Missouri QB James Franklin trying to rejuvenate season vs. struggling Tennessee

FILE- In this Sept. 22, 2012, file photo, Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley watches his team warm up before an NCAA college football game against Akron in Knoxville, Tenn. Dooley working from the press box Saturday as he recovers from hip surgery, the rest of his staff is preparing to adjust to his absence from the sidelines. The change in routine comes as the Volunteers prepare for a critical game at No. 19 Mississippi State. (AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)

FILE- In this Sept. 22, 2012, file photo, Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley watches his team warm up before an NCAA college football game against Akron in Knoxville, Tenn. Dooley working from the press box Saturday as he recovers from hip surgery, the rest of his staff is preparing to adjust to his absence from the sidelines. The change in routine comes as the Volunteers prepare for a critical game at No. 19 Mississippi State. (AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)

Here was the script: Missouri would enter the SEC with a thunderous offense led by one of the nation's most dynamic playmakers. The Tigers would surprise people who thought the offense would wilt against SEC defense, and quarterback James Franklin might have an outside shot at the Heisman Trophy as he perfected his rhythm in his second year as starter.

The reality? Missouri is 4-5 overall, 1-5 in the SEC and Franklin has struggled when he hasn't been injured or on the verge of being benched.

"They haven't had the success that they probably anticipated," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said politely.

The good news for Missouri and Franklin comes in the form of the Tennessee defense, ranked last in the SEC and 112th in the nation. For a struggling quarterback, the Vols' beleaguered secondary represents a potential feast.

"(Franklin) is the real key to them," Dooley said. "He will be there on Saturday, so we have to defend him."

The Vols (4-5, 0-5) play the Tigers on Saturday (TV: WVLT, 12:21 p.m.) at Neyland Stadium.

In 2011, Franklin was one of the Big 12's most exciting players, throwing for 2,865 yards, running for 981 more and accounting for 36 touchdowns. This season, he has 1,057 yards passing and 104 rushing with just four touchdowns. (For comparison, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray has thrown for 898 yards and nine touchdowns in the last two weeks).

Franklin injured his shoulder in Week 2 and a minor controversy erupted when he declined painkillers that might have helped him return more quickly due to his personal beliefs. Although coach Gary Pinkel and Franklin eventually patched up their differences over the situation, Franklin never seemed to recover his confidence. A knee injury in a loss to Vanderbilt set him back again.

Franklin returned to action last Saturday at Florida and looked efficient at times, completing 24 of 51 passes for 236 yards. But the Tigers could muster few points in the 14-7 loss, stalling drives in Florida territory. Most damningly, Franklin tossed four interceptions after throwing only two all season.

"The kid is a dang good football player. In any game you can have a bad game," said Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri. "We're expecting him to come in here and play his best, and we have to play our best."

Tennessee, which allowed 721 yards to Troy last Saturday, has struggled against offenses in the Missouri mold. But Franklin's propensity for interceptions last week has to be somewhat encouraging for the Vols. Turnovers were supposed to be a hallmark of this year's defense, but after forcing four in the opener against North Carolina State, the Vols have recovered four fumbles and made six interceptions in eight games.

After the painkiller tiff earlier in the season, Pinkel has rallied around his embattled quarterback. The expectations for the season haven't been met, Pinkel said, but it's not on Franklin's shoulders alone.

"This is not a normal 'the guy's having a tough year.' He's having a tough year because a lot of things have happened to this guy. He's been through hell," Pinkel said on Wednesday's SEC teleconference. "But this is all going to make him tougher. The quarterback's got to have that mental resiliency, that mental toughness. He's getting that. He's getting calloused up a little bit. That's OK. That'll make him a better player down the road.

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

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Comments » 29

rockytopjeff writes:

If our defense stays true to form. Franklin may be able to get into The Heisman Trophy discussion after Saturday

VolFanUSNavy writes:

Yeah, we have a way of bringing out the best in our opponents. I am guessing he throws 2 and runs for 2.

born2ride writes:

If a QB is struggling - playing UT's defense is a blessing.

killervol69 writes:

I'm confident CSS will have our guys ready to play an "explosive" game. bahaha. Also, this article neglected to mention Missouri's vaunted defense, which held the gators to 14 points last week in the swamp. After the UT debacle last week with Troy, I'm figuring this will be SEC loss #6 for our beloved Vols. Nontheless, Our family will be gathered around the TV rooting the Vol's on. GBO!

underthehill writes:

I am taking UT to win ..if Bray plays the whole game and don't quit or panic when pressured ..UT has a chance..he seemed to gain a lot of confidence in the S Car game..the defense has to just react to the action and not think about what they have to do..I think they will..thankfully..Lakeshore is closed...they won't be coming after me for this unreasonable prediction...

