Now that James Franklin suffered another shoulder injury, Maty Mauk is the new starting quarterback for Missouri. It remains a mystery how many games Franklin will miss with the injury, as Ashley Colley of KOMU-TV tweeted that a lot of the reports surfacing are false:
Pinkel says any specific numbers floating around on how long QB Franklin is out are false. Accurate timeframe to come in 48 hrs. #Mizzou— Ashley Colley (@ashleycolley) October 13, 2013
Head coach Gary Pinkel confirmed after the game that the senior suffered a separated shoulder. And while some have mentioned that his season is over, nothing has been confirmed just yet. The only thing Tiger fans can count on is the redshirt freshman leading the way the best he can.
With Franklin suffering shoulder injuries last season, this is becoming a nagging issue and he's almost certain to miss the big upcoming games against Florida and South Carolina. If he does end up missing the remainder of the year, Mauk will remain the starter for the season finale against Texas A&M.
Regardless of how much time Franklin misses, is Mauk truly capable of making enough plays to keep Missouri in the win column?
The good news is that all of those tough games are at home. But there's no right or wrong answer to the question because nobody knows for sure. Mauk has thrown only six passes in his career, with three of them coming last Saturday in the victory over Georgia. That's simply not a large enough sample size to see what he's truly capable of doing.
However, there are a few things we do know for sure. Mauk is a tough kid at 6'1", 200 pounds and has tremendous arm strength. He was a highly recruited player for a reason, and he has the look of a respectable quarterback. While he has more of a stocky build, he's also quite athletic for his frame and can make plays rolling out of the pocket.
With so many freshman quarterbacks taking over the college game lately, there's no doubt he's capable of making enough plays to help the Tigers remain unbeaten.
Still, the entire workload shouldn't rest on his shoulders.
Here's what Mauk said after the upset over Georgia, per the AP:
Can Maty Mauk lead the Tigers to the SEC Championship?
"I came in and everybody just told me to keep calm," Mauk said. "So I came in and got the plays to our guys. We executed well at the end. ... We scored when we needed to."
Mauk isn't Franklin. He isn't as much of a playmaker and obviously can't match his experience. There are sure to be growing pains and mistakes. But one way to balance that out and help the young quarterback grow is to take some the pressure off of him. He likely won't be asked to throw the ball 30 times per game and will instead be used as a game manager until he gets comfortable.
Make the plays when you have to, get the players involved, but most importantly, don't make that costly turnover that ends up losing the game.
While Franklin made a lot of the plays, he also limited his interception total to three. The defense has also performed in a big way, leading the SEC with 15 forced turnovers and second in the conference with 15 sacks. The 6-0 start was a team effort, not just a quarterback playing at a high level.
As long as Mauk can avoid making the rookie mistakes and the defense can continue to make the momentum changing plays, Missouri will be fine.
Unfortunately, it won't be easy playing against top tier competition.