COLUMBIA, Mo. – James Franklin opens fall camp as Missouri's starting quarterback and one of the captains, too.
Coach Gary Pinkel approves of the choices teammates made for all four captains. He emphasized after the first fall practice that the honor is no guarantee Franklin will be making the calls when the season begins.
"It has absolutely nothing to do with him or anybody else being captain and keeping their jobs," Pinkel said Thursday night. "I think he's learned a lot and I think he's tougher mentally."
During the disclaimer, Pinkel also said that all his years of coaching he could think of only a handful of players who were coaches and couldn't hold the starting spot.
The return of running back Henry Josey, coming off a serious left knee injury that sidelined him all last season, will be a plus no matter who's taking the snaps. Redshirt freshman Maty Mauk and Corbin Berkstresser, who made four starts when Franklin was injured last season, are also in the mix.
Franklin's setbacks were among the disappointments in a 5-7 season that ended a string of eight bowl appearances. Soft-spoken by nature, Franklin decided in the offseason he'd try to be a vocal leader on a team trying to prove it belongs in the SEC after stumbling last year.
"It feels really good knowing the guys picked me to lead them in good times and bad times," Franklin said. "Hopefully, we'll have a lot more good times."
Wide receiver L'Danian Washington, also named a captain on offense, said Franklin was "transformed" during the summer.
"He's got a great approach to the game, he's not scared to get in a guy's face anymore," Washington said. "Now he'll grill a guy and get in a guy's face, so it's pretty good to have that."
Franklin is healthy entering fall workout, but joked he didn't know how long it would last.
"There's always a chance I can get hurt," Franklin said. "Knowing me, I may get hit by a little kid walking across the street and be out for the season."
Linebacker Andrew Wilson and cornerback E.J. Gaines also were named captains, and all are optimistic.
"I'm a little bit biased," Washington said. "I think we can have an easy 10, 11-win season."
The defense was erratic last year and must replace tackle Sheldon Richardson, a first-round NFL draft pick. A handful of junior college transfers are vying to pick up some of the workload.
"We were definitely disappointed, we didn't expect last season to go that way," Wilson said. "We weren't shocked by the type of play we were facing. Everything we learned in the spring, we've got to put it on the field."
Missouri opens at home Aug. 31 against Missouri State and also has Toledo and Arkansas State at home in the pre-SEC schedule before tackling a grueling conference slate.
"They're college players, just like us," offensive lineman Justin Britt said. "The hype's there, they're good players, it's a good conference.
"But I think we've built confidence over the summer that we're good, and we deserve to be here."