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TIGERS REPORT ARCHIVE: Missouri players' 2012 season before Saturday's Florida game

Saturday, November 3, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT
Missouri defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson tackles Kentucky quarterback Jalen Whitlow during the second quarter of the Tigers' game against the Wildcats at Memorial Stadium.

COLUMBIA — Here is a look at the Missourian's archive of coverage available to our digital subscribers about the Missouri Tigers' 2012 football season. We will be updating the archive every week to include the Missourian's newest stories about the Tigers.

Last Saturday, in Missouri's 101st Homecoming game, the Tigers defeated Kentucky 33-10 to earn their first SEC victory. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson had another dominating performance, including an early fumble recovery that gave the Missouri a huge mental boost. Also, James Franklin relieved Corbin Berkstresser of his duties in the third quarter to add to the Tigers' revolving door at quarterback.

James Franklin: an up-and-down ride

James Franklin started his 2012 campaign looking healthy. After having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right (throwing shoulder), Franklin recovered in time for Missouri's fall camp in August. Before the season, Franklin and the Tigers' coaching staff were concentrating on pushing the ball downfield with the vertical passing game. At the home opener against Southeastern Louisiana, Missouri didn't need to throw the ball much, with Marcus Murphy's punt returns and Kendial Lawrence's runs powering the Tigers to an easy 62-10 win.

But, after a crushing home loss to Georgia, in which Franklin was hammered by the Bulldogs defense and threw a costly fourth-quarter interception, a bounce-back game was expected when Arizona State came to Columbia. Instead, Franklin surprisingly sat out because of an inflamed bursa sac in the same shoulder he had surgery on in March. Before the game, Franklin refused painkillers.

His decision to not play attracted attention from prominent Southeastern Conference radio personality Paul Finebaum, who said Franklin needed to "man up." But Franklin will hardly take allergy medication, let alone painkillers. Earlier this week, Franklin said he has been taking a "secret remedy" to help his injured knee. According to Franklin, the mystery potion contains milk, but he didn't elaborate further.

After so-so performances against South Carolina and Central Florida, Franklin continued to be a mystery to Missouri football fans. He might even like that. But, he certainly hoped to play better against Vanderbilt. Franklin started strong, leading the Tigers to two straight scoring drives to open the game. However, during a 23-yard scramble that set up a Missouri field goal in the first quarter, Franklin took a helmet to the knee and sat out the rest of the game after the drive. He sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee on the hit.

At Missouri's 101st Homecoming game against Kentucky, Corbin Berkstresser started again for the Tigers. But after the first half, Franklin was brought in to try to spark the offense. Despite his knee not being 100 percent, Franklin played well and helped Missouri pull away from the Wildcats for a 33-10 win.

Corbin Berkstresser: a trial by fire

After James Franklin injured his right shoulder, Missouri's backup quarterback was forced to start against Arizona State. Corbin Berkstresser, a redshirt freshman, took the reins from Franklin after the Tigers' usual starting quarterback declined painkillers to treat an inflamed bursa sac in his throwing shoulder. In his first career start, Berkstresser led the Tigers to a 24-20 victory over the Sun Devils. Franklin reclaimed the starting quarterback position in Missouri's game against South Carolina. However, a hit to the knee on a scramble against Vanderbilt forced Franklin out of the game again. The injury was diagnosed as a sprained MCL.

Berkstresser was once again called upon to be the Tigers' substitute signal caller. To the dismay of Missouri fans, Berkstresser and the offense could not move the ball. The following week, Berkstresser was finally able to prepare as Missouri's starter, and he said he would not be afraid to take hits from a hard-hitting Alabama defense. With Berkstresser failing to get the Missouri offense into the end zone, though, the Tigers were crushed by the Crimson Tide.

DGB receives mixed reviews

The buzz surrounding Dorial Green-Beckham heading into this season was unlike anything Missouri football fans have encountered for a while. "DGB" chants quickly became a popular thing to shout around Columbia. During training camp, Green-Beckham had to learn the team's playbook and establish himself as a reliable target for quarterback James Franklin. After catching just six passes for 48 yards in Missouri's first four games, Green-Beckham finally made a big impact for the Tigers by catching 80-yard touchdown pass against Central Florida. Offensive coordinator David Yost talked about getting the talented 6-foot-6-inch wide receiver more involved in the team's passing game.

But less than a week after the game, Green-Beckham and two other Missouri players were arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession. Many Missouri fans expressed their feelings about the arrest on social media sites. Green-Beckham was suspended for one game. He returned for Missouri's home contest against Alabama but did not catch a pass in the game.

Elvis Fisher faces an old enemy: injury

When left tackle Elvis Fisher tore the patellar tendon in his left knee before the 2011 season, his career at Missouri seemed like it had come to an end. But when the NCAA granted his medical hardship waiver, Fisher was determined to return to Faurot Field for one more year. On Sept. 1 against Southeastern Louisiana, Fisher's goal became a reality — once again he was starting for Missouri.

Unfortunately, Fisher's luck turned sour again and the 6-foot-5-inch, 300-pound offensive lineman went down against Georgia with a strained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. Luckily for Fisher, the injury did not require surgery. He spent the next few weeks watching Missouri from the sidelines. Now, Fisher has re-entered the Tigers' lineup and is continuing to start in his sixth season at Missouri.

