This has generally been about Missouri Tigers athletics. I'll still talk about that mostly, but there's just so much more.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Around the Big XII, part 10. Missouri.
You might think that I'm predicting Missouri to win the conference by being the last team I talk about. That's not really correct. I just like to save my favorite for last. But on the other hand, the Tigers are one of really 6 teams that could win this conference if a few things went right for them. As a matter of fact, had Blaine Gabbert and Aldon Smith returned, Mizzou could well have been the co-favorite along with Oklahoma. However, with the emergence of Brad Madison last year and with kids like Kony Ealy, Michael Sam, Marcus Malbrough and Brayden Burnett waiting in the wings, defensive end looks like it should continue to be a strength. And yes, it would have been nice to return Blaine's experience, but I'm not at all convinced that James Franklin may well be a better fit for the spread offense. It seems that it appeared that way to Blaine's younger brother, Tyler who transferred out last month despite being 2nd on the depth chart following a red shirt freshman season, and who was ranked at the top until the final week of spring practice.
The Tigers return 9 starters, including 4 linemen from an offense that took a small step back last year. The deep ball was absent compared to previous seasons, which could be the QB's or the receivers fault. What they really lacked was a Jeremy Maclin/Danario Alexander type receiver that was a danger to take any catch to the house at any time. All 3 starters return, as well as last years freshman class that was considered one of the best groups in the nation the year they were recruited. You can put TJ Moe in as a starter in ink pen but I think Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson are going to have to work hard to keep their spots away from guys like Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt, Marcus Lucas, Gahn McGaffie and a host of others. The top 4 rushers return with an experienced line in front of them and we've read reports that those line splits were shrinking and the Tigers were showing signs of adding more of a power running game to their offense.
Defensively the Tigers return 7 starts but a shitload of talent that saw action last year. The key here, in my opinion will be the return of a healthy Dominique Hamilton to the nose tackle position. The Tigers were incredibly difficult to run on when he and Terrell Resonno manned the tackle positions, and not quite as good following his injury against Oklahoma. Adding a year to guys like Lucas Vincent and Marvin Foster can only help and Jimmy Burge is a solid back up. Gerrand Johnson will probably red shirt but there's plenty of talent there also. The linebacking crew should be solid and although Mizzou lost 3 starters in the defensive backfield, Kip Edwards saw a lot of action as nickel cornerback and the coaches are raving about sophomore E.J. Gaines. Trey Hobson, Robert Steeples and Tristen Holt will be providing pressure for starting roles also. Lots of competition for the starting safety position opposite Kenji Jackson also.
As with everyone else, the new Big XII schedule is going to be brutal for all concerned. Toss in a Friday night game in Tempe against Arizona State there are probably 7 games the Tigers could legitimately lose even if they played well. The conference opener against Oklahoma will probably label contender or pretender for Mizzou. Win, or at least play well and we'll be looking at 9 or 10 wins. Get blown out and there's a chance, albeit a small one that the season could unravel. But what Gary Pinkel has built in Columbia is truly remarkable and I'm going to predict a 9-3 season and a nice bowl game. Tiger nation now begins to view 8 wins as the floor. It's going to be tougher to sustain the type of success they've enjoyed the last 4 years, but I believe we have the players and coaching staff to do just that. Not sure what we'll talk about next time but I'll think of something.