COLUMBIA — On Monday afternoon, James Franklin spoke with the media for the first time in five weeks.
Missouri at Mississippi
When: Saturday at 6:45 p.m.
The senior captain is getting a second lease on a season initially feared to be lost, finally healed from a right shoulder injury suffered against Georgia in early October.
“I was a little upset that day,” Franklin said. “And then the next day, I was talking to my dad about all the things in life. There’s a lot more to be upset about. … So the next day, I was pretty upbeat, and I felt a lot better about it.
“I was just thankful that it wasn’t something worse where I was gonna have to get my arm amputated or something like that.”
Franklin will regain control of a Tigers team that has been very good — but not perfect — since he guided them to a 6-0 start. Redshirt freshman Maty Mauk faded in a loss to South Carolina, but he’s held his own with 11 touchdowns in the past four games.
Mauk has been good enough, in fact, that coaches felt they didn’t have to throw Franklin onto the field against Tennessee or Kentucky.
“We were told that (Franklin) could play if he had to,” Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said. “But the ideal thing was him not having to play at all.”
The decision paid off.
“I think it was the right move, hindsight being 20-20,” Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. “Maty played well in the Kentucky game, and we were able to get through that game healthy.”
Now, Franklin is “100 percent cleared,” according to Pinkel, and the senior has two more regular season games that will determine Missouri’s postseason fate. He said he doesn’t worry about playing in December or January, though; he doesn’t even think these final games will define his career.
“I pretty much feel like my legacy’s already been determined,” Franklin said. “I’m not really concerned about how these last few games are gonna go.”
Missouri has much on the line in the coming weeks. The team must win its final two games — at Mississippi and vs. Texas A&M — in order to make it to Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference Championship on Dec. 7. If the Tigers lose to the Rebels or the Aggies, the chances of the school making its Bowl Championship Series debut become slim.
Thanks to great play from both of its quarterbacks, Missouri is in position to make history. Pinkel didn’t have any second thoughts as to which one gives his team a better chance to win.
“Our general rule is if a backup player comes in and plays better than the starter — consistently better than — we’ll consider keeping him in that spot,” Pinkel said. “But if he doesn’t, we just go right back to the starter.
“Maty’s done a great job. We all know that.”
But not great enough to warrant an overhaul of the depth chart. Mauk will play Saturday night — Pinkel said the decision of how much will be made Thursday — but it’ll take another unlucky hit to put him back in the starting role.
“I probably won’t try bulldozing over anybody,” Franklin said. “But I’m not really worried about it.”
Supervising editor is Erik Hall.