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Missouri Spring Football: James Franklin Taking Charge Amid SEC Transition

The Missouri Tigers are entering sort of an important spring practice period. And not just because they're changing their logo stuff to look less like the Michigan Wolverines*. This spell, which ends with the April 14 spring game, is the last football activity Tigers players will undergo in an official capacity as members of the Big 12. When they convene in the summer, they'll officially be SEC players.

Gary Pinkel has been talking a lot about ramping the program up to SEC standards, and quickly:

"From a recruiting standpoint; marketing standpoint; facilities standpoint, budget standpoint," he said. "All those areas, that's the transition area."

One thing he can worry a little less about: his quarterback. He says James Franklin has taken over offseason workouts, following in the lead of Blaine Gabbert, Brad Smith and Chase Daniel. The rising junior, who could be only the second-most newsworthy SEC behind the fiery Vanderbilt Commodores coach, is in position to be one of the SEC's three or so best quarterbacks in his debut year.

His weapons are depleted by the departure of Michael Egnew and Henry Josey's uncertain injury recovery, but top receiver T.J. Moe returns, as do four starting offensive linemen.

The Tigers should still be able to score in the SEC East, though perhaps not as frequently as they did in the Big 12. But is their defense up to league standards? Defensive line is Mizzou's primary concern this spring, with starters Dominique Hamilton and Terrell Resonno both departing. Sheldon Richardson and Lucas Vincent should have chances at the jobs.

The defensive strength is at linebacker, where all three starters return after Will Ebner was granted a fifth year of eligibility.

* My brother-in-law is a Mizzou fan in Big Ten country. He says he gets a lot of compliments from Michigan fans for his Tigers gear.

For more on Mizzou football, visit Missouri blog Rock M Nation, plus SEC blog Team Speed Kills, SB Nation Kansas City and SB Nation St. Louis.