COLUMBIA —Missouri coach Gary Pinkel sounded optimistic Wednesday about the possibility that his starting quarterback, junior James Franklin, would return for Saturday’s game at South Carolina.
Franklin missed last week’s win over Arizona State with an inflamed bursa sac in his right (throwing) shoulder. Missouri’s medical staff cleared him to play, but he decided just before the game that he was too sore. He declined earlier in the week to take a pain-killing injection — a decision that sparked some discussion, but no dissention from Pinkel.
“Anybody that questions James Franklin’s toughness, they have to have been in a coma the last two years,” Pinkel told reporters in Missouri. “He’s one of the toughest athletes I’ve ever been around.”
Franklin explained the decision to Missouri reporters by saying, “I like to feel the pain, be my own doctor, because I don’t want to hurt it more or do something where the next thing you know, I won’t be able to play for two weeks. I want to feel every second of it to make sure I know how far I can go and how far I can’t.”
USC coach Steve Spurrier said it’s not uncommon for players to decline injections.
“We had a player who didn’t play the second half the other night (against Alabama-Birmingham) because he didn’t want to take an IV,” Spurrier said. “He sort of cramped up. I don’t think you ever force a guy who doesn’t want to do it. It’s a personal decision.”
It looks like Franklin, a second-year starter, should be ready for USC, even as Missouri’s trainers proceed cautiously with him.
“He wanted to throw (Tuesday), but they wanted to wait a day,” Pinkel said Wednesday morning on the Southeastern Conference coaches’ teleconference. “So he’s going to go out and throw (Wednesday), and he told me he feels really, really good. He’s almost symptom free.”
Redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser started in Franklin’s place against Arizona State. Franklin last season threw for 2,872 yards and 21 touchdowns and ran for 981 yards and 15 touchdowns.
USC’s Jadeveon Clowney is one of the nation’s best defensive ends. So is Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, who likely will be one of the top five picks in next year’s NFL draft. You don’t need to tell Missouri’s players that. They know how good Jones is, and how much impact an elite defensive end can have on a game.
Georgia beat Missouri 41-20 in Week 2 — the Tigers’ only loss, in their only SEC game — largely because of Jones. He had eight tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, an interception and a pass breakup.
Jones’ interception of Franklin, which he returned 21 yards, set up a one-yard touchdown possession that put Georgia up 34-20 with 7:33 left in the game. On Missouri’s next drive, Jones sacked Franklin and forced a fumble, resulting in Georgia getting the ball at Missouri’s five-yard line.
USC defensive line coach Brad Lawing knows it’s not easy to disrupt Franklin, because he usually gets rid of the ball quickly in Missouri’s spread offense, which relies equally on running and passing.
“We’ve got to affect the quarterback, getting our hands up, knocking balls down,” Lawing said. “Of course, when they’re having to throw it fast, to me, that’s affecting the quarterback, too. But we’ve got to defend the run first. If we don’t stop the run, we won’t win the game.”
USC this week gets two reserves, spur outside linebacker Sharrod Golightly and defensive tackle J.T. Surratt, back from three-game suspensions, for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Golightly is listed as the No. 3 spur, behind Jordan Diggs. Surratt is listed as tied for the second-string tackle spot with Philip Dukes.
Golightly and Surratt were both listed as second-stringers before preseason practices.
“My intention is to get (Surratt) in the game when it dictates,” Lawing said.
Follow Darryl Slater on Twitter @DarrylSlater