COLUMBIA — You can find plenty about Missouri coach Gary Pinkel’s recent decision to officially anoint James Franklin the starting quarterback here and here, but after Friday’s practice, Pinkel also elaborated on the looming possibility of redshirt freshman Maty Mauk earning snaps on designated drives on a game-by-game basis.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
“We’ve done that in the past,” Pinkel said. “We did that with James a little bit. We did that with Chase Daniel quite a bit also. It works best, obviously, if he’s ready to play. It works really well for your football team if you can do it. Sometimes you can’t, sometimes it just doesn’t work, but we’re without question considering it, we just want to see him to continue to get better.”
Specifically, Pinkel said the staff would like to see Mauk improve his decision making, though he acknowledged there’s a thin line between coaching him up and limiting his creativity.
“There is (a line) in how you coach him a little bit because (that’s) part of what he is, that he can make plays,” Pinkel said. “But what we’re trying to get him to do more is make sure he just stays with his reads because he can create, we know that. He’s getting better and better at just reading safeties and going to the right side or left side with the progressions. He’s getting a lot better at that, a lot better than he was in the spring, and certainly a lot better than he was probably seven, eight, nine, 10 practices ago.
“So it will still go back to the fundamentals. You execute the fundamentals, things break down, then you create. Also sometimes, if he’s out there with the twos and threes against the one defense, he’s probably thinking of creating the second he gets the ball. I think there’s a little bit that goes with that.”
Pinkel said the decision to name Franklin the starter over Mauk didn’t come lightly.
“People have to also understand we just don’t go into practice and say ‘Hey, he played pretty good,’ then move on,” Pinkel said. “We do a thorough analysis of every position — and certainly quarterbacks — so that we’re making good decisions. We’ve discussed it many, many times…it serves us well. We probably over-talk personnel compared to most staffs, but that’s my background. I think when you talk personnel consistently and the whole staff is in there, you tend to make better decisions.”
Pinkel was then asked exactly when he decided to name Franklin the starter.
“The scrimmage went the way it did and then we just continued the process,” Pinkel said. “I didn’t at three o’clock just go ‘Bingo, he’s the guy.’ It’s been going on or a while.”
Payton makes a case for playing time
Based on the stretch lines for Friday’s practice, Missouri’s second scrimmage of the preseason yielded only a handful of changes.
Most notably, sophomore cornerback Ernest Payton — who had an interception in the scrimmage — now appears to be the top backup to cornerback E.J. Gaines. He replaces redshirt freshman John Gibson, who is now the backup to senior Randy Ponder at the other corner.
Pinkel spoke at length Friday about the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Payton, who appears to be making a push for playing time. In Mizzou Network’s practice report from Friday, you can see him making a play on the ball at the 2:05 mark.
“A corner that size, it almost scares you because there’s very few corners that are as big as he is,” Pinkel said. “(You ask) really can he cover, really can he play the position because he’s got more like safety size and if you put a few pound on him, he can probably be a linebacker.”
Pinkel was then asked what the College Station, Texas, native — who made a failed transition to safety this spring — can do to make sure he improves his agility.
“He’s doing it,” Pinkel said. “(With) how difficult that position is to play, typically (you want) smaller guys because they have to have the movement. The big thing with corners is you have to recover. All corners get beat, the good ones recover. We constantly work on those techniques all the time.”
Payton, who finished with two tackles last season, actually backed that up recently. While the transition to safety didn’t take, he did enjoy working with safeties coach Alex Grinch, who used to coach cornerbacks.
“I’ve been working on it,” Payton said. “The drills he had, they really helped me with my hips. So when I came back to corner, I started opening up quicker and making a big impact.”
Other depth chart movers and shakers
*Sophomore David Johnson, who was demoted from second string to fourth string following the first scrimmage, is making a move back up the depth chart. He is now the third-team corner behind Payton and senior E.J. Gaines.
*Junior Duron Singleton, who was cleared academically by the NCAA a week ago, is now listed as the fourth-team free safety behind Matt White. He was previously the fifth-team strong safety.
*Redshirt freshman Jordan Williams has essentially switched spots with junior Stephen Carberry on the offensive line. Williams is now the second-team right guard while Carberry slips into Williams’ old spot at third-team right tackle. Offensive coordinator Josh Henson recently dentified Williams as a player who could help this season when he mentioned the staff has asked Williams to get experience at both guard and tackle in practice.
*You can find an updated version of Missouri’s updated depth chart here.