Tag Archives: Danario Alexander

Tigers looking to protect “The Zou”

Missouri officials are expecting about 70,000 people at "The Zou" this Saturday.

Missouri officials are expecting about 70,000 people at "The Zou" this Saturday.

Columbia, Missouri may not be home to a real zoo with wild animals, but this Saturday it will be home to a different kind of zoo: “The Zou.”

Technically, Missouri’s Faurot Field has been nicknamed “The Zou” since 2003, but this year the athletic department has put a greater emphasis on getting that nickname more exposure.  Just this week, “The Zou” was added to the each side of the stadium and it is boldly emblazoned on the back of the new scoreboard.  Around campus it seems the name is slowly catching on, much to the delight of the players.

“I like calling it The Zou,” sophomore safety Kenji Jackson said.  “It’s got some swagger to it.”

Teammate Danario Alexander agrees.

“The Zou is a perfect name for it,” Alexander said.  “It’s the Zou.  We want to make it crazy in that place, make it a tough place to play.”

Meanwhile, Sean Weatherspoon attributes the name to the way the Tigers have played there lately.  “We’ve got some wild and crazy animals that play in the Zou.  We’ve done a great job protecting home and I want to keep that going.”

If Missouri does keep it going, it is going to take a strong effort against an underrated Bowling Green team.

Missouri is 30-7 at home since nicknaming Faurot Field “The Zou,” in 2003.  Better yet, they have gone 17-2 there in the last three seasons.  However, that does not mean Bowling Green is going down without a fight.

Falcons’ senior quarterback Tyler Sheehan, who threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns in his team’s week one victory is expressing no shortage of confidence as he prepares to face an improved Mizzou defense.

“We’re expecting big things from us (this week),” Sheehan said when asked what he expects when taking on the 25th ranked Tigers.  “We have a good shot at getting some attention from some people.”

Gary Pinkel is among those who are already giving full attention to Sheehan and the Falcons.  Pinkel is 0-2 at Mizzou when facing Bowling Green.  Although the Tigers last loss to Bowling Green was back in 2002, Pinkel is determined it doesn’t happen to this year’s team.

“Every player has things they can do to improve,” Pinkel said.  “[Bowling Green] is a good football team.”

So while fans continue to scoop up the last remaining tickets for this week’s game, they could be in for a surprise if they are expecting a total blowout.  Bowling Green is 11-8 against major conference opponents since 2001.  And oh yeah, the last time the Falcons played a team ranked 25th in the country?  They beat Pittsburgh 27-17 just last season.

Workers at MU's Faurot Field were already rolling out the temporary general admission bleachers last week.

Workers at MU's Faurot Field were already rolling out the temporary general admission bleachers last week.

Missouri is the favorite in Saturday’s contest and rightfully so, but no matter how rowdy “The Zou” gets, don’t expect a complete Tiger feeding frenzy.  However, if last Saturday’s performance against Illinois is truly an indication of how good this team is, the Tigers will once again send Tiger fans home happy.

As defensive tackle Jaron Baston put it,  “This is a program here to stay,” he said.  “As long as they come out and support us, I think we’ll make them pretty happy.”

-MG

Note: At the request of some of our readers, I have put up some final scoreboard pictures below.  After this, you’ll have to come see it person.

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Bold Predictions

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.

While we aren't exactly predicting a BCS bowl for Gary Pinkel the Tigers, some may be surprised with our predictions. (Photo courtesy of mutigers.com)

While we aren't exactly predicting a BCS bowl for Gary Pinkel the Tigers, some may be surprised with our thoughts. (Photo courtesy of mutigers.com)

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:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/243044-why-the-missouri-tigers-wont-go-bowling-in-2009/ )

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.

Reflections on Mizzou Before We Kickoff

 

While I may be split as to which side will prevail on Saturday, I am certain that Mizzou football will be better than the doubters think.

While I may be split as to which side will prevail on Saturday, I am certain that Mizzou football will be better than the doubters think. (Photo by Chris Lee, STL Today)

            Yep, I will graciously confess that, until about two weeks ago, I was one of the individuals that the previous author eluded to when denouncing that this year’s Missouri football team is so different than last year’s to have any reasonable expectations for high success.  The 2009 team is lacking many of the tangible assets that gave the 2007-2008 squads such fruition.  The team is lacking proven superstars.  No more Chase Daniel, no more Jeremy Maclin, no more Chase Coffman, and “no mo” Willy Mo. 

While star power has diminished on the roster, it has also diminished in the booth.  Offensive coordinator Dave Christensen booked it to Laramie to begin a horseshoe business (and head Wyoming’s football program), while defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus ran to the NFL.  With their departures came two new familiar faces.  Commanding the offensive side of the ball is Dave Yost, the former Missouri quarterbacks coach who looks more like he belongs at afternoon meetings on the beach scoping swells with Laird Hamilton than he does scoping Big 12 defenses.  Dave Steckel, the muscular linebackers coach is taking over as defensive coordinator for Eberflus. 

Would you rather have this guy coaching your surf club or your football team?  I will take football.

