Healthier Missouri football team expects more wins

Healthier Missouri football team expects more wins

July 30th, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Missouri quarterback James Franklin was hampered by shoulder and knee injuries last season after totaling 3,846 yards as a sophomore.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

MISSOURI

• Camp start: Thursday

• Opener: Murray State in Columbia (par-per-view)

• Fun fact: Missouri went from 12th nationally in total offense (475.5) in 2011 to 96th last season (356.4).

• Coming Wednesday: South Carolina

So just how injury-riddled was Missouri's offense during its debut football season in the Southeastern Conference?

A healthy offensive line in a 12-game season combines for 60 starts, but the Tigers last year had 23 total starts for the guys who had earned particular line jobs in the preseason. Only one offensive lineman started all 12 games, and that was true freshman guard Evan Boehm, who was penciled in as a backup this time last year.

Quarterback James Franklin was able to start eight of 12 games, and he was unable to finish two of those eight.

"I'm not going to use it as an excuse, but there were definitely times when it affected us more mentally than physically," Franklin said at SEC media days. "We let it affect us more mentally, and it kept us from doing what we wanted to do. I'm not saying we were going to win a championship or anything, but we definitely would have been better than 5-7."

Missouri entered its new surroundings on a record seven-year tear in bowl appearances, and Franklin was a chief reason the Tigers were considered potential challengers to Georgia and South Carolina in the SEC East race. The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder from Corinth, Texas, had a dazzling sophomore season in 2011, throwing for 2,865 yards and rushing for 981 in totaling 36 touchdowns.

Missing time after a shoulder injury against Georgia and a knee injury against Vanderbilt last season, Franklin compiled just 1,684 yards and did not have a rushing touchdown. He had 15 as a sophomore.

"My sophomore year I ran the ball around 200 times," Franklin said, "and last year I didn't get anywhere close to 100. It was definitely different, because I had never gone through something like that before. I didn't like it too much."

Nor did Tigers coach Gary Pinkel, who had strung together six consecutive eight-win seasons before getting worn down by his walking wounded.

"Last year was different from any other time since I've been in coaching," Pinkel said. "I had never lost a starting quarterback for a game or two at all, which was very unusual for us, and our last three quarterbacks [Brad Smith, Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert] are playing in the NFL. James had more injuries than I think any I've ever had combined.

"He pretty much played about half the season."

Missouri has eight offensive starters back this season, a total that does not include tailback Henry Josey, who missed last season after a gruesome knee injury in November 2011. Josey rushed for 1,168 yards in 10 games two years ago.

Also not included is receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, the top prospect nationally in the 2012 signing class who came on at the end of last season. With Franklin, the tailback tandem of Josey and Marcus Murphy, and the receiving trio of Green-Beckham, Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington, Pinkel believes he may have the best offensive skill combination since 2007 or '08.

"We're ready to win some games," Franklin said. "This has been the longest offseason that any of us have had since we've been here, because we didn't play in a bowl game."

Franklin's teammates are ready to see the same player who dazzled as a sophomore stay healthy.

"James is a big believer in faith and that everything happens for a reason," Washington said. "I think he has a big chip on his shoulder this year -- not to go out and prove other people wrong, but just to go out and show that, 'Hey, I'm the quarterback of this team.' I'm looking forward to it.

"I'm a James Franklin fan. I'm happy that he's back there under center again and that he's 100 percent healthy."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.