There was not too much of a sense of "we told you so" at SEC Media Days when Gary Pinkel stepped to the podium. The question permeated around the edges of some of the questions -- Pinkel was asked at one point whether last year was an indication of how well his team "stack[s] up" in the league -- but it was less of the almost openly sneering attitude that Missouri faced last year.
Part of that is because the Tigers are in the club now. No matter how the beat writers who assembled in Hoover might have felt about Missouri's presence in the SEC, they are now part of the conference, and there's nothing the SEC does better than close ranks. Even a good portion of the SEC media.
But there was also, in Pinkel's answer to the stacking up question, the quite honest explanation that Missouri got pretty banged up last year. As we've pointed out before, you can oversell the impact injuries had on the Tigers' season. At the very least, though, Pinkel seems to honestly believe they played a role in the 5-7 season -- and to some extent, he's right. Not all starts are created equal, and the loss of James Franklin and Henry Josey for substantial parts of last season probably had some impact.
"I think [if] we stay healthy, we'll stack up," Pinkel said. "We're making changes. We're doing some different things in practice. Two years in a row we've had the most injuries we've ever had since I've been coaching. I want to get my team to September to play."
And there's little question that it had at least a mental impact on the team. Franklin himself said as much.
"There were times where I think it affected us more mentally than physically or talent-wise," he said.
The fallout from that season continues. Franklin does not enter the year with the starting quarterback position locked up, following what Pinkel said was a policy of not allowing anyone to claim the job if they're not "an established quarterback." Despite Pinkel's protests to the contrary, the fact that Franklin was at SEC Media Days and is the acknowledged leader at the position shows that the policy is likely a technicality.
Franklin is treating it like one. Not disrespectfully, but because he says other players on the offense have told him to treat the job like its his because that's the kind of leadership they want.
"I’m trying to take that mindset, but at the same time realize that if I don’t perform well, then I’m not going to be the starter," he said.
That said, Franklin might not be 100 percent secure yet. Redshirt freshman Maty Mauk has already moved past Corbin Berkstresser on the depth chart, despite the fact that Berkstresser started some games last year. That's the advantage of the beating that Mizzou took last year, receiver L'Damian Washington suggested.
"Not too many teams in the nation can say that they have faith in all three of their quarterbacks and all three have experience," he said. "It’s kind of a good thing. Being hit with the injury bug last year was kind of devastating, but I think it’s one of those things that’s going to help us this year."
If it does, just maybe Missouri can stack up and get rid of those unwanted Media Day questions for good.