Missouri free from serious injuries heading into season opener

Missouri cornerback E.J. Gaines, shown here recovering a fumble during last season’s game against Florida in Gainesville, Fla., will play Saturday after missing time in the preseason with a knee injury.

Missouri cornerback E.J. Gaines, shown here recovering a fumble during last season’s game against Florida in Gainesville, Fla., will play Saturday after missing time in the preseason with a knee injury. Photo by The Associated Press.

COLUMBIA — Something was missing when Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel met with the media Monday: There was no injury report.

After a tumultuous 2012 season that saw offensive lineman after quarterback after more offensive linemen go down, the Tigers are just four days away from opening the 2013 season 100 percent healthy.

“It’s been a good camp because we’ve stayed healthy most of the time,” Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said as the Tigers prepare for Saturday’s season opener against Murray State (6 p.m., PPV-TV). You can’t practice with a unit if you’ve got three, four guys out on each side of the ball and get better as a unit. It’s very, very difficult.”

At this time last year, Missouri was already dealing with a patchwork offensive line. It would only get worse as the season wore on, with quarterback James Franklin eventually catching the bug.

But this year, only minor injuries popped up in camp. Cornerback E.J. Gaines suffered a slight knee injury and missed about a week of camp. He said Monday he is 100 percent. Center Evan Boehm missed a day with a strained foot and running back Henry Josey missed a day with a sore hamstring. Other than the normal bumps and bruises, Missouri came through injury free.

“It’s nice not playing musical chairs,” left guard Max Copeland said.

It also gives the Tigers another boost. Pinkel said it’s clear there has been a morale boost due to the lack of injuries.

“I think there’s no question there’s quite a confidence when everyone’s preparing, and everyone’s working hard and you’ve got the same guy lining up next to you,” Pinkel said.

A morale boost is something that could greatly benefit Franklin this year after he missed all or parts of six games last season with a concussion to go along with knee, shoulder and rib injuries. It took him several seconds to think about it before he could rattle off all the injuries he suffered last season.

“If you get a composite of all the quarterbacks I’ve coached over the years, 25 years or so, he had more on one body for one year than I had for 25 years,” Pinkel said. “That’s very difficult.”

Franklin added: “It’s something I pushed through and I was able to be a little bit successful last year.”

Pinkel said this year’s relative injury-free camp was a combination of luck as well as the decision to get rid of two-a-day practices. He said not having two-a-days didn’t necessarily prevent injuries, but helped with players’ recovery process.

“The best teams I’ve been around, the prerequisite is you have to be healthy because if you’re not practicing you can’t get better. In a unit, if you’re putting people back and forth, it’s a lot difficult to get people better.”

Notes: Pinkel said barring injuries the only two freshmen likely to play this season are defensive tackle Josh Augusta and cornerback Aarion Penton. That means former Jefferson City linebacker Joey Burkett will likely redshirt. Augusta played high school ball in Peoria, Ill., where he was one of the state’s top 10 recruits according to Rivals. Penton was considered the state’s 15th best recruit out of C.B.C. in St. Louis. Both are listed at third on the depth chart at their respective positions. The only freshmen who played last year where receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, running back Russell Hansbrough and Boehm ... Pinkel reiterated a decision would be made Thursday whether or not to give backup quarterback Maty Mauk planned reps during Saturday’s game.

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