Football Tigers set to open fall practice today

Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel speaks to the media during SEC media days last year in Hoover, Ala.

Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel speaks to the media during SEC media days last year in Hoover, Ala. Photo by The Associated Press.

How will Missouri respond to its first losing season since 2004? Is Gary Pinkel on the hot seat? Will James Franklin start the entire season at quarterback? Will the offense look any different under new coordinator Josh Henson?

Some of those questions are close to getting answered.

Missouri unofficially opens its second year in the Southeastern Conference with the beginning of fall practice this afternoon in Columbia. There are no shortage of storylines.

After an injury-riddled first year in the SEC that saw the team slide to 5-7, more is likely expected of the Tigers. The question is how much more.

Senior quarterback Franklin returns for his third year leading the team. He’s hopeful it’s more like his first year than last year. Franklin excelled for the Tigers in 2011 when he threw for 21 touchdowns and more than 2,800 yards while rushing for more than 900 yards and 15 scores.

But injuries, tougher defenses and bad luck all meshed together into a difficult 2012 season. Now he is in a battle with redshirt freshman Maty Mauk for the starting job. Franklin is the front runner and Pinkel is expected to name a starter later this month.

While injuries can’t be predicted, the Tigers are certainly hoping to miss out on that boat after last year’s barrage of injuries to the offensive line put Missouri’s quarterbacks running for their life. To help cut down on the possibility of injuries the Tigers are not having any two-a-day practices this year.

Henson takes over as offensive coordinator after David Yost left in the offseason. It’s possible Henson might make tight ends a bigger part of Missouri’s offense. He coached tight ends under Les Miles at Oklahoma State and LSU. Missouri tight ends had just four catches last year.

Only time will tell if the Tigers can avoid back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 2001-02, Pinkel’s first two seasons at Missouri. Pinkel, in his 13th season with the Tigers is third all-time at Missouri history with 90 wins. He likely will pass Dan Devine (93) this year and is only 11 behind Don Faurot. But even with his gaudy numbers by Missouri standards, Pinkel took a lot of heat for last year’s struggles.

Camp runs through Aug. 22. The Tigers open the season Aug. 31 at home against Murray State.

The team will hold its annual fan day Sunday at Faurot Field. Players and coaches will sign autographs from 3:45-5:15 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

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