> In the early 2000′s, an eight-win season would be considered a great success for the Missouri Tigers. But that isn’t the case anymore and for a fan base that now expects nine wins or more, last season’s 8-5 season could have been seen by some as a disappointment. But unlike last year, when the Tigers were one of the youngest teams in the country, the team brings back 16 starters and many others who have seen the field in their days in the Black and Gold.
Offense - The team brings back seven starters from last year’s squad, most notably quarterback Blaine Gabbert. But it is replacing who the offense lost that will define the season. Last year’s top two receivers, Danario Alexander and Jared Perry, both have moved onto the NFL. The team will also be without two-year starting running back and co-captain Derrick Washington, as he has encountered some legal problems that have caused him to be permanently suspended.
As of right now, Gabbert is the star of the offense and deservedly so. He is only the most recent quarterback at a school that has had some of the best quarterbacks in the nation since 2002. Gabbert is coming off a sophomore year where he threw for 3,593 yards, 24 touchdowns and only nine interceptions, despite playing with a severely injured ankle for half the season. As was the case last year, the quarterbacks will be very inexperienced behind Gabbert. Gabbert’s backup is a true freshman from Texas, James Franklin, who has impressed coaches so much that he has moved past returning players Jimmy Costello and Ashton Glaser to win the backup role. In fact, Glaser, a redshirt freshman, has also moved past Costello, who was Gabbert’s backup last season. The team also has Gabbert’s younger brother, Tyler, who will be another highly recruited true freshman in the fall.
The loss of Washington can be one that is devastating to the Tiger offense. It could also be a blessing in disguise, as it will give Mizzou an opportunity to see some of the younger players. The team will look to sophomore Kendial Lawrence or De’Vion Moore to carry the load. Lawrence was a Parade All-American in his senior year of high school and rushed for 219 yards as a true freshman. Moore is coming into his junior year after backing up Washington last year as well. He rushed for 258 yards and a touchdown in 2009. The other two players on the depth chart are true freshmen Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy.
Replacing Perry and Alexander will be key for the Tiger offense. The two helped combine for 66 percent of the receiving yards lost. But the cupboard isn’t bare in Columbia. The team does return numerous players who saw action last year, as well as a cast of young players who will be looking to make their mark. Wes Kemp started all 13 games for the Tigers last year and caught 23 balls for 418 yards and three touchdowns. The only other player with starting experience, Jerrell Jackson, is coming off of wrist surgery. Jackson, however, is the team’s top returning receiver after he had 37 catches for 458 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore T.J. Moe will be the other starter in the Missouri spread attack. The Tigers also have redshirt freshmen L’Damian Washington and Jaleel Clark, sophomores Rolandis Woodland and Gahn McGaffie, as well as highly regarded true freshmen Bud Sasser and Marcus Lucas. The Tigers will be young at the receiver position but quite talented. The team is also one who uses the tight end in the spread offense and numerous players who have seen playing time return there as well. Michael Egnew will be looking to make his first start of the year as he replaces last year’s starter, junior Andrew Jones.
Defense - The defense returns eight starters from last year’s team, one which finished 26th in rushing defense. The team does lose linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, but the teams’ recruiting has prepared them to overcome such a great loss.
End Aldon Smith, is back for his second time around in a Tiger uniform, and he’s looking to build on his redshirt freshman season from a year ago that saw him earn Big 12 Defensive Freshman & Newcomer of the Year, as well as 1st-Team Freshman All-American honors. Smith ended his freshman season with 64 tackles, including team-high totals in tackles for loss (19) and sacks (11.5). The sack total broke the MU single-season sacks record of 11.0 set in 2000 by All-American DE Justin Smith, who has been in the NFL for a decade now. Smith’s sack total led all of the NCAA’s freshmen in 2010, and ranked 9th among all players. Dominique Hamilton started 12 games last year and pitched in with 46 tackles. The other two starters on the line figure to be Terrell Resonno and Jacquies Smith.
Replacing Weatherspoon’s 111 tackles will be no easy task, but the Tigers will look to sophomore Zaviar Gooden, who saw action in all 13 games last season. Gooden has improved his speed this offseason and hopes to provide Missouri a spark at the third linebacker position. Andrew Gachkar returns as another linebacker after finishing second on the team in tackles with a career-high 80, in 2009. The middle linebacker position looked to be a battle between Luke Lambert and Will Ebner, until Ebner
The defensive secondary boasts five players who have started games in their Missouri careers. Of those five, four are seniors. Jasper Simmons returns at the free safety position after finishing fourth on the team with 73 tackles, three tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. Corner Carl Gettis started every game last year for the Tigers, on the way to 61 tackles, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Fellow senior Kevin Rutland started opposite of Gettis in all 13 games. He came up with 47 tackles and a team-high two interceptions. Kenji Jackson and Jarrell Harrison split time at the strong safety spot and it looks as if they will continue to do the same in 2010. Harrison was in on 47 tackles and three passes broken up. He also chipped in with two tackles for loss, an interception and a sack. Jackson, on the other hand, had 41 tackles, one for loss and one pass broken up. A good but also potentially bad thing for the secondary is that there is little experience behind the starters, as most are either sophomores or redshirt freshmen.
Recruiting - Missouri signed 23 recruits in it’s 2010 class and nine of them will play this year. James Franklin checks in as the backup quarterback after having a stellar career in the state of Texas, a state Missouri has recruited very well. He comes in after being ranked no lower than No. 11 on any quarterback list. As a senior, he threw for 2,360 yards, rushed for 1,282 yards and accounted for 41 total touchdowns. Marcus Lucas and Bud Sasser are both third on the depth chart at receiver positions and deservedly so. Lucas comes in as a four star recruit and, despite being blanketed his senior year, still managed to come up with 38 catches for 819 yards and nine touchdowns. Sasser finished with 64 catches for 1,250 yards and a school-record 24 touchdowns. The only defensive player getting playing time will be defensive back E.J. Gaines. He had a monster senior season, as he ran for 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns and caught 20 passes for 400 yards, while also starring in the secondary by making 72 tackles and 2 interceptions. This is after a junior season where he had 89 tackles and five interceptions and a sophomore year when he had 88 tackles and five picks as well.
Schedule - As they have for the majority of the decade, the Tigers start the season with a game against Illinois in St. Louis. This, however, will be the last game of the Arch Rivalry for the foreseeable future. The team then gets its next four games at home, while preparing for the rough stretch of the season. The four games include tilts against McNeese State, San Diego State, Miami (Ohio) and Colorado. The Tigers have a good shot at being 5-0 as they head to a grueling four-game stretch which will ultimately decide what type of season it will be. The stretch starts off with a game at Texas A&M before the Homecoming game against Oklahoma. Did you know Missouri is home to the first-ever Homecoming? The team finishes the rough stretch with away games at Nebraska and Texas Tech. The Tigers then finish with a home game against Kansas State, a road game at Iowa State and the traditional regular season finale against Kansas in Kansas City.