Missouri quarterback James Franklin, who struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness his junior season, will have to beat out two challengers for the job in fall practice.
Coach Gary Pinkel said after the annual Black and Gold game Saturday that he'd announce a pecking order for quarterback and every other position next week. He said Franklin had his best spring with the team, but said sophomores Maty Mauk and Corbin Berkstresser also had good springs.
“Competition is good,” Pinkel said. “It's great to me that it goes right into August.”
Franklin, who injured his shoulder last spring and was sidelined by a knee injury and concussion during a 5-7 season, said he didn't mind competing for the position. He thought he had the advantage Saturday and expects to be No. 1 heading into the fall.
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“I hope so, yes sir,” Franklin said. “We'll see what happens.”
To help solidify his spot, Franklin plans on working on fundamentals learned at a camp in California like footwork.
“It's the little things, so I don't have to come out thinking about it, just try to get the muscle memory down,” Franklin said. “So spring ball's over, it doesn't mean we don't play catch, we don't run routes, we don't work on footwork, things like that.”
Missouri was 5-7 in its first season in the SEC, struggling on both sides of the ball. Pinkel pinned the school's first losing season since 2004 on too many costly mistakes rather than a step up in competition.
“The SEC, and I'm going to be very honest with you, was no different than I thought it was going to be,” Pinkel said. “It was a very difficult year, we know that, but I feel very good about our program.
“I would suggest that we are a bit driven because it was the first time in eight years we haven't gone to a bowl game, and we've got a lot of pride.”
Franklin's spring in 2012 was cut short by shoulder surgery and during the season he missed time with a knee injury and concussion. He had 10 touchdown passes with seven interceptions. Berkstresser started four games and had five touchdown passes with seven interceptions.
“It's hard to play quarterback if you make a lot of mistakes,” Pinkel said. “When a guy's covered, don't throw to him.”
As a sophomore, Franklin threw 21 touchdown passes with 11 interceptions and added 15 rushing touchdowns. He got banged up last season on keepers and in new offensive coordinator Josh Henson's system, which players are still absorbing, he anticipates running a lot less.
Missouri, which ran a lot of empty backfield sets in the past several years, will generally have a back in the scheme this year. Henson said there'll be a lot more straight-ahead runs, too.
In general, Pinkel placed the blame for Missouri's first losing season since 2004 on too many mistakes. He didn't believe the move from the Big 12 to the SEC was a factor.
“If you want to be a good offensive team, you can't get penalties, you can't take sacks, you can't turn the ball over,” Pinkel said. “If you do all those things, guess what, your offense has a chance to be successful.
“We traditionally over the years have been pretty good about not beating ourselves and we've got to get back to that.”
Defensive lineman Matt Hoch made one of the top plays against the second-string offense, leaping to deflect a pass by Berkstresser and then making a diving interception. Michael Sam had two sacks
On offense, Russell Hansbrough had a 30-yard reception to the 1 to set up a scoring run by Henry Josey and sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham had three catches for 49 yards.
Missouri must replace defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, expected to be drafted in the first round after leaving after his junior season, plus leading rusher Kendial Lawrence, wide receiver T.J. Moe, defensive end Brad Madison and linebacker Zaviar Gooden.