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July 16, 2013
KEVIN TRAINOR: We're now joined by the head coach of the Missouri Tigers, Coach Gary Pinkel.
COACH PINKEL: Good afternoon to everybody. Appreciate y'all being here.
Max Scherzer, a Mizzou guy, is going to start for the American League. Very proud of him. Wish him a lot of luck. We're very proud of him at Missouri.
Certainly excited about this season. Last year obviously was a difficult year for us. We're used to winning. Had some adversities we didn't overcome. So our players I think have worked tremendously hard; the staff has worked tremendously hard. I'm excited that August is close by and we get a chance to get back out and compete.
I think we certainly understand how great it is to be in the SEC. People ask me, What did you learn from the SEC after your first year into it? The SEC is what I thought it was going to be. It's a line‑of‑scrimmage league. I knew that coming in. Great football teams start at their line of scrimmage. But certainly it's a line‑of‑scrimmage league, offensively, defensive line. I don't care what skill positions you have, you got to be good up front. I knew that going in.
Certainly it's remarkably competitive. We had six games that went down to the last drive of the game. We won three, lost three. We're used to winning in the fourth quarter.
Another thing you have to do is finish in the fourth quarter. We understand that in any sport, but certainly in this league because it's so very, very competitive.
Great league. We're proud to be a member of the SEC. I'm excited about it. It's remarkably competitive, that's why I'm glad we're in it. We have great fans. Our fans have embraced it. They understand I think the league. We traveled well last year, as well as we've ever traveled, some of the great stadiums. That was exciting for us.
We're ready to get going. We're excited about this season coming up.
KEVIN TRAINOR: We'll take questions for Coach Pinkel.
Q. Talk about Franklin's season, pretty injury‑plagued last year, talk about your quarterback situation going into the season.
COACH PINKEL: Last year was different than any time since I've been coaching. Ever since I've coached, I never lost a starting quarterback for a game or two at all. That was very unusual for us. Our last three quarterbacks are playing in the NFL.
James had more injuries than I think any I've ever had combined. What he went through, he missed three starts, and he didn't finish three other games. He pretty much played about half the season.
Remarkably tough kid, remarkably competitive. But I really felt bad for him because all these things that happened to him. The year before he didn't miss a game. Got banged up a little bit, like all quarterbacks do. But he had a great spring. He's healthy now.
I think he's driven, like we all are, to get back to winning, because that's what we do at Missouri.
Our policy, how we handle it is, if you're not an established quarterback coming in, we leave it open. We're leaving this open till August, somewhere in the middle of August. Coming down to spring, he had a good spring and he's the starter. We'll see where it goes.
I think our so‑called skill positions on offense, the guys that touch the football, are probably the best group we've had, our runningbacks, receivers, tight ends, since 2007/2008 as a collection of players.
The most important thing in our offense is the quarterback's got to distribute the football, that's what they do. Your quarterback has to produce in this offense. That's what we expect to get done, that's what we have to do.
Q. Question about the runningback situation. Josey with the injury last year, too. How is his progress? Murphy, would you like to get both of them lots of touches this fall?
COACH PINKEL: Yeah, well, Henry Josey back. For those that don't recall, he was fifth in the nation his sophomore year, just had a remarkable year. I think eighth or ninth game of the year he had a major, major knee surgery. Some people compared it more to being in a car accident than what happens on the football field.
What a remarkable story about his comeback, how hard he's worked. Certainly the medical staff. But certainly the work ethic of him, how hard he's come back. It was fun to see the stages of him in the spring a little bit come back.
He went out there and he didn't play all last season obviously. He comes out in spring football, run for the first time, plant, change direction, looked good. The whole thing, when you come off a knee injury, especially for a runningback, the most difficult thing is you're going to get hit. It's not like you can't protect it like another position.
We didn't have pads on the first few practices, then we put shoulder pads on. Then we did some physical contact a few days later. Then we had a scrimmage. He went through all these stages of confidence. Really looked great at the end of spring. We expect him to be 100%. Obviously, he's an impact player.
Marcus Murphy, punt returner, kickoff return, did a great job for us last year, too.
We also have a player, potential to be a great player, Russell Hansbrough. True freshman played last year. He's playing at a whole different level right now, just as we anticipated. He's out of Texas.
I think we have some other players, too, that are competing hard. It's a position that we've got some pretty good depth.
Q. I know we're going back a ways here, do you see any parallel between the situation that you and Missouri are in now and where you were in '04 going into '05?
COACH PINKEL: That's the last time we came off a losing season obviously. I think they're a little bit parallel.
I've been a head football coach 23 years. This isn't the first time this has happened. You don't like it, but certainly you learn to deal with it.
For me, I focus on my job. I became the head football coach at Toledo, I was offensive coordinator at Washington. I asked Don James, just getting ready to fly to my press conference in Toledo, first time as a head coach, I looked at Don James, who I played for in college also, but I worked for him for 12 years, I asked him, Any advice?
