Missouri football team looking for respect

Missouri quarterback James Franklin prepares to pass Thursday in Columbia during the Tigers’ first practice of the season.

Missouri quarterback James Franklin prepares to pass Thursday in Columbia during the Tigers’ first practice of the season. Photo by The Associated Press.

COLUMBIA — When Missouri opened fall football camp last year, the coaching staff adorned shirts emblazoned with “Respect” on the back.

At the time the Tigers felt like they needed to earn the respect of the other members of their new conference.

Flash forward a year later and that seems to be the same goal, but for a different reason.

Missouri’s first foray into the Southeastern Conference was a struggle by any stretch of the imagination. A 5-7 record, just two SEC wins and a rash of injuries that would devastate even the most talented teams was just the beginning of Missouri’s problems.

So as the Tigers opened fall practice Thursday afternoon, it was clear players felt this year’s team has to get back to respectability.

“We’ve all been kind of itching since the last game, the Texas A&M game last year,” Missouri receiver Marcus Lucas said. “We’re just looking forward to this season.”

The excitement surrounding Missouri’s first year in the SEC went downhill quickly. At times Missouri looked like it couldn’t move the ball on offense and at times it couldn’t stop anyone on defense.

But with a fully healthy cast, the Tigers are confident they can return to their winning ways.

That includes senior quarterback James Franklin. In and out of the lineup with shoulder injuries last season, Franklin is fully healthy this year and ready to do his part to fix last year’s problems.

“We have the individual talent, we just need to come together better as a team,” Franklin said. “That’s one thing I think we struggled with last year. There were times we weren’t working together as a team. There were times we were trying to, but there were times we just didn’t have it yet. We’re doing a good job of working toward that.”

Franklin said there are some players on the team who have a chip on their shoulder, although he said it’s important to try to find the positives from last season and not dwell on the negatives.

“There’s just a lot of motivation for this season to do better than last year.” he said.

How Missouri responds this season may rest on who the starting quarterback is and how much — if any — the offense changes.

Head coach Gary Pinkel said after spring practice Franklin is the starter for now, but is still competing for the job with redshirt freshman Maty Mauk. There also is the question as to whether or not Missouri’s offense will change under new coordinator Josh Henson.

Little insight was offered about either situation Thursday. Pinkel said there would be “a little bit” of switching up quarterback reps in practice but would not elaborate.

Franklin was asked about changes to the offense but remained coy, only saying “maybe” when asked if the offense was less complex and easier to understand.

Who the starting quarterback is and how much Missouri’s offense changes will work itself out in the next three weeks of camp. But for now, Missouri just wants to make strides from last year.

“We’re going to try and get back to where we’re used to being,” Lucas said.

Notes: Practice continues at 7:15 a.m. today ... Franklin, receiver L’Damian Washington, linebacker Andrew Wilson and cornerback E.J. Gaines were named team captains. Pinkel did not say being a captain means a player is a starter. “For all the guys it’s the greatest honor you can get. Certainly (Franklin’s) well respected by his teammates,” Pinkel said. ... Dorial Green-Beckham was listed as a starter at receiver. He had been a backup on previously released depth charts.

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