The Southeastern Conference football media days have come and gone, and that means college football is now.
The Tigers start camp August 1 in Columbia. Only thirty-nine days remain until game No. 1.
Five questions await the start of camp, and that first kickoff.
1. Will Franklin go out with a bang?
Like it or not, James Franklin is Mizzou’s starting quarterback. The position is his to lose in camp. Holding off Corbin Berkstresser and Maty Mauk won’t be his only challenge. Franklin, a senior, will have to rewrite his legacy this season if he wants to be remembered in a favorable light for his on-field performance. Last season injuries shuffled him in and out of games and caused questions, fair or not, about his willingness to play through pain. Will 2013 be more of the same? Or can it be a better version of Franklin’s sophomore season, when he totaled 3,846 yards of offense and accounted for 36 touchdowns?
2. Is this Josey story as good as advertised?
Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel called it a “storybook story.” And that odd explanation actually kind of fits the return of Henry Josey. The running back is atop the depth chart this season after a devastating left knee injury in 2011 cut a 1,168-yard season short. The redshirt junior missed the rest of that year and all of 2012. Now, knee reconstructed, he and his team swear he’s ready to go — so much so that he’s not even wearing a brace. Tiger fans are hoping this story has a happy ending, not only for Josey, but for their chance at a successful season.
3. Will this be the year of Green-Beckham?
Pinkel is causing confusion when it comes to star receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, the former No. 1 recruit who now enters his sophomore season. Green-Beckham caught on late last year, grabbing four of his five touchdowns in the Tigers’ final three games. It’s that playmaking ability that made Pinkel rave about Green-Beckham at SEC media days. He told reporters his team has to get the ball to Green-Beckham more. Sounds great. But wait. Take a look at the team’s depth chart and Green-Beckham isn’t listed as a starter. What gives? It’s obvious that Green-Beckham has some things he needs to prove. If he can do that in fall camp, he should get a chance to show whether he was really worthy of so much hype.
4. Who, if anyone, fills Richardson’s shoes?
Replacing Sheldon Richardson, the loquacious defensive tackle now with the New York Jets, is impossible thanks to the big man’s big play and big mouth. The Tigers would be happy to find a go-to defensive lineman who could offer the former without the latter. Redshirt junior Kony Ealy is tabbed to start at defensive end. It’s not the same position Richardson played, but the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Ealy might be a candidate to fill the playmaking void. Ealy started 10 games last season. He’s a physical specimen who, at his best, is an explosive force. But will he be able to cause havoc all the time instead of occasionally?
5. Is the secondary a liability?
Senior cornerback E.J. Gaines is a stud, without a doubt. He might the one of the best defensive backs in the SEC. But there is little proven talent around him. Free safety Braylon Webb is the only other player in the Mizzou secondary who was a consistent starter last season. Cornerback Randy Ponder started just five games. Starting safety Matt White, a redshirt senior, appeared in all 12 games as a junior, but wasn’t a starter. Gaines can’t cover every opponent. If the others struggle, they will be targeted and the Tigers will suffer.
PHIL PRESSEY PROVES IT
A lot of people should be eating some crow when it comes to Phil Pressey.
I’m included in that group.
I wasn’t convinced the undersized, undrafted point guard would carve out a spot in the NBA. I wasn’t alone. But last week Pressey signed a multi-year contract with the Boston Celtics, according to the Boston Globe.
Good for Phil. Sure, his father — an NBA assistant with ties to the Celtics — might have pulled some strings to get him a look. But that doesn’t mean Pressey didn’t earn his contract in summer league. Favors don’t make NBA rosters.
Leading up to the draft, one of the scouts I talked to about Pressey said “only one team has to like you” in order to end up in the league.
Turns out that team is Boston.
“I like Phil,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told The Globe. “There are some things that Phil can certainly get better at. He’ll work hard to do it. Right when I got the job, I sent him a text message that night and he called me about a minute after I sent the text and I think he really wants to be good. He’s very dynamic with the ball, and I think if he continues to do that and make shots, he’s going to be in good shape.”
KUDOS TO MACLIN
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the trouble NFL players seem to find themselves in. But as Mike Sando of ESPN wrote recently, we rarely hear about the positive decisions players make off the field. Former Mizzou and current Philadelphia Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin held his third annual youth football camp in Kirkwood last weekend. The event included a backpack giveaway for families needing a little help heading into the school year. Good for Maclin for coming home to give back.