With the 2009 football season just hours away, we felt compelled to step out on a limb with a few brash predictions for Mizzou this year. Brace yourself for 13 predictions you might not see coming.
MG – Bold Prediction 1: Missouri will enter conference play undefeated.
I don’t even know if this qualifies as bold. Gary Pinkel has taken this program to a level where, barring some sort of total disaster, the Tigers days of losing to Bowling Green should be behind them. The Furman game (or shall we say scrimmage?) is already chalked up as a W. For those out there that think Nevada may knock off Missouri this season, I’m sorry, a team doesn’t get beaten 69-17 one year and then rebound the following year for a win. It’s just not happening. I understand they have a very capable quarterback in Colin Kaepernick, a solid offense, and are a team that should be in a bowl game again this year, but despite Mizzou’s loss of talent, Nevada hasn’t caught up by 52 points. Having said all of that, this prediction comes down to the Illinois game. On paper Illinois has more weapons. They are probably the logical choice. But Pinkel just seems to have Ron Zook’s number. Zook has never led Illinois to a win over Missouri. I think Missouri squeaks out a close win in week one and carries that momentum through the remainder of the non-conference schedule.
TW – Bold Prediction 2: Wes Kemp leads the team in receptions and fewest dropped balls, but Danario Alexander will lead Missouri in receiving yards and Jared Perry in touchdowns.
Wes Kemp and Blaine Gabbert are not only friends since high school, but were also roommates throughout the 2008 season in which they both saw the field as true freshman. The duo have developed a good chemistry on the field this off-season and Gabbert seems to have a certain trust in going to Kemp under pressure. The 6’4,” 225 lb. Kemp is a big target with good hands. This past spring he earned the team’s “Most Improved Wide Receiver,” recognition. Starting in the Z wide receiver position, Kemp should be relied on as a possession receiver who will make a significant impact on the Tiger offense.
As for yardage, Danario Alexander’s size (6’5” 215 lbs.)and big play ability have been apparent since he was a freshman and was initially listed ahead of some guy named Jeremy Maclin on the depth chart. When healthy, we all know what Alexander can do (case in point ’07 vs. Illinois: 9 catches for 82 yards). He has averaged over 15 yards per catch in eight games over the course of his career. While he may not receive as many passes as Kemp, Alexander should rack up the yardage in 2009.
Most people would expect Alexander to lead the team in TD’s strictly based on size. Opposing defenses will focus on Alexander inside the redzone allowing the long and lean Perry to get open underneath. As long as Perry can hold on to the ball, he should improve upon his 41 catch, 567 yard, 4 touchdown season he recorded a year ago.
MG – Bold Prediction 3: Kevin Rutland will become a household name for Missouri fans.
If Kevin Rutland isn’t a name with which you’re already familiar, you will be after this season. The 6′ junior cornerback will be a starter this year and should help improve the Missouri secondary that ranked 117th against the pass last year. His progression in the Mizzou program has been equated to William Moore, who burst onto the national scene in his junior year. Look for Rutland to do the same. He has NFL speed and coaches love his potential.
MG – Bold Prediction 4: Hardy Ricks will do the same.
Ricks is a senior with more experience than people may know. He has played in 40 games over his career and has four career starts. However, that is not why Ricks is going to make headlines. He will do it with his big hits and nose for the football. In limited time against Texas last year he recorded a career-high nine tackles. Look for those type of numbers to become the norm for Ricks who the Mizzou media guide calls, “Arguably the hardest hitter on the team.” I’m not the only one who thinks this could be a big year for Ricks. The Columbia Daily Tribune’s Dave Matter, arguably the best source for Mizzou football insight, also had glowing remarks about Ricks in a recent blog entry on the paper’s website.
“Just got a hunch on Ricks,” Matter wrote. “He’s got top-five speed on the entire team and can lay a vicious hit. He’s due to make an impact.”
Look for Ricks and Rutland to lead a Mizzou secondary that has nowhere to go but up in 2009.
TW – Bold Prediction 5: Fans will not be disappointed come signing day with plenty of stars to make them happy.
There are plenty of 4 stars and well represented 3 stars with a high interest in Mizzou. On top of that it is certain names will surface midseason that no one can predict at this point. As well the unranked Tigers project to 3 stars and maybe a 4 star thrown in.
MG – Bold Prediction 6: De’Vion Moore will have people talking about a running back controversy.
Derrick Washington is a great running back. He is a leader on the team and has impressive seasons under his belt that lead us to believe he will be even better in 2009. This prediction is not taking anything away from D-Wash, but is rather a tribute to how good De’Vion Moore is. One former Mizzou player I talked to this summer said he believes that Moore is not just a nice compliment to Washington, but rather the better back altogether. Pinkel has already said that Moore is the best back-up running back he’s coached. At just 5’9,” the shifty and speedy Moore will provide Missouri with a great second option in the backfield. Coming off spring practice where he was named the team’s Most Improved Offensive Back, Moore will see more than his fair share of carries – and big plays – in 2009.