West10Vol writes:

Unless Sunseri oversleeps due to the early start and misses the game, Franklin is likely to have a big day.

pcorange writes:

I doubt that Mizzou is as good as SC, and we played them close. We should beat Mizzou, but we'll definitely have to outgun them to do it. No chance we hold them under 30.

Vols20 writes:

in response to rockytopjeff:

If our defense stays true to form. Franklin may be able to get into The Heisman Trophy discussion after Saturday

Now, that's funny right there! I don't care who you are...that's funny!

movol53 writes:

If our defense holds true to form Ray Charles could throw for four TD's against us. The problem is Franklin is very good when he is healthy and as someone has already pointed out above we tend to allow our opponents to find a star or two when they play against us.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to killervol69:

I'm confident CSS will have our guys ready to play an "explosive" game. bahaha. Also, this article neglected to mention Missouri's vaunted defense, which held the gators to 14 points last week in the swamp. After the UT debacle last week with Troy, I'm figuring this will be SEC loss #6 for our beloved Vols. Nontheless, Our family will be gathered around the TV rooting the Vol's on. GBO!

Did it also neglect to mention Florida's offense ranks 103rd in the country and Mizzou's is 112th? When two teams with bad offenses and good defenses play each other, one of them is going to get an ugly win. Did it also fail to mention how their vaunted defense gave up 533 yards to Alabama's #48 offense (at home)?

I'm not as concerned as you, apparently.

I also have a question. Why was the Troy game a debacle? I know we gave up record yards to them, on account of our defense's tendency to give up the big play, but try to remember Troy's offense is #15 in the country -- higher ranked than ours! When you run a hurry-up offense against a team that also has a very good offense, you can expect your defense to be on the field for a lot of snaps and give up a lot of yards. Troy ran 99 plays!

Geofffourmyle writes:

in response to 10seVol85_Part_Deux:

Did it also neglect to mention Florida's offense ranks 103rd in the country and Mizzou's is 112th? When two teams with bad offenses and good defenses play each other, one of them is going to get an ugly win. Did it also fail to mention how their vaunted defense gave up 533 yards to Alabama's #48 offense (at home)?

I'm not as concerned as you, apparently.

I also have a question. Why was the Troy game a debacle? I know we gave up record yards to them, on account of our defense's tendency to give up the big play, but try to remember Troy's offense is #15 in the country -- higher ranked than ours! When you run a hurry-up offense against a team that also has a very good offense, you can expect your defense to be on the field for a lot of snaps and give up a lot of yards. Troy ran 99 plays!

The Troy game was a debacle because Troy ran 99 plays.

How about because it was another negative first for a Dooley coached UT team - most yards ever given up by a UT team.

CarlChilders writes:

Perhaps the D will suddenly "find" themselves the way Crompton did.... Nah.

JDX47 writes:

I am not worried at all about this game. Dooley is focusing on defense this week, so it will all be OK now.

82cat writes:

Just saw the you tube video of the 9 yr old girl Sam Gordon you should watch it she is amazing.

My first thought was how many yards she would put against UT's defense she averages over 200 yards per game and has 35 td's

Then I realized she was a girl and only 9 yrs old so we could probably hold her under 100
unless her coach let's her run the qb draw or catch passes then it would be a toss up.

CrankE writes:

Dooley is "helping" defense now, so hold off on that Heisman talk for Franklin.

UT might have their best game of the year on both sides of the ball. Which would be encouraging in September. If it happens now though, it means that Dooley shifted his emphasis from offense to defense about 9 games too late.

JDX47 writes:

in response to 82cat:

Just saw the you tube video of the 9 yr old girl Sam Gordon you should watch it she is amazing.

My first thought was how many yards she would put against UT's defense she averages over 200 yards per game and has 35 td's

Then I realized she was a girl and only 9 yrs old so we could probably hold her under 100
unless her coach let's her run the qb draw or catch passes then it would be a toss up.

