The biggest news out of Monday's media day was the return of James Franklin to Missouri's depth chart.
He's not the starter. He's not even the back-up. Instead, Franklin is listed as "questionable" at the third-string quarterback position, behind Maty Mauk and freshman Eddie Printz.
So now, for the next week, Franklin Watch continues. On Monday, Gary Pinkel wouldn't add any fuel to the fire about Franklin's chances of playing.
"We had a practice yesterday and he threw the ball," Pinkel said. "Did some good things in that. Is he ready yet? We don't know, at all. When he feels ready is when he'll play, and he'll move to the starting position when that happens. It's good to see him out there throwing it around, and he certainly is questionable, also.
So, you're saying there's a chance?
"I think, I don't want to say it's doubtful, it's just questionable, that's all. I wasn't there when he threw yesterday. I heard. I was in Seattle (for Don James' funeral). But it's just nice to see him out there throwing. Again, it's got to be a certain comfort for him. When he's ready, he's ready. It's going to be up to him."
The players and coaches that did see Franklin throw added a bit more insight into his performance.
"He looked good," quarterback coach Andy Hill said, showing the same caution as Pinkel. "I think it's more of a rehabbing thing at this point. We'll really get into practice on Tuesday and find out."
"I think he looked pretty good, and I talked to him about it," E.J. Gaines said. "He thinks he's doing pretty good for how bad an injury it was. He looked pretty good out there throwing."
"James looked great to me," L'Damian Washington said. "Maty Mauk's a great quarterback, but I mean, James is a very experienced guy. Whoever is back there, we gotta roll with it, but to have two guys that can sling the ball is definitely a plus for Mizzou.
"He's a competitor, so we'll see."
Some players, however, weren't as cautious.
"He looks 100-percent," running back Marcus Murphy said. "He was throwing balls, they were accurate, and like I said, he had a good accurate. That just shows he's ready, and I'll be glad to see him out there.
"In his mind, I'd say he thought he was gonna play last week. He always has the confidence, the exciting energy about himself, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him out there this week."
Throughout the media availability, Missouri coaches wouldn't say whether Franklin is ahead of schedule or surprising them by beginning to throw at this juncture. The initial timeline for his return was 3-to-5 weeks. Monday marked 16 days since he injured his shoulder against Georgia. Should Franklin return on Saturday, it will be 21 days -- three weeks -- since the injury.
MAUK READY, EITHER WAY: Despite the uncertainty surrounding Franklin's status, Maty Mauk said he's preparing just as usual.
"I'm going to come into this week the same way I have every other week," Mauk said. "I'm going to be 100-percent focused, ready to play no matter what happens, and it's just another week."
The one thing that has changed, however, is that Mauk is coming off of the first subpar performance of his young career. He finished 10-of-25 for 249 yards, a touchdown and an interception, but when the offense stalled in the fourth quarter, Mauk struggled to complete passes. His last completion for positive yards came with over 12 minutes left in regulation.
He said one thing he learned from his second start is about opportunity:
"You can't take any series for granted," Mauk said. "You've got to go down and you've got to score points every chance you get. Obviously, we came up short there and it's something we're going to work on this week."
With a young quarterback, Andy Hill said it's all about perspective coming off of a tough game.
"If you look at what Maty had last week, we were just talking about it, there were a few times where he got out a little too quick when there was not as much pressure as you're used to," Hill said, "but also you're facing a really good defensive line that makes you think there's going to be pressure there.
"I think that's a difference for him, just learn from a few things from last week to improve on, but really, he's just focused on making the right reads and delivering the ball quickly to the right guy."
MORE INJURY NEWS: After straining his quadriceps against Georgia, cornerback missed the last two-and-a-half games recovering from the injury. Pinkel said the team decided last Thursday that Gaines would sit out against South Carolina.
"I would have loved to be out there with my team," Gaines said. "I was like a coach for the last two weeks, just coaching the players showing them what they could do different, but I have faith in the whole defense."
This week, however, Gaines is listed atop the depth chart at one cornerback spot, with no qualifier by his name.
"I'm feeling good," Gaines said. "We're still doing some treatment on it, but I'm sure on Saturday I'll be ready."
However, the running back position remains a bit of a question. Henry Josey suffered a concussion against South Carolina and is questionable for Tennessee. Although not listed on the injury report, Russell Hansbrough was limited by a toe injury last week and carried the ball four times for 11 yards. At this point, Marcus Murphy is the only running back that's 100-percent, but even he hasn't avoided the injury bug after suffering a concussion against Florida.
Because of that, Pinkel said the staff is getting redshirt freshman Morgan Steward ready to see time. He entered the game for one play in the first half against South Carolina.