If Missouri needed senior quarterback James Franklin to come off the bench and close out a win against Tennessee last Saturday, coach Gary Pinkel said he was available.
Pinkel also said that duty would have been limited and Franklin, who suffered a sprained shoulder in the fourth quarter Oct. 12 at Georgia, would not have played an entire half.
Still, Franklin warmed up and seemed to throw the ball with ease before the Tigers curb-stomped the Volunteers 31-3.
Both Pinkel and Missouri’s backup quarterback, redshirt freshman Maty Mauk, have publicly declared on several occasions that when Franklin is healthy, he’ll return to the starting lineup.
For now, though, Pinkel won’t (or perhaps can’t) tip his hand about Franklin’s availability for Saturday’s 11 a.m. kickoff at Kentucky.
“It’s the same thing,” Pinkel said. “The medical staff will make a decision probably Thursday on what we’re going to do and we’ll go from there.”
Pinkel didn’t get into specifics about the progress of Franklin’s recovery, which was expected to take three to five weeks.
“Anything I would discuss — A, B, C, D — would be strategically, and I’m not going to discuss that,” Pinkel said.
Franklin’s services, of course, weren’t needed against an overmatched Tennessee team.
That could be the case again with No. 9 Missouri facing a Kentucky team that has lost 12 straight Southeastern Conference games and dropped its season opener against Western Kentucky.
Only time will tell. Pinkel and Mauk certainly won’t.
“It’s James’ offense right now, so when he comes back I’ll go back to my role of taking the twos,” said Mauk, who is 2-1 as a starter in Franklin’s absence.
Mauk has completed 40 of 86 passes for 707 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions in his three starts.
Meanwhile, Franklin ranks fifth in passing efficiency (156.2) in the SEC. He had completed 132 of 195 passes for 1,577 yards with 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions in six starts.