According to Gary Pinkel, injured running back Henry Josey could still play for his Missouri Tigers in 2012. But with Pinkel announcing Wednesday that Josey is yet to undergo surgery to repair the ACL he tore in November, anything beyond "could" might be optimistic.
Josey is expected to go under the knife sometime in the next two to three weeks, Pinkel said, to finish the repairs from his "one in a million" knee injury suffered in the Tigers' game against Texas. Josey had previously undergone surgery to repair his torn patellar tendon and meniscus, but had to wait until the knee recovered from that procedure before having the ACL repaired.
"He's doing very, very well," Pinkel said. "I always get the question, 'Will he be able to play this season?' And my answer is he's got three years to play two. So, when he's ready to play, that's when he'll play."
Though Pinkel is no doubt not counting on Josey's availability, his return would nonetheless be a major boost to a backfield without any proven weapons; senior Kendial Lawrence is the leading candidate in Josey's absence, but averaged more than three yards fewer per-carry than Josey in 2011, and in three seasons has yet to finish any higher than third on the team in rushing yards. It doesn't help that quarterback James Franklin's torn labrum could conceivably keep him out of action as well, though neither Pinkel nor team trainer Rex Sharp expect Franklin to miss anything more than summer workouts.
But if Franklin can almost be relied upon to return before the Tigers' season opener vs. FCS Southeastern Louisiana, clearly the same can't be said for Josey; mid-April ACL surgery doesn't seem to translate into a full-strength return in early September.
But until Pinkel specifically rules him out, we can't either, meaning that the Tiger backfield has something of a boom-or-bust quality to it. If Lawrence is ready to shoulder the load, Franklin is healthy and builds on his productive 2011, and Josey returns to anything approaching last year's pre-injury form, Mizzou could boast one of the better backfields in the SEC East; if Lawrence isn't ready, Franklin is either out or hobbled, and Josey isn't available, it could be one of the weakest.
We're guessing Pinkel has his fingers crossed as we speak.
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