Pinkel's announcement of starting QB should have started with an "Oh, I didn't see you there..." http://t.co/2W8PIhySC1— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) August 16, 2013
As we've been predicting since basically last November, James Franklin will be Missouri's starting quarterback when the Tigers take the field against Murray State on August 31. Gary Pinkel confirmed it last night, but the writing had been on the wall for quite a while.
This is good news. We have no idea how Franklin will play when the games actually start (though if he's healthy, we have a pretty good idea), but he didn't back into this job. He seized control of it with a steady spring, a good summer, and, apparently, an outstanding scrimmage on Thursday.
QB No. 1
MUtigers.com: Gary Pinkel Names James Franklin as Starter
The Trib: James Franklin named Missouri's starting QB
The Missourian: James Franklin named Missouri football's starting quarterback
Post-Dispatch: Pinkel makes it official: Franklin will start
KC Star: James Franklin named starting quarterback at MU
PowerMizzou: Franklin wins the job
The Missourian: Seven questions remain about Missouri football
Starting at their own 30-yardline and going against the #2 defense, senior QB James Franklin his senior WR L'Damian Washington on a 17-yard gain, and following an incompletion, that same duo hooked up for a 53-yard catch-and-run touchdown, as Washington broke one arm tackle attempt right after the catch, and turned on the burners to outrace everyone to pay dirt and the first score of the day.
That was the start of a big day for both seniors, as Franklin ended the scrimmage 16-of-21 passing for 189 yards and two touchdowns, while Washington had five receptions for a scrimmage-high 92 yards and the one score. Franklin would later lead the top offense to a 60-yard touchdown drive against the #2 defense, this one ending in his five-yard scoring strike to junior WR Jimmie Hunt. To end the day, Franklin led a two-minute drive down to the 19-yardline against the second string defense, with the big plays coming on a 14-yard pass to senior WR Marcus Lucas on 3rd-and-long, and a 12-yard strike to junior WR Bud Sasser to take the ball down to the 19-yardline.
Redshirt freshman QB Maty Mauk also threw for a pair of touchdowns Thursday, as did sophomore QB Corbin Berkstresser and freshman QB Eddie Printz, while freshman QB Trent Hosick had a single touchdown pass to his ledger.
Mauk's scores came on a 36-yard touchdown pass over the middle to senior TE Eric Waters (coming against the #1 defense) and later on an 11-yard strike to redshirt freshman WR Levi Copelin. Mauk would finish the day 12-of-20 passing for 150 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Both of the pickoffs came in the two minute drill, with the first one going to sophomore safety Ian Simon on a desperation 4th-and-long pass. The other pickoff ended the scrimmage for the day, as sophomore LB Kentrell Brothers jumped a seam route and took a knee to secure the win for the defense. That brought the turnover total to three on the day, as sophomore CB Ernest Payton had grabbed an interception midway through the scrimmage against Printz, returning the ball some 35 yards the other way before being pushed out of bounds.
Speaking of coming on strong -- you like these segues? -- Kony Ealy continues to get Missouri fans' hopes up with some good performances. Ealy had two "sacks" Thursday, one that would have been an absolute neck-snapper if this weren't touch football because he came from Mauk's blind side and probably spooked him when he tagged his shoulder. Mauk never saw him coming. Lucas Vincent had another good scrimmage as well. He blew up a draw play and had 1.5 "sacks." Even though he was shaken up after one play when the offense was going all NASCAR, and Marvin Foster was skuh-reeeeeeeming at him to get up. Touchy.
Speaking of screaming, Michael Sam got a little too rough with Mauk on one of the defense's 10 sacks -- he pushed him down -- and Gary Pinkel loudly, sternly warned him not to do that. Has Sam forgotten what he did to his defensive coordinator's tricep so soon?
Passing game takes flight in scrimmage
As well as Franklin threw the ball today, his deep and tall collection of receivers were outstanding. Dorial Green-Beckham caught the first pass of the day, an 8-yarder from Franklin — then touched the ball just once more the rest of the day. But plenty more options emerged. Tight ends Sean Culkin and Eric Waters were especially productive running down the seam on play-action passes. L’Damian Washington used his speed on the outside. Darius White made a couple nice grabs along the sideline in coverage. Marcus Lucas was effective out of the slot. Franklin has no shortage of weapons in the passing game — and there’s nothing short about them either. I’ll touch on this more in Friday’s Post-Dispatch, but I’m not sure I’ve seen a group of Mizzou receivers with so much size. If the pass protection holds up, Franklin will have some time to throw up some jump balls.
On the flip side, the defense clearly misses cornerback E.J. Gaines, who’s out until at least early next week while recovering from a strained patellar tendon. Missouri lined up Randy Ponder and John Gibson at cornerback in its No. 1 base defense most of the day, and in the nickel package, moved Ponder inside to cover the slot and played with Gibson and Ernest Payton on the outside — and sometimes Xavier Smith and David Johnson on the outside. Either way, quarterbacks took turns poking holes through the defense, nibbling on the outside while picking up big gains over the middle and down the seams.
Redshirt freshman Sean Culkin, the projected starter, hauled in four passes for 48 yards and a touchdown, while senior backup Eric Waters had three catches for 80 yards and a touchdown. Freshman tight end Jason Reese didn’t catch a pass, but Missouri coach Gary Pinkel still included him in the list of players at the position that can make an impact.
"That’s a pretty good 1-2-3 punch," Pinkel said. "All of them weigh over 245 pounds, so they can do some things for us."
One of the big story lines coming out of the first scrimmage was a good number of high snaps. On Thursday, that problem seemed to be rectified. The only bad snap came when the first-team offense went against the first-team offense and Evan Boehm bounced a snap. Other than that, it was clean -- and that includes back-up Brad McNulty, who received more snaps with the top offense, as well.
"Snap-wise, we did much better," Gary Pinkel said. "Evan certainly is the starter, Brad I think is doing a pretty good job overall, but there's a guy who really responded to it. Like I said before, I hang myself out here just telling you, you should go through a season without a bad snap. That's the way it is.
"He worked real hard. He wasn't perfect, he was a little bit off, but for the most part, it was much better."