SOUTHHAVEN, Miss. — There is bound to be anxiety the first time Missouri senior quarterback James Franklin drops back to pass Saturday against No. 24 Mississippi.
After all, Franklin hasnt taken any stressful snaps since Georgia linebacker Jordan Jenkins drove his throwing shoulder into the ground Oct. 12 after the Tigers three-year starter and captain threw a ball away near the sideline.
Franklin missed the next four games with a sprained shoulder.
Understandably, there are bound to be a few butterflies as Franklin picks himself up off the turf after that first hit, whenever it happens against the Rebels, but Missouri knows its inevitable.
We cant worry about that, Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said. Hes completely cleared.
Franklin resumed throwing three weeks ago. He warmed up against Tennessee and Kentucky.
Pinkel said doctors cleared him on a limited basis, but Franklin wasnt allowed to take any hits.
Had Missouris backup quarterback, redshirt freshman Maty Mauk, been injured in either of those games, Franklin could have played to save true freshman Eddie Printzs redshirt, but the Tigers would have been forced to use a severely scaled-down playbook.
Franklin made an appearance against Kentucky, handing off on all five snaps, but Missouri insists there wont be any limitations against the Rebels.
For his part, Franklin insists that hes not worried about taking that first lick, which the Tigers staff deemed inevitable.
If youre going to play, youre going to hit, Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. Thats just the way it is. Hes going to hit, and hes going to have to play through it.
Of course, the Tigers offensive line might dispute the assertion that Franklin has to get drilled.
We have to go out there and make sure as an offensive line that we keep James off the ground and keep James fresh and keep that white jersey with no stains on it unless he decides to run and slide, sophomore center Evan Boehm said.
Anyway, heres this weeks #MizzouMailbag:
I am a big fan of your columns! Im curious, what happened to the Mizzou Mailbag? I have been looking for it for weeks, but dont see it posted anywhere. Really enjoyed reading it!
Andrew Tawfik via email
Mom, is that you? Kidding, ask and you shall receive. Unfortunately, only one person replied to my Twitter pleas this week, so its going to be a short one. Im waffled between being discouraged more people dont have Mizzou questions for me and figuring I must be doing such a great job that Ive answered everyones questions. Well stick with the latter.
My answer appears below
Obviously, Missouri will win at least three games. Its tough to put an exact number on it, because Im not sure anybody knows how good this team can/will be yet. Obviously, the backcourt is terrific and can score a lot of points. With the new rules limiting hand checks and contact, Missouri should be OK transitioning into conference play. Last season, there were times the SEC (and really all of college basketball) felt like a football game broke out on the hardwood. With the ability of Jordan Clarkson and Earnest Ross to slash to the rim, the Tigers ought to have an advantage almost every night at the guard spots.
Of course, Kentucky is vastly improved. Florida is very good again. Ole Miss still has the leagues biggest wild card in Marshall Henderson, who can take over any game. (Of course, with Missouris length/defensive potential at the guard spots, the Tigers match up well against the Rebels.) Tennessee is going to be very good. Alabama is good again. The SEC overall is a much improved conference and Missouri was picked fifth in the league. Missouri also has a few rugged non-conference games, including UCLA and Illinois.
There are still big question marks on the interior. But if Tony Criswell stays active and plays like he did against Hawaii, if Ryan Rosburg continues to improve and if Keanau Post turns a corner a lot of ifs Missouri should be a very good team, very scrappy team. It should be a tournament-worthy team. If we assume the coaches are right, Missouri probably wins 11 or 12 games in conference. Id say they should win that many out of conference too, so I think 22-24 wins entering the SEC tourney would be a reasonable projection.