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September 17, 2012
First Look: Backup Battle?
Since Friday afternoon, the main storyline surrounding Missouri football has been the health of James Franklin. After Saturday night's 24-20 win over Arizona State, in which Franklin watched from the sidelines in a baseball cap while redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser led the Tigers, Gary Pinkel was not ready to say whether Franklin would be ready for this week's South Carolina game.
"We'll find out next week," Pinkel said.
As of Monday afternoon, that stance hasn't changed. At the Tiger Quarterback Club meeting in Columbia, Pinkel told the crowd that Franklin "will play if he's healthy, so we'll see how that goes."
Pinkel's comments on Saturday that Franklin "didn't want to play" and reports that the quarterback had declined a pain-killing injection had raised some eyebrows. But after the game on Saturday, every player that spoke to PowerMizzou.com defended the quarterback and his coach did so again on Monday at the booster club gathering.
"James Franklin is one of the toughest players I've ever coached," Pinkel said. "Nobody is questioning his toughness and we certainly hope he'll be back."
In Franklin's absence, Berkstresser completed 21 of 41 passes for 198 yards and an interception. He ran for 25 yards and a score on 18 carries.
Berkstresser is not the only backup quarterback who could be pressed into action in Columbia this weekend. South Carolina starter Connor Shaw suffered a hairline fracture in his shoulder in the season opener against Vanderbilt and aggravated it again last weekend in a 49-6 win over UAB. Steve Spurrier has said that Shaw should be able to play, but the junior has started two games so far and hasn't finished either one.
"It's just painful," Spurrier said on Sunday. "It's not going to get any worse (the doctors) say. The doctors say this is not a serious-type fracture."
In limited action in two games, Shaw has completed 15 of 25 passes for 174 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He has run 19 times for 86 yards. Sophomore backup Dylan Thompson is 26-for-50 for 507 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. Thompson has run 16 times for 10 yards.
Offensive lineman Jack Meiners returned to action on Saturday against the Sun Devils. He played 15 to 20 snaps on the evening.
"It kind of started to tighten up a little bit," Meiners said. "Coach (Bruce) Walker decided that the line we had out there was doing pretty good at the time and that I would benefit from just taking the rest and being back next week.
"Kind of going live for the first time was kind of a different experience and kind of something that I just need to get used to again."
But Meiners said he will be ready to go this weekend against the Gamecocks.
"Absolutely. A hundred percent," Meiners said. "Without a doubt in my mind. I'll be in the treatment room as much as I can and I'll be ready to go."
Pinkel said at the Quarterback Club that the Tigers expected to have Meiners back. A determination would be made this week whether he would play at guard or tackle.
Mizzou also looks likely to get linebacker Zaviar Gooden back as well. Gooden missed last week's game with a hamstring injury.
The Gamecocks will be without a key cog in their defense this weekend. Senior free safety D.J. Swearinger was suspended by the SEC Monday morning for a flagrant hit in the game against UAB.
Swearinger was penalized for a hit against UAB receiver Patrick Hearn with 5:46 left in the third quarter on Saturday. Though he was not ejected from the game, Swearinger was suspended by the conference.
"These rules are for the protection of the health and safety of our players on both sides of the ball," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said in a statement from the league. "It is imperative that our student-athletes understand the importance of this rule. Our motivation in making these decisions is to protect our student-athletes."
Fifth-year senior Jared Shaw is listed as Swearinger's backup, but GamecockCentral.com reports that freshman T.J. Gurley is expected to take Swearinger's spot. (Read the full story right here).
Swearinger has made ten tackles and broken up three passes along with one interception this season. He also returned a fumble 65 yards for a touchdown against the Blazers last weekend.
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