Did it mention how far she could throw it? If she can chunk it a long way, she could just wait til 3rd down and throw it as hard as she can and one of the 4 recievers that out ran our secondary could just catch it.

VOL1972 writes:

Missouri seems to be having the same kind of season we had last year, a lot of injuries. Had Bray and Hunter stayed healthy last year, we would have had at least gone 6-6 and made it to a bowl (Bray was not healthy when he played Kentucky).

The difference here is Franklin got hurt early and their 5 star receiver, Dorial Green-Beckham, got suspended for smoking pot just before the Vandy game (which is probably why Vandy was able to beat them at their place). They are both back now and very capable of righting the ship.

If we have any chance a all beating them, Dooley needs to calm down and work on fixing the 3-4, the defense it has just started to get comfortable with. We were mostly playing a 4-3 against Troy which did nothing but add to the defense's confusion.

pcorange writes:

in response to VOL1972:

Missouri seems to be having the same kind of season we had last year, a lot of injuries. Had Bray and Hunter stayed healthy last year, we would have had at least gone 6-6 and made it to a bowl (Bray was not healthy when he played Kentucky).

The difference here is Franklin got hurt early and their 5 star receiver, Dorial Green-Beckham, got suspended for smoking pot just before the Vandy game (which is probably why Vandy was able to beat them at their place). They are both back now and very capable of righting the ship.

If we have any chance a all beating them, Dooley needs to calm down and work on fixing the 3-4, the defense it has just started to get comfortable with. We were mostly playing a 4-3 against Troy which did nothing but add to the defense's confusion.

We've been playing a mostly 4-3 since Mississippi State.

caverunner writes:

in response to rockytopjeff:

If our defense stays true to form. Franklin may be able to get into The Heisman Trophy discussion after Saturday

Very true! I expect Franklin to have a record setting day! But this defense would make a 2nd team high school quarterback look like a Heisman Contender. As long as we have this group of coaches, our opponents have nothing to worry about. The best we can hope for that another subpar season will send CDD packing. I'm not anti-CDD just anti loosing and he, CDD, has shown that that he is way in over his head. He should do the Honorable thing and resign after this season!

caverunner writes:

in response to VOL1972:

Missouri seems to be having the same kind of season we had last year, a lot of injuries. Had Bray and Hunter stayed healthy last year, we would have had at least gone 6-6 and made it to a bowl (Bray was not healthy when he played Kentucky).

The difference here is Franklin got hurt early and their 5 star receiver, Dorial Green-Beckham, got suspended for smoking pot just before the Vandy game (which is probably why Vandy was able to beat them at their place). They are both back now and very capable of righting the ship.

If we have any chance a all beating them, Dooley needs to calm down and work on fixing the 3-4, the defense it has just started to get comfortable with. We were mostly playing a 4-3 against Troy which did nothing but add to the defense's confusion.

we really cant make the excuse that bray was was not healthy when kentucky beat us last year. remember, they had a wide receiver playing quarterback that beat us, so we cant even say, well, if bray were healthy last year we would have done.......etc.

Geofffourmyle writes:

in response to 82cat:

Just saw the you tube video of the 9 yr old girl Sam Gordon you should watch it she is amazing.

My first thought was how many yards she would put against UT's defense she averages over 200 yards per game and has 35 td's

Then I realized she was a girl and only 9 yrs old so we could probably hold her under 100
unless her coach let's her run the qb draw or catch passes then it would be a toss up.

ROFL!!

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to caverunner:

we really cant make the excuse that bray was was not healthy when kentucky beat us last year. remember, they had a wide receiver playing quarterback that beat us, so we cant even say, well, if bray were healthy last year we would have done.......etc.

Sure we can. UK barely had 200 yards of total offense and scored only 10 points. With a health Bray throwing the ball on target, I think it's fair to say we would win. I also think it's fair to say we would have beaten SC last season if Bray weren't injured. We damn near did it anyway.

VolGrad writes:

in response to pcorange:

We've been playing a mostly 4-3 since Mississippi State.

Depending on the call/read, a 3-4 based defense can look like anything from a 3-5 to a 5-2. It often appears to be a 4-3 when one of its outside linebackers lines up on the LOS. That is one of the main reasons CDD wants it installed because of the multiple looks it offers. The Steelers even have a 1-5-5 and 2-4-5 variant of the darn thing. But you need some big athletes at DL and solid, speedy LB on the outside to either rush or drop into coverage. We don't yet appear to have all the pieces in place.

