Campus Corner

Mizzou Mailbag: James Franklin, wide receivers and more

Updated: 2013-11-01T20:54:25Z

By TOD PALMER

The Kansas City Star

— Finishing games was an issue for Missouri last season (think Syracuse).

It was also something the Tigers had focused on in an effort to turn around the program’s fortunes after a 5-7 campaign in 2012.

“We made sure that we were building on the mistakes that we made last year, like not finishing in the fourth quarter,” senior wide receiver L’Damian Washington last week after Missouri improved to 7-0 by whipping Florida. “This year, in the fourth quarter, we’ve out-competed all our opponents and won the fourth quarter. That’s something we’ve been striving to do.”

Technically, Indiana and Vanderbilt tied the Tigers in the fourth quarter.

But the Hoosiers, who matched Missouri’s 14 fourth-quarter points, trailed 31-14 when the final stanza began and the Commodores, who matched the Tigers 7-7, trailed 44-21 when the final period dawned.

Overall, Missouri 82-30 in the fourth quarter before South Carolina overcame a 17-0 deficit to force overtime.

Whether the Tigers can bounce back remains to be seen, but that fourth-quarter magic has been a bit tarnished. On to your questions:

Well, when a team doesn’t pass, it’s hard for the receivers to not disappear. No coach is ever going to say publicly that he lacked faith in a player, but it was clear that Missouri’s staff wasn’t comfortable throwing the ball late in the fourth quarter. To me, that’s a lack of faith. But coach Gary Pinkel said he’d rather take the heat for being too conservative than set Maty Mauk up to fail and have to answer for a bad interception. Offensive coordinator Josh Henson admitted to second guessing a few calls, according to sophomore center Evan Boehm, but Boehm countered by saying the offense simply didn’t execute as well as it needed to on several critical fourth-quarter possessions.

Pinkel has said all along if Franklin is healthy, he’ll play. We don’t get updates after Monday on Missouri’s injuries, but the original timetable was three to five weeks. This would only be the third week, so I’d be surprised if he plays. I’ve been surprised before, though.

I think Dorial Green-Beckham is fine. He’s drawn a lot of safety help throughout the season. That might be the case again, considering that DGB snagged two touchdowns in last season’s 51-48 win against Tennessee.

Personally, after talking to the players on Monday, I don’t think fears about how Missouri will recover from the South Carolina loss are warranted. The Tigers were down, but this is a team that learned a lot about trying to bounce back from tough losses last season. There’s so much still to play for this season, that I think it’s easier to rebound. Tennessee’s defense isn’t very good, so I think — whether Franklin or Mauk plays — Missouri will be able to move the ball and score points. The Volunteers have a great offensive line, but the Tigers counter with a strong defensive line. Factor in that Tennessee is starting a true freshman, whose only college experience came against Alabama last week, and Missouri has a clear edge in my mind.

It’s hard to speculate, but every player wants to play. There will be competition — and I suspect a very intense competition — to replace Franklin. Now, part of it depends on what options a player might have. Would you rather be a backup at Missouri or have a chance to at UTEP? The Tigers are an SEC team and transferring to a better program in the SEC probably isn’t going to happen. Plus, there’s a lot of pride at stake. I don’t think guys rise to the top echelon of college football by running scared from challenges and competition. The other factor at play is that quarterbacks seemed to be dropping all across college football. Injuries present opportunities. Missouri knows that well after the last two seasons, so I bet the Tigers will work very hard to protect that depth it has at QB.

Well, most of the Tigers’ line returns and there are plenty of big boys running around still, like Blue Valley’s Clay Rhodes. Not getting a chance to watch practice, I can’t say with any authority, but Missouri is probably in good shape.

He’s a Bednarik semifinalist. Many NFL scouts project him as a late second- or third-round pick. Every one of Missouri’s opponents has Sam in mind when building its game plan. He’s regarded as one of the best defensive players in college football and many believe he’s having the finest season of any defensive end in the country. Several publications dubbed him a midseason All-American. Sam, who was a freshman All-American three years ago, almost certainly will get All-American love after the season. He’s very highly regarded. Sure wish we could talk to him.

Eye of the beholder, Matt. I just don’t see a one-loss team, even from the Southeastern Conference, playing for a national title this season. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but I think it’s far more likely Florida State, Oregon and Ohio State are all undefeated at season’s end. I also think there’s a good chance one-loss Florida State, Oregon and Ohio State teams would remain ahead of Missouri in the human polls, based on reputation if nothing else, which would affect the Tigers’ chances to claim one of the coveted top two spots. I’ve followed Missouri far too long to believe the breaks are going to go their way. Besides, Alabama — need I say more? Here’s the article for reference.

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.

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