This spring, the Missouri Tigers were considerably short-handed due to a number of players who missed all or part of spring football due to injuries. Almost all of those who missed the entire spring are recovering from post-season surgery.
There were a dozen injured players, most of whom would be first or second team players, who did not dress for the Spring Game. Included among those are James Franklin, Henry Josey, Eric Waters, Sheldon Richardson, Marvin Foster, Brad Madison, Elvis Fisher, Anthony Gatti, Mark Hill, Connor McGovern, Brandon Durant, and Dan Carpenter.
"We had twelve guys who did not play in this game," said Coach Pinkel, following the Spring Game. "I think we'll get eleven of the twelve back, most of which will be in the (two-deep) depth."
Early in the spring, Missouri lost their starting QB when James Franklin was injured while diving on the ground to recover a fumble. Franklin ended up undergoing surgery, and missed the rest of the spring. He is expected to be back for fall camp, as his rehab program calls for him to begin throwing in late June.
I spoke to Franklin following the Spring Game, and he said that his shoulder "feels good". He said that he's glad that he got it fixed.
Following Franklin's injury, second-string quarterback Corbin Berkstresser worked exclusively with the number one offense, and in the scrimmages this spring, his passing statistics totaled 50-88-3, for 651 yards, and 3 TDs. That's a 57% completion rate, and an average of 7.4 yards/pass attempt. Those numbers are skewed by a 10-25 performance in the first scrimmage.
If you take out the first scrimmage, then Berkstresser completed 63% of his passes this spring, and averaged 8.7 yards/pass attempt. Still, his 1:1 TD to INT ratio is worrisome, and that is maybe the best barometer of where Berkstresser currently is in his overall development. Clearly, he shows the ability. He's definitely got the arm, and he can make the throws. He just needs to continue to develop. The great thing about Berkstresser getting all of this work this spring is that if he is called upon this fall, he has shown that he has the ability to give Missouri a chance to win.
With Berkstresser moving up to the first team, Ashton Glaser moved up to work with the number two offense. Glaser had a good spring, as evidenced by his passing statistics: 59-94-2, for 624 yards and 5 TDs. That's a 63% completion rate, and an average of 6.64 yards/pass attempt. While the statistics might suggest a close competition between Berkstresser and Glaser for the back-up QB job, I don't think the Missouri coaching staff sees it as being that close.
But, at the conclusion of spring football, I think that there's a smaller gap between Glaser and Berkstresser than there is between Berkstresser and Franklin. From what little I saw of Franklin this spring before he was injured, it appeared to me that he has continued to progress from the end of the 2011 season, and that he is clearly, far and away, Missouri's number one QB. Berkstresser narrowed the gap between he and Franklin this spring. He may continue to narrow that gap this fall. And, I expect that he will continue to widen the gap between he and Glaser. But, Franklin is considerably ahead of Berkstresser at present in their respective developments, and Franklin also continues to improve. Both players are very talented, and both players have shown that they are going to continue to work hard and continue to improve.
It's really a good situation for Missouri. The Tigers are able to develop a starter-quality QB without having to throw him into game action before he is ready. Hopefully, that's a trend that will continue for Missouri going forward.
At the tailback position, senior Kendial Lawrence entered the spring as the starter, and he also comes out of the Spring Game as the starting TB. Lawrence did a better job of finishing runs this spring, and is bigger and faster than ever.
The major development of the spring was the emergence of sophomore Marcus Murphy. Murphy, who had missed the 2011 season with an injury, quickly moved up the Depth Chart, and spent the latter half of the spring working as the number two TB. Murphy's an exciting, versatile back with big play ability.
In the four spring scrimmages, Lawrence had 32 carries for 212 yards and 1 TD, for an average of 6.6 yards/carry. Murphy also had 32 carries, for 151 yards and 1 TD. He averaged 4.7 yards/carry.
There were two other backs in the conversation this spring. Senior Jared McGriff-Culver has carved out a niche in the Missouri offense. His role is that of the fullback. Sophomore Greg White is still trying to find his role in the Missouri offense.
Coach Pinkel talked about the TB position.
"I think the tailbacks did a really good job (this spring)," explained Coach Pinkel. "We got Marcus Murphy back. I think that was really good. Kendial Lawrence has played well, and he's a senior. So I think overall, the other guys did a good job, too. You know I think the depth at that position's always critical. I mean, you probably need four guys ready to go, and with the freshmen coming in also. Overall, I thought it was pretty good."
Henry Josey is scheduled to under an ACL repair, and it appears likely that he will miss the 2012 season.
It's clear to me from listening to Coach Pinkel that he expects a pair of freshmen, Morgan Steward and Russel Hansbrough, to come in and compete for playing time this year. It appears likely to me that at least one of the freshmen will play. I don't consider either of Lawrence or Murphy to be every down backs, but I think they can be quite effective as part of a trio of TBs.