COLUMBIA — After being riddled with injuries in their first season of Southeastern Conference football, the Missouri Tigers look to get off to a fresh and healthy start in their second season in the SEC, beginning with Murray State on Saturday.
Missouri began 2012 with high hopes for their inaugural season in the SEC, but the injuries soon began to pile up. The offensive line almost never had the same week-to-week lineup and starting quarterback James Franklin was never able to get comfortable because of injuries to his head, shoulder and knee. The Tigers managed to finish 2012 with a 5-7 (2-6 SEC) record.
Looking to this season, Missouri plans to begin the season in near-perfect health. Coach Gary Pinkel, trying to maintain that health, made changes to the fall practice schedule, such as eliminating two-a-days.
Vahe Gregorian of The Kansas City Star reports it would help the program if the Tigers can get off to a 5-0 start, but Missouri will have to get through opponents such as Indiana, Toledo and other FCS school Arkansas State. The fifth game is Missouri's first SEC game, against Vanderbilt.
Blair Kerkhoff of The Kansas City Star has picked Missouri to finish 8-4 (4-4 SEC), ending the season with a trip to the Music City Bowl.
Franklin key to success
Missouri's success, much like last season, will depend on the health of Franklin. The quarterback shined in 2011, Missouri's final season in the Big 12, accounting for 3,846 total yards and 36 touchdowns. But losing three games to injury and limping through many others in 2012, Franklin accounted for only 1,678 total yards and 12 touchdowns.
Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote Franklin is mentally ready after getting through one of the most difficult setbacks to his career.
Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star also wrote about Franklin, saying he has "vowed to become stronger, both physically and mentally."
Franklin's improvements showed at times during fall camp.
In 3 scrimmages, James Franklin completed 64.7 % of passes, 431 yards, 7.8 yards per attempt, 5 TDs, 1 INT, 164.1 QB rating.— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) August 23, 2013
Missouri quarterback James Franklin is pressured and rolls out for a pass against Central Florida last year. Franklin is trying to stay healthy going into the 2013 season. (Photo: Stuart Palley/Missourian)
Henry Josey makes his return
Franklin isn't the only one the Tigers are looking forward to having back this year. Running back Henry Josey will return to the team after missing the entire 2012 season. It will be his first game in almost two years.
Henry Josey runs against Iowa State in the 2011 Homecoming game. He suffered a knee injury against Texas in 2011 that sidelined him for all of 2012. (Photo: Jeremy Jardine/Missourian)
This couldn't have took any longer almost game time again been a long time coming, so grateful for this opportunity #blessed— Henry Josey (@I_AM_HJOSEY20) August 24, 2013
Missouri kicks off the 2013 season against Murray State of the Ohio Valley Conference, a team that finished 5-7 in 2012.
Ricky Martin of the Murray Ledger & Times reports the Racers will have more offensive weapons available to them this year, especially with Ole Miss transfer Maikhail Miller.
The first game of the season usually serves as a warmup game for the Tigers. Missouri handily beat Southeastern Louisiana last year 62-10.
While the game might not be close Saturday, it usually serves as a time for the backups to get some playing time. Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Maty Mauk, who competed with James Franklin for the starting job through fall camp, is ready for his backup role. Mauk will most likely get some playing time this Saturday. Franklin wasn't named the starter until Aug. 15.
The Tigers are hoping for a much stronger SEC season, but as the SEC Digital Network video below shows, they'll have to make more big plays this year to make some noise in the SEC — all that while obeying college football's new rules, particularly those regarding targeting players.
Supervising editor is Frank Russell.