Injuries open doors in Missouri spring game

Injuries to offensive stars James Franklin and Henry Josey allowed reserve players to shine.
Freshman quarterback Corbin Berkstresser takes some practice tosses during Saturday's Black and Gold game at Faurot Field. Berkstresser is stepping in for injured sophomore James Franklin.

Down on Faurot Field following last Saturday’s Black & Gold Game, James Franklin was smiling wide, letting out deep rounds of laughter here and there and responding with “yes-sirs” and “yes-ma’ams” like the sophomore quarterback that charmed Columbia during his fall debut under center.

Franklin was speaking with media for the first time since spring started, since the Friday of March 23 when the glenohumeral joint in his right shoulder was surgically repaired.

“We expect him to be 100 percent and ready to go for the season,” coach Gary Pinkel said in a news release prior to the operation. “Until then, our younger guys will benefit from more reps and more work with the No. 1 offense, and we'll look at that as a positive."

Franklin — wearing a black dress shirt with sweats, free from the hefty sling he could be seen wearing around campus in earlier weeks — spoke of the role he has taken by assisting redshirt freshman quarterback Corbin Berkstresser.

“I know (offensive) coach (David) Yost coaches him up a lot,” Franklin said. “But sometimes it can be a lot more helpful to hear it from someone that’s been there. So, whenever he would be frustrated, I’d kind of just joke around and try and get his mind off it a little but … He’s done a really good job of staying positive.”

Early in the scrimmage, Berkstresser threw an interception into the hands of junior linebacker Donovan Bonner, who ran 65 yards to the end zone. Berkstresser responded on his next possession by finding junior receiver T.J. Moe for a 35-yard score.

On the game, Berkstresser threw for 187 yards on 13-of-20 passing.

“I thought he had a really good spring,” Pinkel said. “I think he’s parallel to both those guys last year, Franklin and (Tyler) Gabbert. I think his performance is pretty similar or maybe a little bit better in some respects.”

Berkstresser was just one who impressed in a relief position.

Sophomore wide out Jimmie Hunt called the game “a coming-out party” of sorts. He was referring to the halftime fashion show, when the football program revealed the new Nike uniforms to be worn in its first year in the Southeastern Conference.

Aside from then, Hunt might have elicited the loudest celebration from spectators all afternoon on his lonesome.

Fans might have forgotten that 54-yard touchdown grab he scored against Western Illinois at the beginning of the season, before he was relegated to a boot on his sprained ankle and a red no-contact jersey at practice.

But Hunt, once a heralded four-star recruit, demanded attention again after hauling in a pass and out-running first-team defenders for 88 yards.

Sophomore Marcus Murphy might have made his case to climb the depth chart with sophomore running back Henry Josey recovering from a knee injury that put a stop to his breakout 2011.

Murphy, who suffered his own season-ending injury in July, amassed more all-purpose yards than any on Saturday, carrying the ball 10 times for 87 yards and reeling in two catches for 26 yards.

“Marcus is a player that was very similar to Henry Josey as a freshman and now he’s healthy,” Pinkel said. “When I saw Henry at halftime, he was so excited because he believes a bunch in Marcus Murphy.”

Pinkel had 12 players dealing with injuries over spring, more than any in his 11 years at Missouri. He said he was frustrated that some starters missed valuable practice time, but was happy to see players contributing.

“You’re always trying to work on developing depth. Every team in America is,” he said. “You want guys proving that they’re ready to play. You don't have to be a starter to get minutes in our system.”

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