COLUMBIA — Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel was named one of 16 semifinalists for the Maxwell Football Club Collegiate Coach of the Year on Wednesday.
The nomination was just one more reminder of the impressive turnaround Pinkel’s Tigers have made this year. Missouri was 5-7 in 2012 — its first season of Southeastern Conference football — but the program has stormed back in 2013 with a 9-1 record and a chance to reach the conference championship game.
No. 8 Missouri at No. 24 Mississippi
When: Saturday in Oxford, Miss.
“We’re used to winning here,” Pinkel said in a Wednesday teleconference. “To have a year like that (and) be criticized, you know, ‘You can’t play in the SEC. You’re not good enough to be in the SEC.’ That’s understandable. A lot of people can take that approach, and I can see that.”
After seeing a much improved team in Columbia this year, the Maxwell Club — a prestigious award-oriented organization founded in 1935 — nominated Pinkel for one of its greatest prizes.
The 15 other nominees include SEC contemporaries Nick Saban (Alabama) and Gus Malzahn (Au Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State).
According to MUTigers.com, semifinalist voting for the award begins Thursday and continues until Dec. 2. When the list is whittled down to the finalists, a new round of voting will take place from Dec. 3 to Dec. 15, and the club will announce its winner Dec. 17.
“It’s exciting to be in this position,” Pinkel said of his team’s national status. “You can have a real good team and not be in the hunt for a championship. This is the fourth time in the last seven years — 2007, 2008, 2010 and now 2013 — where we’re taking a run at this.”
The No. 8 Tigers play the No. 24 Mississippi Rebels in Oxford on Saturday. Missouri needs to beat Mississippi and Texas A&M at home the following week in order to earn a spot in the SEC Championship in Atlanta on Dec. 7.
“Nobody’s talking about championships around here,” Pinkel said. “All we’re talking about is Ole Miss and our preparation to play our best football game.”
Tigers in the running for several other awards
Defensive end Michael Sam is one of 15 semifinalists for the Walter Camp Award (college football player of the year), one of 12 semifinalists for the Lombardi Award (best offensive lineman, defensive lineman or linebacker), one of 16 semifinalists for the Bednarik Award (best defensive player) and one of 18 semifinalists for the Ted Hendricks Award (best defensive end).
Sam, a senior, leads the SEC with 10 sacks and 16 tackles for loss.
Quarterback James Franklin is one of 16 semifinalists for the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award, given annually to college football’s top offensive player with ties to the state of Texas.
On Saturday, Franklin will make his first start since injuring his right shoulder at Georgia on Oct. 12.
Offensive lineman Max Copeland is one of 10 finalists for the Burlsworth Trophy, awarded by fan vote to the best former walk-on in the nation.
You can vote for Copeland or any of the other candidates online at BurlsworthTrophy.com.