COLUMBIA — Nothing has changed for James Franklin as he stands at the middle of the Missouri football practice field leading the stretches on Friday morning.
The captain barks out instructions to his teammates the same way he has done every morning since fall camp began. When individual drills start, he’s confident and loose.
• L’Damian Washington was held out of practice with a heel bruise. The senior wide receiver and captain smacked his foot getting out of bed on Friday morning.
“If it was some other kid, I would say, ‘Hmm, I don’t know about that,’” coach Gary Pinkel said. “But he’s a good kid.”
• Senior cornerback E.J. Gaines is still sidelined with a strained patellar tendon.
• Pinkel on making the decision to go with James Franklin at quarterback: “He’s practicing right now as well as he’s ever practiced since he’s been here,” Pinkel said. “It will be fun to see him go through the year injury free and be able to do the things he’s capable of doing.”
Coach Gary Pinkel announced Franklin as Missouri’s starting quarterback in a video on his website Thursday night, but it hasn’t changed a thing for Franklin.
His approach is the same; his mind-set is the same; even his relationship with Maty Mauk, who he beat out for the starting job, remains unchanged.
If anything, Mauk and Franklin seem to have opened up. They joke in between reps, and Franklin offers the freshman encouragement.
Maybe there’s a bit of closure or relief for Franklin in being named the starter. But if there is, he won’t admit it. Other than having to keep his phone charged from the influx of messages, things are business as usual for Franklin.
“My Twitter feed is blowing up,” Franklin says, smiling. “That’s about it.”
Everything Franklin has been saying he has backed up with his actions. His spring break trip to California to work with renowned quarterback coach George Whitfield, the added sense of urgency in spring practice, and his no-nonsense approach to fall camp had nothing to do with winning the starting quarterback job.
All of those things had everything to do with righting the wrong from Missouri’s 5-7 season a year ago.
“I’m excited to play some games this year, win some games,” Franklin said. “I want to see what we can do on offense. I’m excited about that.”
Franklin may not have been thinking about the quarterback competition, but his teammates were. If for no other reason than it’s all anyone outside of the program was talking about.
Pinkel put an end to that Thursday night.
"It was just the right time do it,” Pinkel said after Friday's practice. “I didn’t want to wait any further on that. James has certainly done really, really well and deserves to be there. He’s practicing right now as well as he’s ever practiced since he’s been here.”
So with that, Friday marked the final day Franklin will be asked where he thinks he stands in the quarterback race, when he expects a decision or anything else related to his starting job.
Instead, Franklin spent time Friday answering questions about his faith, his family and, believe it or not, football.
And even if Franklin isn’t showing his excitement or relief, his teammates aren't shying away from voicing their support.
“It’s always in the team’s best interest to have someone who’s been there and knows what they’re doing,” senior tight end Eric Waters said. “James is the right guy.”