He looked at me and said, Gary, when things get tough, and they're going to get tough, you focus on doing your job.
He said, You wake up every morning and hour by hour you focus on doing your job. You go to bed at night and you do the same thing.
I walked out of that. I'm thinking, What the heck did that come from? Well, guess what, that's probably the best advice I've ever been given. I do speaking on leadership and management. That's the truth.
I focus on doing my job. I like doing my job. I'm driven obviously to be successful. We're used to winning. So I'm focused, like our team is, on becoming better, improving each and every week.
Q. Do you feel last season indicated where your program is relative to the SEC?
COACH PINKEL: Well, we lost five of our top 10 offensive linemen and our starting quarterback. I don't know if it is or not. I mean, we still had a chance to overcome it. I'm paid to overcome anything that happens to us.
But I don't know. I think like anything else you have to prove yourself. We're hungry. I think we're very, very hungry. We're excited to get back in and compete.
It's a great league. I love being in the league. I like to compete against the best. We did the right thing. We're doing great things facility‑wise, investment‑wise at Missouri.
So, you know, we'll get a chance to get after it again and compete, and looking forward to it.
Q. You talked about quarterback competition. Does bringing Franklin here to Media Days hint at his chances of keeping the start be job?
COACH PINKEL: Not really. First of all, he had a great sophomore year before he got busted up, all the things that happened to him last year physically. Certainly had a good spring.
But he's just a great representative of our program. That's really how I choose to bring players here. We have a lot we could have chosen, but that's why we did it.
Q. What kind of freshman year did Dorial Green‑Beckham have and what are you looking from him going into his sophomore year?
COACH PINKEL: I think for all our perimeter players, it was a difficult year because of our offensive line problems and our quarterback problems. You got to be able to distribute the ball and we didn't get the ball distributed like we needed to and have to.
I thought he did a lot of good things, without question. He's a guy that's a lot different player than a year ago. We saw glimpses as the season went on. He's a special athlete. He's a great kid, got a great work ethic. He's a great team player. So all those things I think are going to help him realize his potential.
But Jeremy Maclin starts for the Philadelphia Eagles, a first‑round pick, Jeremy is 6', 200 pounds. This guy is 6'6", 227, they run the same speed. So he's very talented.
We got to get the football to him. He's got to touch the ball. Got a lot of other players that can make plays, too, but he's got to touch the football.
There's got to be a number we've got to reach every week, and I'm not going to talk about it because I don't want to talk about it every Monday. He's got to touch the football. The more he touches the football, the better team we're going to be.
Q. You've been to College Station the last three years. How much are you looking forward to have them come to Columbia and how do you deal with that offense?
COACH PINKEL: That's been a blast going down there three years in a row (smiling). We won the two before. Last year, they got after us really good. Kevin did a great job, obviously their quarterback is a great player. Nice to have them come up and have them play us at our place.
College football, how can you ever play three times in a row anywhere? I whined and nobody listened.
But we're excited about getting them up in Columbia. Certainly playing against just a phenomenal quarterback, good football team, but a quarterback just so very impressed with how well he plays, especially for such a young player to do the things he can do.
Q. Last season Sheldon Richardson was on the defensive front, taking up two or three blocks almost every play. How vital is this season, with him gone, having the defensive line spread out, that everybody takes these blocks on?
COACH PINKEL: Well, I think Sheldon Richardson was a first‑round draft pick. Sheldon had great movement. The thing that made Sheldon good, Ziggy Hood, a defenses tackle also, Ziggy was more of a powerful guy, good movement and power. That's why he's a great player for the Steelers, too.
The thing about Sheldon, his movement, he was like a linebacker. He was a 300‑pound linebacker. His quickness and movement up front, along with being very strong, being able to do things most guys can't do, that's why he was a high pick with the Jets.
For us, any time you lose a high‑level player, some other people have to step up. Matt Hoch is a player for us that played last year as a redshirt sophomore. Has had a great spring. I actually look for him to play at a whole different level.
Certainly we have other players in there competing that I think can do a great job also.
That's obviously going to be very, very important, especially in this league, to be good up front. Hopefully we can do that.
Q. You mentioned in your opening statements that the SEC is an offensive, defensive lined league at the top. How do you feel like you stack up in those areas?
COACH PINKEL: Honestly, I think any good football team in college football, that's where it starts. I don't care what league it is. The really good teams are best up front.
The difference in the SEC is there's so many good football teams. That's why it's such a great, great league.
I think we stay healthy, we'll stack up. 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.
Our offensive line, all inexperienced players, got that great experience last year, I expect to be certainly better. I think we can be very competitive.
KEVIN TRAINOR: Coach, thank you for your time.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports