COLUMBIA — Will James Franklin play Saturday?
Not even his coach knows.
Besides Franklin, the Tigers only had one other injury to report Monday. Senior defensive lineman Marvin Foster (eight tackles in 2013) has a torn bicep tendon and underwent surgery on Sunday evening.
After years of battling injuries, his final season is likely over.
"He’s had a great year. (The injury) was real emotional for him,” Pinkel said.
This looks to be another week shrouded in mystery for the senior quarterback who injured his right (throwing) shoulder against Georgia on Oct. 12.
On Monday afternoon, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said that the decision of whether Franklin is healthy enough to play would be made by the medical staff Thursday. He declined to speculate further because he would then be speaking “strategically.”
Pinkel did, however, comment on the play of fill-in starter Maty Mauk, who tossed three first-half touchdowns in a 31-3 rout of Tennessee on Saturday.
“It’s very rare when your backup quarterback can play close to what your starter can play,” Pinkel said. “I feel fortunate that Maty’s done a good job.”
Franklin was not made available to the media Monday for the third straight week, so Mauk was again the center of attention when he arrived. Fresh off a performance in front of the home crowd that included 114 rushing yards, he addressed the uncertain quarterback situation.
“It’s James’ offense right now,” Mauk said. “When he comes back, I’m going to go back to my role of taking the (second-team reps), and while he’s not here, I’m going to prepare like I’m starting either way.”
Even if Franklin can’t go Saturday, Mauk will still be able to hold his own against his Kentucky counterparts; the Wildcats’ usual starter — Jalen Whitlow — had been battling an ankle sprain before coming back against Alabama State last week. Maxwell Smith is also expected to play in a two-quarterback system that the Wildcats utilized against Missouri last season.
Defensive coordinator Dave Steckel said that it doesn’t matter which quarterback is on the field. The Tigers will prepare the same way for both.
“I look at the video, and I worry about our guys getting in the right place to go tackle,” Steckel said. “I don’t even get into their psychology. I barely know my psychology. I think they’re asking them both to do the same thing."
He did seem a bit more concerned about stopping Kentucky’s usual starter, however.
“Whitlow played against us last year,” Steckel said. “I think he’s a heckuva athlete. I think his accuracy is getting better. I think he has a little more confidence in his scheme.”
After playing two straight games against teams with significant quarterback questions, Pinkel expressed his disbelief that the Tigers would once again be facing an opposing quarterback that might not be 100 percent.
“We’ve got more teams with quarterback problems than I’ve ever seen,” Pinkel said. “Their starter is supposed to be back, apparently, but we’ve got to be prepared for both.”
The quarterback Pinkel will be most concerned with, though, is Franklin. Listed as “questionable” on the injury report, the team will likely hold him off the field until the Ole Miss game Nov. 23.
Mauk is beginning to get the sense that he would be making way for his senior teammate soon.
“You could tell the other day at practice that he was putting some stuff on his throws, and he’s looking good,” Mauk said. “So it’s just a matter of time until he comes back, and he’ll take it back over.”
Supervising editor is Erik Hall.