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Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Who are the rising stars at quarterback?

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

ESPN's Brock Huard named his five quarterbacks in the "next wave" of stars, and topping the list?

None other than Missouri's James Franklin.

Writes Huard:
Sturdy, strong and athletic, Franklin is the most powerfully built of the quarterbacks mentioned here. He's been thrown right into the fire this season with road tests against the Arizona State Sun DevilsOklahoma SoonersKansas State Wildcats and Texas A&M Aggies in his first eight games as a starter.

Franklin had his first signature win in College Station last weekend, and the early adversity he has faced in his career will pay dividends for him and the program in the future. Franklin has weathered the brutal schedule with 13 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 61 percent completion percentage, plus an additional 542 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. He is calm, oblivious at times in the pocket, and his unwavering poise has won over head coach Gary Pinkel.

"This guy has a chance to be special," Pinkel said. "He is further ahead at this time in his career than the three quarterbacks who preceded him."

In case you didn't know, Pinkel's last three quarterbacks (Brad Smith, Chase Daniel, Blaine Gabbert) are all making a nice living in the NFL.

I'd agree with Huard. Franklin's been outstanding, one of a handful of great young quarterbacks in the league. Franklin's unorthodox passing mechanics present obvious questions, but he's hung tough in some really difficult situations. The 20-yard touchdown run against Texas A&M last week was arguably his best highlight of the seasons, with apologies to a clutch touchdown pass to Marcus Lucas against Arizona State.

Consider, also, that Franklin lacks an elite target at receiver or tight end like Danario Alexander in Gabbert's first year as starter or Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman or Martin Rucker in Daniel's first season.

Franklin's unusual calm in the pocket can look uncomfortably serene at times, but I see it working to his advantage in the future as his experience and accuracy grows.

His future looks promising, but he's not the only one in the Big 12. Which first-year starter has impressed you most this season? Vote in our poll.