The Missouri Tigers found the Southeastern Conference to be as good as advertised during their first season as a member of college football’s best league.
Mizzou went 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the SEC, beating only the Kentucky Wildcats and Tennessee Volunteers in conference games. The Tigers and head coach Gary Pinkel also found themselves on the wrong end of blowouts to the Alabama Crimson Tide (42-10), the South Carolina Gamecocks (31-10) and the Texas A&M Aggies (59-29).
Missouri suffered through a number of injuries to key players, including two standouts: quarterback James Franklin and running back Henry Josey.
Franklin had 2,865 passing yards and 981 yards on the ground as a sophomore in 2011, and big things were expected from him in the Tigers’ initial SEC campaign. However, Franklin suffered a leg injury that limited him to only nine games in 2012. In his somewhat limited role, Franklin passed for 1,562 yards and 10 touchdowns, but he also threw seven interceptions. The injury really took its toll on Franklin’s rushing numbers, as he posted only 122 yards on the ground and failed to rush for a score, after posting 15 touchdowns rushing in 2011.
Josey was expected to form a tough 1-2 punch with Kendial Lawrence in 2012, but Josey was unable to recover from a knee injury he suffered near the end of the 2011 season. Despite missing two games, Josey rushed for 1,168 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011.
Without Franklin and Josey, the offense fell into the hands of Lawrence and redshirt freshman quarterback Corbin Berkstresser.
Lawrence certainly did his part, rushing for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns, leading the team in both categories. Berkstresser played in 10 games, starting four. He passed for 1,059 yards and five touchdowns, with seven picks. Berkstresser was also able to rush for 56 yards and three touchdowns, but he didn’t have the mobility of a healthy Franklin, which made the offense much less efficient.
In 2013, Missouri hopes to have a healthy Franklin and Josey, which should help the Tigers bounce back after ranking 96th in the country in total offense last season. Missouri will need to get its offense in order if it hopes to return to a bowl game this season. The 2013 schedule is daunting, with home games against the Florida Gators, South Carolina and Texas A&M, as well as trips to visit the Vanderbilt Commodores, the Georgia Bulldogs and the Ole Miss Rebels.