Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel took the podium at SEC Media Days on Tuesday in Hoover, Ala., and answered one of the biggest questions surrounding his program.
James Franklin is the Tigers’ starting quarterback. For now.
Pinkel said the quarterback competition will remain open through August, but that Franklin had established himself as the frontrunner in spring practice. After missing time with various injuries in 2012, Franklin showed more toughness and leadership in the spring.
“He’s a remarkably tough kid, remarkably competitive,” Pinkel said in his news conference. “I really felt bad for him (last season).
“He had a great spring, he’s healthy now. I think he’s driven like we all are to get back to winning. That’s what we do at Missouri,” Pinkel said.
Franklin, who represented Missouri at the SEC Media Days along with Pinkel, wide receiver L’Damian Washington and linebacker Andrew Wilson, has tried to block out the criticism he received last season and expects the offense to mesh better this season.
“Being upset about it isn’t going to change it,” Franklin said in an interview with ESPN. “The only thing I can do is get better, so why focus on the negatives?”
While injuries hindered the offense in 2012, Pinkel thinks the Missouri’s offensive skill position players could be the best the program has seen since current Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was in Columbia. But the quarterback play needs to improve for the offense to realize its potential.
“You have to be able to distribute the ball and we didn’t distribute the ball like we need to,” Pinkel said.
“Your quarterback has to produce in this offense. That’s what we expect to get done."
With more than 1,200 media credentialed for the SEC Media Days, every word from players and coaches was examined under a microscope. But Pinkel insisted that no final decision will be made on Missouri’s starting quarterback until mid-August.
Despite Franklin being one of three players chosen to accompany Pinkel to Alabama, Maty Mauk and Corbin Berkstresser are not out of the running just yet.
“He’s just a great representative of our program,” Pinkel said. “That’s how I choose to bring players here.”
Video clips of Washington and Wilson talking to the media are included below.
Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.
On Tuesday, the SEC also announced the TV schedule for the first weeks of the 2013 season. Missouri plays Murray State on Aug. 31, and it will be available on pay-per-view with the time to be announced. The Toledo game on Sept. 7 will air on ESPNU at 2:30 p.m. CT.