Quarterback James Franklin is hurt again, out three to five weeks with a sprained right shoulder. Coach Gary Pinkel said Monday he’s confident redshirt freshman Maty Mauk can do the job in his first career start Saturday at home against No. 22 Florida.
Pinkel expects teammates to help make it work. They’re accustomed to playing without Franklin after the quarterback’s injury-plagued junior season.
“Bottom line, it doesn’t matter. We’re wasting our time talking about it,” Pinkel said. He added, “How about them playing to a high level, every one of them?”
Just like Franklin, Mauk likes to run. All he lacks is experience.
“I’m going to be busting my butt 100 percent and they know that,” Mauk said. “We’re going to have a good week of practice and we’re going to be ready.”
Franklin was injured in the fourth quarter of the upset at No. 7 Georgia, interrupting a very good senior season. He has 14 touchdown passes with three interceptions and is the third-leading rusher with 290 yards, a 4.5-yard average and three more TDs.
Pinkel said Franklin had been playing “as good as any quarterback we’ve ever had.”
“It’s a good thing it’s a team sport,” Franklin said. “It stinks that I went down but we still have a lot of talent. I know that we can do it.”
Franklin missed four starts last year. Missouri (6-0, 2-0) struggled with or without him in a 5-7 SEC debut season, the school’s first losing record since 2004.
Missouri had myriad injury problems last year, notably on the offensive line. That made the fill-in job a lot tougher for Corbin Berkstresser, who began this year No. 3 on the depth chart and will be Mauk’s backup.
“Last year, we got hit with a wrecking ball,” Mauk said. “This year, everyone’s healthy.”
Pinkel told the school’s Tiger Quarterback Club earlier in the day that he would complain to the SEC about a late hit. At his news conference, the coach hedged.
“I don’t know, they’re going to have to determine that. I’m not supposed to (comment) and I shouldn’t. We have a process to go through and it’s a good process, and thorough.”
Franklin threw the ball out of bounds on a rollout near the sideline and then was tackled by two Georgia players. Franklin said “it doesn’t matter” whether he was hurt on a late hit.
Pinkel said he won’t change the offense or condense the playbook for Mauk, who has played sparingly but can lean on high school stardom. He has encouraged Mauk, known best at Missouri for a scooter mishap that got him arrested, to just be himself.
“You don’t want him to be a robot out there,” Pinkel said. “You’ve got good people around you, just go play. He’s going to be nervous, he’ll do fine.”
Mauk broke national records for yards passing (18,932), touchdown passes (219), completions (1,353) and total offense (22,681), and was a Parade All-American and two-time Gatorade Ohio Player of the Year.
He’s been used sparingly, usually one series. He’s 5 for 6 for 41 yards, and got sacked twice in three plays against Toledo.
Senior cornerback E.J. Gaines, a key player on defense, is questionable this week with a strained left quadriceps. Freshman Aerion Penton and redshirt freshman John Gibson are backups on the depth chart at cornerback and both figure to see playing time this week.