Sheldon Richardson becomes a dominant force

Sheldon Richardson prepares thoroughly for opponents. During the summer, he watched hours of game film of teams on Missouri's schedule. But Richardson's "old-man football" comment, referring to Georgia's style of play, received considerable media attention. As a result, he was withheld from speaking to reporters for weeks. Instead, Richardson let his play do the talking. And, while he has since been allowed to speak to the media again, Richardson has continued to be a standout defensive player for Missouri.

During the first drive of Missouri's Homecoming game against Kentucky, Richardson made a momentum-changing play. With the Wildcats going in for a score, Richardson forced a fumble, recovered the ball and ran 60 yards to set up the Tigers' first score.

Kendial Lawrence takes advantage of an opportunity

For the past two years, Missouri has had a deep pool of talent at tailback. In 2011, Kendial Lawrence was supposed to be the team's starter. But, after breaking his left fibula in practice early in the season, Henry Josey stepped up and had a magnificent year: he ran for 1,168 yards and nine touchdowns in only nine games in 2011. Because of Josey's success, when Lawrence returned, he only played a minor role in the Tigers' offense. The roles have been reversed in 2012, with Lawrence being showcased as Missouri's top tailback as Josey sits out the entire season.

T.J. Moe holds out hope for a successful season finish

This season has been tough for T.J. Moe. Named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list before the year began, Moe and the other Missouri receivers have been frustrated by the offense's lack of scoring prowess. Moe grew up as a big Tiger football fan in O'Fallon and in coming to play at Missouri, he hoped to establish himself as one of the great players of his generation.

Gahn McGaffie rises to the occasion

As a fifth-year receiver, Gahn McGaffie knew he had to step up and make an impact this season. A certain caped crusader helps motivate McGaffie to play better. McGaffie likes Batman so much, he has a tattoo of the bat symbol across his back. He also has "Rise" written on all of his gloves so McGaffie never gets down on himself. According to McGaffie, Batman is his inspiration because he's the only superhero without superpowers.

E.J. Gaines musters added motivation, shines in secondary

Against Arizona State, E.J. Gaines had something to prove to himself. After a poor performance versus the Sun Devils in 2011, Gaines made sure he showed up to play this time around. In the game, Gaines made multiple big plays, including a 44-yard punt return all the way into the opposing team's red zone. When Missouri lost to South Carolina the following weekend, however, Gaines and the team's secondary took some responsibility for the defeat.

Marcus Murphy makes history

Marcus Murphy sat out the entire 2011 season and had never returned a punt in college before, yet he knew what to do. Against Southeastern Louisiana, Murphy returned two punts for touchdowns — something that had never been done in Missouri football history. With Kendial Lawrence performing well as Missouri's tailback, Murphy found a home as a returner. At Central Florida, Murphy returned his third punt for a touchdown this season, fueling a 21-16 victory for the Tigers. The touchdown broke the Missouri record for return touchdowns in a season and tied Murphy with Jeremy Maclin for most career return touchdowns.

Andrew Baggett looks for a measure of consistency

Sometimes things don't begin the way you hoped they would. Andrew Baggett's first field goal in high school was not what he hoped for. When Baggett won Missouri's starting kicker job before the season started, there were obvious questions about the redshirt freshman's ability to kick under pressure in a big college football game. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and his coaching staff expressed confidence in the young kicker but wanted to get Baggett off to a good start. Against Southeastern Louisiana, Baggett kicked for nine extra points, making eight of them. The Tigers passed up several long field goal attempts because Pinkel said they had a specific yard line they set as the maximum range for Baggett. Since the first game, Baggett is 8-for-12 on field goals.

Kony Ealy cares about animals — a lot

Before the season started, Kony Ealy became better simply by battling with veteran offensive tackle Elvis Fisher. Fisher, a stalwart on Missouri's offensive line for years before getting injured, had high praise for Ealy during fall training camp. Ealy started off his sophomore campaign well in 2012, recording 1.5 sacks in his first two games. He also let outsiders know a little about his personal life — more specifically his love for animals. So far this season, Ealy has 3.5 sacks, a forced fumble and 21 tackles including 6.5 for a loss.

Donovan Bonner is Missouri's most versatile linebacker

Missouri figured to be solid at the linebacker position in 2012 with Will Ebner, Zaviar Gooden and Andrew Wilson all retaining their roles as starters. But because of injuries, Donovan Bonner practiced with the first-team defense a lot during training camp. That valuable practice time allowed Bonner to become a versatile weapon, who could fill in at any linebacker position for the Tigers.

Max Copeland gets weird

Max Copeland is a fiery young man. The only Tiger football player who hails from the Treasure State of Montana, Copeland brings a passionate edge to the Missouri offensive line. Every day, Copeland tries to impart that attitude onto his fellow offensive linemen. They prefer to term it "getting weird."

Kip Edwards, the defensive back, the comedian and the barber

Missouri football players don't need to go to a barbershop to get their hair cut — Kip Edwards provides that service for them. Edwards, a starting cornerback for the Tigers, isn't just a good football player. He's also a talented hair stylist.

 

Will Ebner resumes his role as starting middle linebacker

Will Ebner knew he was in line to be Missouri's starting middle linebacker this year. But, he was in the same position in 2011 before the season began. In the Tigers' opening game last year against Miami of Ohio, Ebner suffered a high ankle sprain and a concussion. Pinkel and his staff eventually chose to redshirt Ebner so he would be eligible to play in 2012. The decision seems to have paid off: Ebner is currently Missouri's second leading tackler this season despite missing one game with a hamstring injury.

Supervising editor is Frank Russell.


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