LCPanthers (Inactive) writes:

Tennessee-45
Missouri-35

whatthe84 writes:

Who knows about the Missou game. It could be a win for the Vols or they could fall flat on their face. I have decided that the UT football program in general is on the same plain as Mississippi State program. Let me explain; not this year mind you as MSU is better than UT no question. MSU is a program that will have a pretty good year every now and then and some will think they could make it to Atlanta but they probably will not. Their recruiting is pretty good but not real good and they have many 2 star recruits on their signing boards. Occasionally they will sign a big time player but they usually miss on them and settle for either lower rated players or sign those players who are rated high but have off the field issues that other programs pass on. The new normal is a much lower expectation level. The SEC title is really not attainable and even winning the division is not realistic either. Now, we must look to win a few conference games (thank goodness for Vandy and KY) and schedule some weak sisters to possibly become bowl elgible (Liberty, Weedeater bowl, other small bowls). The crowds will be less with visible seats empty. It is sad but I think it is the new normal for the big orange. The big time coaches who could pull us out are not interested and we don't have the stomach to make a tough call like Bobby Petrino who would come cheap and would bring back the fans and wins given time. Where am I going wrong? I think I have looked at this through clear lens and not orange colored glasses. We have fallen on hard times and it looks like the road will be rocky for sometime for ole rocky top.

illinoisvolfan writes:

KNS missed out on a good poll question -- Which James Franklin, Mizzou's or Vandy's, will have a better game against the Vols?

JDX47 writes:

in response to whatthe84:

Who knows about the Missou game. It could be a win for the Vols or they could fall flat on their face. I have decided that the UT football program in general is on the same plain as Mississippi State program. Let me explain; not this year mind you as MSU is better than UT no question. MSU is a program that will have a pretty good year every now and then and some will think they could make it to Atlanta but they probably will not. Their recruiting is pretty good but not real good and they have many 2 star recruits on their signing boards. Occasionally they will sign a big time player but they usually miss on them and settle for either lower rated players or sign those players who are rated high but have off the field issues that other programs pass on. The new normal is a much lower expectation level. The SEC title is really not attainable and even winning the division is not realistic either. Now, we must look to win a few conference games (thank goodness for Vandy and KY) and schedule some weak sisters to possibly become bowl elgible (Liberty, Weedeater bowl, other small bowls). The crowds will be less with visible seats empty. It is sad but I think it is the new normal for the big orange. The big time coaches who could pull us out are not interested and we don't have the stomach to make a tough call like Bobby Petrino who would come cheap and would bring back the fans and wins given time. Where am I going wrong? I think I have looked at this through clear lens and not orange colored glasses. We have fallen on hard times and it looks like the road will be rocky for sometime for ole rocky top.

I can buy some of this (current state especially), but I don't think I agree for the long haul. Miss St. has never been a top tier program. For the last 3 decades, TN has been a relevant school and contender in many years during that time (especially the 90's and 2000's). TN has put some of the all time greats on the field and in the pros. Even now, TN has the top rated pro prospect reciever (hunter) and arguably as good a one in number 84. Great history of pushing folks to the pros.

I think that TN can compete for recruits with the right coach and I believe we can get the right coach!!!

caverunner writes:

in response to 10seVol85_Part_Deux:

Sure we can. UK barely had 200 yards of total offense and scored only 10 points. With a health Bray throwing the ball on target, I think it's fair to say we would win. I also think it's fair to say we would have beaten SC last season if Bray weren't injured. We damn near did it anyway.

what i'm saying is that UK beat us WITHOUT them having a quarterback. we could use the same argument to say that if UK had their starting qb, they may have really poured it on us, seeing what they did to us without having a qb. besides, its time for us to stop blaming everyone and everything and just admit it...CDD is in way over his head and really doesn't know what should be done..."damn near doing it" doesn't translate into a win no matter how you dial it up. CDD needs to resign or be terminated. I don't know of anyone who wants settle for what CDD has brought to the University of Tennessee Football program!

sambad writes:

in response to movol53:

If our defense holds true to form Ray Charles could throw for four TD's against us. The problem is Franklin is very good when he is healthy and as someone has already pointed out above we tend to allow our opponents to find a star or two when they play against us.

You should have said Stevie Wonder. Ray Charles has left the building.

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