brad Smith overtook Kirk Farmer in the summer of 2002. In 2001, Farmer accounted for just over 1,900 yards, while Brad Smith broke on the scene for just under 3,400. He has never replaced one in the spring with someone who was already on campus. I am not necessarily offering this as a means of providing my opinion on this position and what happens this spring. I am simply offering it as a fact of the last 10 years. That being said, barring injury, I do not believe James Franklin will be replaced in the spring. Is there room for improvement in his game? Sure, perhaps he could start some games better at times, but you just don’t up and replace almost 3,800 yards of offense.
Corbin Berkstresser (6’3, 220, RS Fr., Lee’s Summit, MO)
Bill C.: Corbin Berkstresser committed to Missouri when he was approximately five years old (give or take 11 years or so), and despite only decent recruiting ratings, he surged in his final high school season and did just well enough in August two-a-days that some thought he might have earned a few snaps during the 2011 season. Instead, the Missouri staff chose to redshirt him (presumably with the "unless James Franklin gets hurt..." caveat). With (knock on wood) Franklin seemingly ready to occupy the starting position for the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Berkstresser, then, is gearing up for a run at a two-year starting job in 2014-15.
Berkstresser seems to be custom-built to play the quarterback position as defined at Missouri. Like Franklin, he is a bit of a combination of previous Mizzou QBs; he has solid system knowledge for a redshirt freshman (not entirely unlike Daniel), and he’s allegedly got the best arm on the team by a solid margin (though probably not quite Gabbert-esque). He has shown just enough loyalty to Mizzou to date that he probably isn’t a flight risk, and he could be a solid, seasoned signal caller by the time his number is called, either in 2014 or in replacing a banged-up Franklin.
The Beef: I certainly heard a lot comments during the season about what people thought/hoped/prayed for from this young man. And I am just as curious as any. I look forward to seeing him in the Spring Game and making sure that he is ready to become the primary backup for the Tigers so Mizzou does not have to rely on James Franklin for every snap this season. All that being said, count me in the camp who does not feel that Berkstresser has much of a chance to make the leap to the top.
Missouri fans raised a skeptical eyebrow when Corbin Berkstresser committed, calling into question the possibility of in-state nepotism after seeing sophomore year stats that were middling at best. But under the tutelage of new Lee’s Summit head coach Eric Thomas, questions faded as the transition to a spread-based scheme allowed Berkstresser to blossom in his senior season.
In Thomas’ system, Berkstresser threw for more than 3,300 yards with a 6-to-1 TD:INT ratio, in addition to a surprising level of effectiveness triggering the zone read.
As Thomas nurtured Berkstresser’s mental development, Skip Stitzell -- he of "Blaine Gabbert’s personal QB coach" fame -- continued his work with Berkstresser’s physical growth. Blessed with a strong arm and a natural delivery, Berkstresser used the back end of his high school career to develop the touch that will be required of him, particularly against the second level of the defenses Missouri is accustomed to facing.
Stitzell raved about Berkstresser’s mental growth under the direction of Thomas in a January article by Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune. From all accounts, Berkstresser’s mental game is starting to meet his raw ability, and that’s an exciting proposition for Missouri fans.
Ashton Glaser (6’0, 205, RS Jr., Springdale, AR)
The Beef: I cannot help but respect anyone who has stayed with the program, especially when they have come here from out of state. Glaser is a trooper, and I certainly hope the young man gets to see the field for a few snaps at some point in the remaining two years of his Mizzou career. However, I am guessing those snaps may come on senior day of 2013, or somewhere around there.
Bill C.: That basically sums it up. Glaser came to Mizzou from a spread system in Arkansas, and he has continued to stick it out in Columbia despite being surpassed by Franklin. That could change this spring, obviously -- Glaser will have a decision to make regarding whether he stays with Mizzou (as, presumably, a backup) during their move to the SEC, or whether he attempts to find a smaller school with ready playing time.
INCOMING: Maty Mauk (6’2, 185, Fr., ***, Kenton, OH)
Bill C.: We always compare Mizzou players to former Mizzou players; we have done so about 16 times in this walkthrough alone. That said, it is impossible to ignore the number of similarities (at the high school level) in the accomplishments of Maty Mauk and Chase Daniel. It obviously remains to be seen whether that will translate into collegiate success, but Mauk’s high school statistics were as gaudy as gaudy can be.
Most have probably heard that Mauk set the national record for career high school passing yards, but that alone does not give you an adequate feel for his statistical ridiculousness. So let's attempt to set the table with some bullets:
- He threw for 5,413 yards and, in mostly no-back sets, rushed for 1,768 yards as well.
- He threw 68 touchdown passes (SIXTY-EIGHT) to 16 interceptions, and he rushed for another 24 touchdowns. After 11 games, his TD-to-INT ratio was 56-to-8.
- Against Wellington (OH) on November 5, he completed 27 of 29 passes for 504 yards and nine touchdowns.
- Against Bath (Lima, OH) on October 7, he completed 21 of 27 passes for 418 yards and seven touchdowns … and rushed 13 times for 207 yards and two touchdowns.
- He pulled off this level of statistical prowess despite having only one other FBS prospect on his team (ATH Bryce Fackler, who is committed to Kent State). For all intents and purposes, he was the entire Kenton offense, and he still almost led the Wildcats to a state title.
Now, to be sure, Mauk is not a finished product. This is a devastating comparison to make, but in both physical stature and facial characteristics, he somewhat resembles Todd Reesing. Because he is not 6-foot-4 with a golden-boy arm, he was overlooked by some of the midwest's major schools (i.e. Ohio State), but while Daniel, Reesing and others may have proven that you can succeed at a rather high level despite physical shortcomings, it isn't as if physical shortcomings guarantee success.
Plans change, but for now it appears Mauk will be battling with Berkstresser for the 2014 starting job, as either a redshirt sophomore or junior. He has plenty of time to get up to speed physically.
The Beef: I guess I do wonder when/if this young man will top the number of inevitable nicknames with the number of touchdowns he may score, but the pedigree and statistics he brings to the table are certainly extraordinary. And while I am lauding him with superlatives, let me explain that I do not believe I have ever used the word "extraordinary" before on the Internet, and my first try at spelling it (before Bill Gates corrected me) had me typing "astrodinary". Needless to say, I hope Mauk eventually does a better job at QB’ing than I just did at spelling. I suppose given that Pinkel once replaced Farmer with Smith, that would potentially give Mauk the best shot at overtaking Franklin (per the closed loop I am drawing here). I do not believe it will happen this year.