On Thursday, Coach Pinkel said that James Franklin was ahead in the QB competition, but that he hadn't separated himself to the point that the competition is over. On Saturday, during Missouri's final spring practice, in the Black & Gold Scrimmage, Franklin solidified his hold on the number one job, with a couple of TD drives, and another drive that resulted in a FG, that very well could have been a third TD drive. Franklin finished 13 for 21 passing, for 116 yards, and 2 TDs. More on that later.
On a windy, uncomfortably cool day, former players and recruits made up a large part of a sparse crowd, but for those in attendance, several Missouri players showed well, and gave the faithful plenty about which to be optimistic.
There was just one new injury to report, an ankle injury to Anthony Gatti, that is believed to be a sprain or strain.
Gatti's injury, along with the previous injuries to Elvis Fisher, and Austin Wuebbels, left the second-team offensive line a little short-handed, with a pair of walk-ons, in Max Coleman and John Birdwell, moving up onto the number two offense for most of the scrimmage. Each of the top three QBs took turns with the second-team offense, and Franklin produced a TD drive with that unit, but the defensive line was definitely having their way with that make-shift second unit.
Afterward, Coach Pinkel said that he felt 'pretty good" overall, about the spring.
Marcus Murphy returned the first kick-off, before Tyler Gabbert brought out the second-team offense. Brandon Gerau hauled in a pass from Gabbert, out along the left side, where he was immediately tackled by Mat White. Gabbert's pass attempt, intended for L'Damian Washington, was broken up by Kip Edwards. Marvin Foster chased Gabbert down for a sack.
Trey Barrow had another very good scrimmage, averaging 45 yards/punt. Gahn McGaffie was the first to return punts, and was followed by T.J. Moe, and Murphy.
James Franklin brought out the number ones. Moe picked up 15 yards on a speed sweep, before he was run out of bounds. Franklin's pass fell incomplete. Kendial Lawrence picked up about 3 yards on an inside run. Robert Steeples was in on the stop. Franklin's pass was just a little bit behind Michael Egnew. Braylon Webb was right there to break it up.
Murphy took an inside hand-off from Gabbert, and cut it up inside for 6 yards. Terrell Resonno burst through, and sacked Gabbert. Facing third and ten, Gabbert rolled right, under pressure from Foster, and threw the ball down the right seam. E.J. Gaines came up with the diving interception.
Franklin found Egnew over the middle for a first down. Jared Parham was in on the stop. De'Vion Moore took an inside hand-off, and took it around the left side, and picked up a first down, and then some. Michael Sam showed good pursuit, and ran Moore down. A couple of plays later, facing third down, Franklin found Kemp in the seam for what appeared to be the first down, inside the 5-yard line, but Kemp tried to take it to the outside, and was tackled just short of the marker. Grant Ressel made the short FG, with Brandon Gerau doing the holding.
Gabbert's pass attempt, intended for Gerau on the slant, was broken up by Trey Hobson. Gabbert hit Henry Josey with a swing pass out in the left flat. He was run out of bounds by Kip Edwards and Zaviar Gooden, after a short gain. Facing third and six, on his own 29-yard line, Gabbert came under an immediate rush from Brad Madison. Gabbert scrambled left, and threw the ball out of bounds.
Gabbert brought the starting offense out onto the field. He found Egnew for a first down near the left hash marks. It took several defenders to bring Egnew down. Then, the drive stalled.
Franklin came out with the second unit, and hit Murphy out in the left flat. Gooden came up and made the stop for no gain. The secon-down snap was on the ground, and Franklin covered it for a loss. Then, Franklin found Murphy again, and this time Murphy turned it up, and made his way into the end zone.
Gabbert was under some pressure, and rolled right, and threw the ball over Egnew's head, out of bounds. Gabbert found Jerrell Jackson on a slip screen for about 6 yards. Braylon Webb made the stop. Gabbert hit McGaffie over the middle, for a first down. Webb made the stop. De'Vion Moore took a hand-off, and started inside, then cut it back outside, and picked up a block from Eric Waters, for a big gain, before he was run out of bounds by Kenronte Walker, Darvin Ruise, and others. Gabbert hit McGaffie for a short gain. Marcus Malbrough came across, and threw Kendial Lawrence for a loss. Gabbert's pass attempt, intended for Waters, was broken up by Ruise. Facing 4th and four, from the 34-yard line, Gabbert's pass, intended for McGaffie, was underthrown, and fell incomplete.
Franklin did a nice job of standing in the pocket under pressure, and got the ball out to Murphy, who had lots of running room in front of him. Murphy looked up before he had secured the football, and dropped the pass that was right in his hands. That one may well have gone for another TD.
The spring belonged to the defense. Several young players have moved up the depth chart this spring, and others have improved their play. The Tigers are better along the defensive line, even with the early departure of Aldon Smith, and there's really not an observable drop-off in the back seven. Defensively, Missouri's deeper too, all over the field.
On offense, injuries up front put some pressure on the second-team QB, but Missouri has identified their starting center, and a promising back-up. Franklin has solidified his hold on the starting QB job, and the TB-by-committee appears to be alive. Eric Waters has emerged as a play-making TE, and a capable successor to Michael Egnew. The competition at WR is ongoing. Not much was settled this spring. The outside receiver positions appear to me to be wide-open, heading into fall camp.