Franklin named starting quarterback for Tigers (VIDEO)

Coach Gary Pinkel announced Thursday that James Franklin will get the starting quarterback job with the Missouri Tigers.

Coach Gary Pinkel announced Thursday that James Franklin will get the starting quarterback job with the Missouri Tigers. Photo by The Associated Press.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The most interesting news from the Missouri Tigers’ scrimmage Thursday came hours after the event at Faurot Field.

In an announcement that had long been anticpated, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel announced he had decided to name James Franklin as the starting quarterback for the Tigers.

That came on the heels of the senior having a better effort than challenger Maty Mauk, a redshirt freshman, during Thursday’s workout.

Pinkel said both quarterbacks have been impressive during the preseason, but settling on Franklin was the right call for the team.

“James has shown that he’s very capable of leading this team at a high level, and we fully expect him to do that,” Pinkel said. “He’s really developed as a leader of this offense, and of this team, and we feel he’s ready to be the difference-maker he was before all of the health challenges he dealt with last season.”

Pinkel added Mauk has made positive strides, and the coaching staff is looking at giving him some planned series per game to provide him some experience.

“We have a history with that, and it’s something that has worked very well for us,” Pinkel said. “When Brad Smith was a senior, we had Chase Daniel as a freshman show that he earned a series or two per game, and that was tremendous for his growth. When Blaine Gabbert was in his last year here, James Franklin was a freshman, and we got him some work on a fairly regular basis, and we feel that was instrumental in what he was able to do the next year as a starter.”

The way the announcement came out, via a press release Thursday evening, was an odd move for Pinkel. However, he said the circumstances around the situation dictated it.

“Obviously, quarterback draws the most attention from media and fans, so we just felt like it made sense to end the speculation since we knew the course we’re taking,” he said.

The decision wasn’t much of a surprise, especially considering the reps during the first two scrimmages made it clear there wasn’t much of a competition.

Franklin has gotten all but a handful of snaps with the first team, with Mauk getting the leftovers.

When Franklin was asked Thursday morning if he knew when a starter would be named, he said he did not. He added, “The only time I think about the quarterback competition is when you guys ask me. Other than that I don’t really think about it at all.”

Franklin was sharp, as he completed 16-of-21 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Mauk finished 12-of-20 passing for 150 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Most of his work came with the second-team offense.

“Compared to last week I felt a lot better about myself,” Mauk said. “I was standing up tall and getting in there and making some plays.”

Both quarterbacks seemed more poised than in the first scrimmage, but Pinkel said he is hoping for more continuity out of the first- and second-team offense than he is seeing right now.

“I still think we’re dropping too many balls, or missing a guy open here or there,” Pinkel said. “I’m looking for perfection, that’s the bar I’m looking at. We push for that all the time and that’s what we try and get done.”

View the video of Coach Pinkel's announcement

III

MISSOURI’S DEFENSIVE LINE started bringing some pressure late in Thursday morning’s scrimmage.

So much so defensive end Michael Sam got carried away, knocking down Mauk at the end of a play. That’s a major faux pas when it comes to practice.

“(Stuff) happens, you know, that’s football,” Sam said with a smile. “Luckily I wasn’t somebody from Georgia or anything.”

While the line got an earful from Pinkel for the incident that could be heard up in the bleachers, it showed a group that is hungry to improve from last year, when hits on opposing quarterbacks were few and far between.

“First off, to afford us to get pressure, we need to stop the run,” Sam said. “We stop the run, force them to pass, then we get some sacks back there.”

Missouri finished ninth in the Southeastern Conference in run defense last year, allowing nearly 150 yards per game. It wasn’t much better getting to opposing quarterbacks.

Missouri had just 21 sacks last season, 12th in the SEC, ahead of only Tennessee and Mississippi State. With Sheldon Richardson now playing in the NFL, it only looks to get more difficult. But the line has a goal of at least 30 sacks this year.

“I think we can be pretty good up front if we can identify the guys up front who are second team that can play,” Pinkel said.

Flashes of that potential were on display Thursday. Although Missouri’s quarterbacks completed more than 64 percent of their passes and threw for nine touchdowns during the scrimmage, Franklin and Mauk were rushed at times, and Pinkel said he thought the quarterbacks took too many sacks and held onto the ball too long.

“I think we could have achieved that last year, but we had some adversity,” defensive end Kony Ealy said about reaching 30 sacks. “Even through that adversity, I feel like we could have gotten 30 sacks. I’m shooting for higher, 40.”

A total of 40 would likely put Missouri near the top nationally. That’s unlikely, but the line showed Thursday it has something to prove.

“Fine and good is not good enough for the SEC, especially if we talk about being one of the top five defenses in the SEC,” Ealy said. “I know we have that ability to do that.”

Ealy had two sacks and Sam had one during the scrimmage.

III

ONE RESERVE CONTINUED to turn heads during Thursday’s scrimmage.

Receiver Gavin Otte, a Rolla native and transfer from the University of Central Missouri, caught seven passes for 77 yards and three touchdowns. He’s listed third on the depth chart at the Y position and had nine catches for 74 yards in last Saturday’s scrimmage.

“We’ve been talking the last couple practices about him, the Gavin Otte show,” Franklin said. “He’s been making plays in practice, scoring touchdowns, making big runs and he’s continuing to do it.”

Cornerback E.J. Gaines did not participate in the scrimmage after injuring a patella tendon earlier this week. He is not expected to miss a significant amount of time.

Missouri returns to practice this morning.

The Tigers’ final scrimmage of camp will be held Thursday afternoon.

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