Missouri’s highway into the SEC isn’t without potholes. The Tigers play a brutally difficult schedule, and quarterback James Franklin is shelved for an indefinite length of time.
Gary Pinkel said in his statement on Franklin’s shoulder surgery that the two-way quarterback would be “100 percent and ready to go for the season.” Even so, the Tigers’ top two offensive weapons will open the inaugural SEC campaign off long hiatuses. Henry Josey was having one of the best seasons of any running back in the country, before suffering a “one-in-million” knee injury.
Josey’s comeback is highly hypothetical at this time. Sporting News reported Josey will have a second knee surgery this month and only Josey seems confident of his 2012 return.
Franklin’s absence might lack severity were it not for Tyler Gabbert’s transfer. Gabbert left the program last spring when Franklin won the starting job. He’s now at UCF, where Jeff Godfrey left for FAU, thus completing the Circle of Transfer Life.
Tyler’s older brother Blaine was solid taking the reins from one-time Heisman Trophy finalist Chase Daniel. He threw for 40 touchdowns in his two campaigns as the starter and was mobile enough to facilitate the spread offense. Obviously Blaine and Tyler are not the same player, but the name might not hurt.
There’s little questioning Pinkel’s decision to turn the offense over to Franklin, rather than keep it in the Gabbert family. Franklin completed over 63 percent of his pass attempts, scored 21 touchdowns, rushed for just under 1000 yards and reached pay dirt another 15 times on the ground. And therein lies the problem.
MU hasn’t gotten much credit as a possible contender in the SEC, but a healthy Franklin gives Pinkel one of the conference’s top quarterbacks. His dual abilities are unrivaled by any play caller currently in the league. Franklin would be a rock of reliability under otherwise uncertain circumstances.
Compounding the uncertainty is who takes over top duties in the spring. Corbin Berkstresser has more prototypical quarterback size (6-foot-3, 225), and per The Columbia Daily Tribune looked good early into spring ball. But Berkstresser is an obvious departure from Franklin’s style. Dual threat quarterback Ashton Glaser has been in the program since 2009, but seen very limited opportunities — and probably fumbled his opportunity as is. In a microcosm of the Tigers’ tumultuous last few months, an arrest for speeding tickets capped a comedy of errors for him over the course of a day.
On the bright side, Pinkel’s squad didn’t lose to Norfolk State.