Next up: Franklin hopes to play

Facing a top 10 team in their home stadium in the first road game of the season is tough. Facing that scenario without your quarterback is a recipe for disaster. That is the situation that Missouri could face if James Franklin is not healthy. How close is Franklin to returning Saturday against South Carolina?

South Carolina and Missouri share the same city name of Columbia. That isn't where the similarities end. Both also have starting quarterbacks battling a shoulder injury suffered in their conference opener. South Carolina starter Connor Shaw "cracked" his should against Vanderbilt in the season-opener and reinjured it last week against UAB. Missouri starter James Franklin had surgery in the offseason for an injured shoulder and aggravated the shoulder in their conference opener against Georgia two weeks ago.

Shaw missed a week before returning action against UAB and Franklin will attempt the same Saturday when the Tigers travel to South Carolina's Columbia to take on the Gamecocks in their first road game of the season.

"James Franklin will play if he can play, so we'll see how the week goes practice-wise until game time and we'll see where we're at from there," Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said Monday afternoon.

Franklin dressed out and went through warm-ups in last week's 24-20 win over Arizona State, the same thing Connor Shaw did against ECU. After warm-ups, Franklin said he felt soreness and didn't want to risk it. Franklin refused any type of pain medication to deal with the injury. Franklin's father, Willie Franklin, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he's never taken any type of pain medication in his life.

"In our family, we don't believe in taking medication (for pain) or trying to soften anything with any drugs," Willie Franklin told the paper last week.

That is certainly a rarity and you have to admire Franklin's toughness not to take medication and fight through the pain. Pinkel confirmed on Monday that he did not make the decision to sit Franklin, but left it up to Franklin and the medical staff.

"You have to understand this, I have never made a medical decision ever. I've never went up to a trainer ever since I've been coaching and even said get a guy ready, not once in 22 years of being head coach, ever. The medical staff does a great job in working with our athletes and parents on medicine on treatments, and all those things. I never, ever get involved at all. Anybody that questions James Franklin's toughness, they have to have been in a coma for the last two years. He's one of the toughest athletes I've ever been around."

Franklin says that he is a nine on a scale of 1-10 and feels like he should be ready Saturday afternoon.

"It's tough being on the sidelines, but (the teammates) were really cool about it," Franklin said. "They're all really supportive, joke around and help make it not that a big deal for me"

Franklin's offensive line will face the task of protecting their quarterback against one of the most athletic defensive fronts in the country. Carolina is tied for fourth in the nation with 12 sacks and seventh in scoring defense.

"They have great defensive ends and defensive tackles, very good up front," Pinkel said. "Big athletes, running athletes, in the perimeter. Overall it's real good. That's our challenge, it's always going to be. There's some great defenses in this league and these guys are real challenging, and their backups are also."

One of the key match-ups with be how the Missouri tackles, Justin Britt and Jack Meiners, block the defensive ends of Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor. Clowney and Taylor have wreaked havoc in all three games and will need to do the same Saturday.

"You've got to be able to block, the fundamentals of blocking, running, catching, and all the different things you have to do," Pinkel said. "Those are things you have to do and certainly we'll try to help our line out the best we can but, you're going to be faced with some one on one situations and you're going to have to get it done."

Missouri has gotten off to quick starts in all three of their games, outscoring their opponents 38-0 in the first quarter. However, they have struggled closing games, being outscored 37-14 in the fourth. A lot of their struggles have been with the kicking game. Kicker Andrew Baggett is just 3-of-7 on field goals, missing three of his four attempts last week against ASU. Snaps have been an issue on special teams and something that needs to be corrected.

"We had a punt snap over the punter's head (Saturday), which you don't want to happen," Pinkel said. "We had some poor holds and we had some poor snaps. So a combination of all of those things, which is just coaching. We work hard at coaching, but bottom line is, it isn't good enough. So that starts with me and our coaching staff. Those things don't mean that you're going to line up and make every field goal, but if you know that the snap is perfect and the hold is perfect then you give your kicker a great chance of making a field goal. And the majority of those weren't very good."

Pinkel is looking forward to the challenge of playing Missouri's second SEC game in school history and their first on the road. Though the Tigers have yet to play in front of a hostile crowd this season they are loaded with upper classman that have played in hostile environments in the Big XII. South Carolina presents a stiff challenge for his team in addition to that hostile environment.

"(They're) a really good football team," Pinkel said. "I have great respect for Steve Spurrier. He's a really good coach and I'm very impressed with him. They're a very physical team, very consistent with the SEC. They have a couple quarterback issues that we have. We'll see how that sorts itself out. And Lattimore their running back, their all conference all American running back is returning from ACL surgery and he looks really good. He's a very impressive player. So we're preparing and excited about the opportunity to play. I hear it's a great place to play. It's a great game day event there and we'll work very hard to bring our best effort."

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