Seven questions remain about Missouri football

Thursday, August 15, 2013 | 10:45 p.m. CDT; updated 7:34 a.m. CDT, Monday, August 26, 2013
The Missouri football team practices Thursday afternoon.

With seven days to go before the Tigers' final scrimmage of fall camp, here are seven questions we still need answers to.

1. Why wasn't James Franklin named starter sooner?

Coach Gary Pinkel finally made it official Thursday night, but answering his quarterback conundrum took a while. Franklin has really stepped up his game in the past two scrimmages, while Maty Mauk and Corbin Berkstresser continue to lose composure in the pocket and make poor decisions.
On Thursday, the senior captain completed 16 of 21 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns. And for the first time in a long time, he avoided any major errors in a game situation.
Mauk, meanwhile, was erratic. He threw a couple nice balls that went for touchdowns, but was subpar in the two-minute drill at the end of practice that resulted in two interceptions and several other reckless decisions that should have increased his turnover total.
It would be surprising to see Mauk or Berkstresser take any important snaps against Murray State on Aug. 31.
2. How big of a jump will DGB make in his second year?
Dorial Green-Beckham had the same number of blocked punts (one) as catches on Thursday. While it's nice to have the extra asset on the punt return team, that's probably not what Missouri coaches had in mind when they signed the nation's No. 1 recruit in 2012.
The consensus in spring practices was that this was going to be Green-Beckham’s breakout year. He was heavily targeted during practices, but when the official scrimmages came around, there have been few designed passes in his direction. In fact, it’s been Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington who have flashed big-play potential in the past two scrimmages.
“He’s practicing well,” Pinkel said. “It’s probably wise for us to give him the ball.”
3. Will Henry Josey ever be the same?
The speed is there. So is the clean bill of health. But Josey has yet to make a splash this year. His performance in the Black & Gold Spring Game and two fall scrimmages were devoid of big plays. He’ll have one more chance to break a big run in next Thursday’s scrimmage before that low yards per carry number (2.64 in this year’s three simulated games) starts counting for real.
“I’m not too worried,” Josey said. “I’m just working on my craft and working on the fundamentals.”
4. Can the Tigers count on making the big kicks?
After a good scrimmage Saturday (4-for-5 on field goals attempts), Andrew Baggett had a day to forget Thursday. He missed kicks of 36, 37 and 38 yards to finish 3-for-6 on the morning. The last miss was most costly; after a long drive by the offense in the two-minute drill, he drilled the “game-winning” kick off the left upright from 37 yards away.

5. Can the Tigers count on a freshman opposite E.J. Gaines?

Washington was just trying to help John Gibson, but it didn't appear that way during Missouri's second scrimmage of camp.

Washington, a senior wide receiver, was lined up on Gibson, a freshman cornerback, to start the scrimmage. On the first play from scrimmage for the offense, Washington beat Gibson in coverage for a 20-yard catch and run. A learning moment.

"I'm just trying to help him out," Washington said. "When I'm on the field, I'm teaching him also."

Washington told Gibson, who has been his roommate all summer, that he needed to do a better job of getting into the wide receiver's chest. He tried to boost his confidence, not wanting the freshman to lose faith in his talent.

On the next play, Washington tore that confidence down, catching a screen pass and busting through Gibson's attempt at an arm tackle on his way to a 53-yard touchdown.

"It's kind of hard," Washington said when asked about beating his roommate. "I feel good for myself when you go out for the offense and you score.

"John Gibson, he's a tough guy. He's going to bounce back. I know his personality. This isn’t going to phase him at all."

6. Will Missouri's defensive star be ready to go on opening night?

With senior cornerback E.J. Gaines out with a strained patellar tendon, the entire passing offense was able to take off.

Franklin and Mauk combined for over 300 yards passing and four touchdowns, feasting mostly on Gibson, Randy Ponder at cornerback and Matt White at safety.

“E.J’s a great corner. That’s why he’s going to be one of the best in the SEC one of the best in the country.

Definitely when a guy like E.J.’s missing, you’re going to have a huge impact.”

While Green-Beckham doesn’t get matched up on Gaines often during practice, he said the coverage schemes the defense was running made it easy to tell the star was missing. He also struggled when asked who besides Gaines was the toughest corner to face.

“Besides E.J.?,” Green-Beckham said with a pause. “I mean, Randy (Ponder) and David (Johnson) are both really good corners. I would say it comes down to those two.”

Green-Beckham’s hesitation and the passing offense’s production are just two more signs that the Tigers’ secondary needs a healthy Gaines if they want to keep points off the board in 2013.

7. Can the Tigers' tight ends continue to balance blocking and receiving when the games count?

After a quiet first scrimmage, Missouri’s tight ends broke out Thursday. Starter Sean Culkin hauled in four passes for 48 yards and a touchdown, while his backup, Eric Waters, caught three passes for 81 yards and a touchdown.

The tight ends have been focused on blocking throughout fall camp. Both Waters and Culkin have added weight to get over 240 pounds in an effort to open more lanes for the running backs.

On Thursday, offensive coordinator Josh Henson set them free, and it opened the offense up for more big plays.

“That’s going to be tremendous,” Washington said.

“Whenever we can switch it up from four receivers to three receivers and have one of those guys come in and make plays like that, it just adds to the offense."

Supervising editor is Greg Bowers. 

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