TW – Bold Prediction 7: Even with Reactor lot being closed to tailgating, college kids will still find somewhere to party before games.
This one is inevitable. As the University and Columbia police continue to crack down on underage drinking in Columbia, the popular tailgating spot known as Reactor Field will be turned into a media parking lot and will be closed to fans.
According to a document released by the MU athletic department, “This change in policy was decided upon by the University of Missouri and supported by the MU Police Department and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics in an effort to eliminate some of the disturbances and operational challenges that occurred in the lot last season.”
Nonetheless, college students are going to tailgate somewhere, so I’ll go ahead and say that while Tom’s prediction is accurate, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to many.
MG – Bold Prediction 8: Of Missouri’s biggest games on the schedule – Illinois, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Texas, and KU – the Tigers go 3-2.
I’ve already gone on record saying I believe Missouri beats Illinois. That means I think we’ll go 2-2 in the remaining, “big games.” Most people are counting Oklahoma State and Texas as automatic losses. I think that is accurate as well, but I wouldn’t be 100 percent shocked to see Missouri return the favor done to them last year and upset Okie State. In Missouri’s series with the Cowboys, the home team is 0-3 at home in the last three meetings. Maybe that trend continues this season. More reasonably, I think Missouri finds its three wins against the “big opponents,” against Illinois, Nebraska and KU. However, with such a young team I wouldn’t be surprised to see a loss to one of the lower ranked teams and then see the Tigers shock the nation and steal a win in Stillwater.
Having said that….
MG – Bold Prediction 9: Missouri will lose one game fans expect them to win. (And I’m not counting Illinois, Nebraska, or KU as expected wins).
Time to fall back to reality after getting wildly optimistic with that last prediction. Every critic in the world will tell you a million reasons why Missouri will be bad in 2009. They are young, unproven, have a rookie quarterback, the list goes on and on. Heck, we’re Missouri fans. We’re used to bad losses and bad luck here and there. Mizzou has dropped games to Bowling Green, Troy and New Mexico while being coached by Gary Pinkel. We can’t act like a loss to Baylor, Colorado, K-State or Iowa State would be all that shocking this season. With such a young team and a new starting quarterback, gone are the days when we as fans can simply count certain Big 12 games as guaranteed wins. (Want to be brought back to reality even further? Read this random article I stumbled upon earlier:
TW- Bold Prediction 10: Blaine Gabbert’s true coming out party will come on Thursday October 8th throwing 3 TDs and adding one by ground beating Nebraska.
They call them bold predictions, and I really have no basis, I’m just being bold. Blaine goes for 330 and 4 in the air, adding another 60 and 1 on the ground. We can all only hope he preforms like this.
TW- Bold Prediction 11: Our top 3 Defensive Ends will rank in the top ten in the nation for sacks by 3 teammates.
Go through all division 1 football teams and take their top three sack leaders at the end of the season, and Missouri will rank in that top 10. This is not a bold prediction on my part, no, I’m guaranteeing this one.
TW – Bold Prediction 12: Carl Gettis is closer to 2007 Gettis than 2008 Gettis, and the defense as a unit follows suit.
Carl Gettis returns to the lockdown corner he was as a true freshman and not just a warm body in the secondary like everyone was last year. While the defense returns to respectability and allows missouri to compete with out scoring 40 or 50 points a game.
MG – Bold Prediction 13: Missouri fans will be glad Matt Eberflus is gone.
Usually when a college team’s defensive coordinator leaves his position to move up to the NFL, it is considered a big loss for the college team. But not necessarily in the case of Eberflus. He had coached under Pinkel since 1992 and was Mizzou’s D-coordinator since 2001. Eberflus did a very good job over the course of his career at Missouri. In 2007 alone he was named National Defensive Coordinator of the Week on two occasions. However, last year’s defense left a bad taste in people’s mouth. There is no other way to explain the 117th best pass defense other than poor communication and poor coaching. It certainly wasn’t like Eberflus was working with a lack talent. Three players from last year’s defense will be playing in the NFL this fall. Players often complained of schemes that were too complex and were oftentimes found out of position. Those complex schemes had to be the reason for a lot the blown coverage we saw last season. I mean, how else do you explain Juice Williams throwing for 451 yards and 5 touchdowns? It’s Juice Williams. The only way Juice puts up those numbers is due to broken coverage and poor communication. So Eberflus bounced to the NFL while the opportunity was there and in stepped Dave Steckel. The no-nonsense coach was promoted from linebackers coach to replace Eberflus. Having coached at Mizzou since 2001, Steckel is familiar with the program and its personnel. He has simplified the defensive schemes and players seem to be liking him thus far. Steckel’s transition to defensive coordinator should be a seamless one.