Would you rather have this guy coaching your surf club or your football team? I will take football. (Photo by L.G. Patterson, AP)

            With all of these losses from a year ago, it would be silly to put any stock into this year’s Missouri squad, wouldn’t it?  Two weeks ago, my answer would have been yes.  I was commanding the bandwagon of doubters, sipping on ‘haterade’ and just wishing that the ‘ole boys could come back for one last season; one last shot at a Big 12 Championship.  The news of Sheldon Richardson being academically ineligible to attend the university had me listening to Adam Lambert’s gloomy version of ‘Mad World’ for weeks.  I would have never even dreamt of saying that Mizzou could knock off Illinois, who albeit struggled last year, still has a boatload of talent returning this season.

            Finally, after weeks of swimming in a sea of doubt, I woke up from the doldrums.  I attended Mizzou training camp scrimmages and saw the potential that this year’s team has.  Blaine Gabbert looks like he is the real deal.  At 6’5”, 240 lbs. Gabbert has the NFL body that Chase Daniel didn’t have, and the quickness that every coach dreams of having in a signal caller.

Gabbert has the body to run over people, if necessary.

Blaine Gabbert has the body to run over people, if necessary. (Photo by Julia Robinson, Columbia Daily Tribune.)

Gabbert is not alone, however.  Danario Alexander will be his primary target, and rumors have swirled saying that some players think Alexander could be better than Maclin, if healthy.  Well, Danario is healthy now, so let the debate begin. 

Derrick Washington returns.  De’Vion Moore will have an increased role.  Andrew Jones has the potential to become the next great tight end at ‘Tight End U.” 

Sean Weatherspoon is no longer sandwiched between talented defensive stars in Ziggy Hood and William Moore.  But, Spoon does seem hungrier than ever and he put on the weight over the summer to crack enough hard hits to make up for their losses.

I do not want to run through the whole roster and tell you who I think can replace holes from last year’s team.  That would just bore you, and considering that the opener against Illinois is tomorrow night, I’m sure you all are already clued in.

What I’m trying to accomplish with this elegantly scribed column is that Mizzou football is not as destitute as people like Kirk Herbstreit think (in case you didn’t hear, Herbstreit picked Mizzou as his No. 1 team on the move down in 2009.) 

Gary Pinkel has his own eye for talent.

Gary Pinkel has his own eye for talent. (Midwest Sports fans photo)

While it may not protrude as much as in the past couple years, Mizzou’s talent is still there.  You just have to look a little harder and give some of the younger guys a chance.  If anything, I have always thought that it is Mizzou’s system that makes players great.  Gary Pinkel does an excellent job at developing players and recruiting for his system.  So, while there isn’t a plethora of four and five star recruits distributed across the roster, I trust what the coaching staff is doing.

Don’t think too long and hard about predictions for tomorrow’s game with Illinois.  It will drive you crazy.  Trust me.  I have hopped from one side of the fence to another for weeks trying to figure out this one.  I am settling on, “It’s gonna be a good game.” 

If the talent-laden Illinois team shows up in full force, then Mizzou will have some trouble.  Arrelious Benn is as dominant receiver as any in the country, and if Juice Williams can get him the ball without making too many mistakes, then Missouri will need to adjust effectively if they want to succeed.  The Illinois team may look better on paper, but all too often, game are won with intangibles like leadership, strategy, and aggressiveness.  As we saw last season with Illinois, a team with Rose Bowl talent can easily become a 5-7 team if not coached effectively. 

Arrelious Benn should be lockdown target No. 1 for Mizzou's defense on Saturday.

WR Arrelious Benn should be lockdown target No. 1 for Mizzou's defense on Saturday. (Athlon Sports photo)

Mizzou is entering this season extremely hungry, determined to prove that there will not be as big of a drop off in achievement as everyone thinks, if any.  One more thing: After the crew here at the Columns told Sean Weatherspoon about Herbstreit’s comments, he said that he will deliver one hell of a pregame speech on Saturday and keep the ESPN analyst’s comments in mind.  As far as I’m concerned, I would not want to be running out on offense to line up against a defense that was just motivated by Spoon, who jokingly said that “some tears might be involved” in his pregame hollering. 

-PF

“The old Danario’s back.”

"The old Danario" torched Nebraska for 56 yards and a touchdown in 2007. (AP photo)

"The old Danario" torched Nebraska for 56 yards and a touchdown in 2007. (AP photo)

The 2009 Missouri Tigers football team resembles the 2008 Missouri Tigers football team about as much as Boise State’s turf resembles natural grass.  Sure there are some similarities, but the bottom line is, it’s different.

Last year, everyone knew what to expect heading into the Illinois game.  We knew Chase Daniel would be solid at quarterback.  We knew Chase Coffman was one of the best tight ends in the country.  We knew Jeremy Maclin was going to be an All-American candidate at wide receiver.

Those areas are all thought to be question marks this year.  However, if you ask members of the current Tigers team, they’ll tell you they once again have an All-American at wide receiver.  That receiver is Danario Alexander.

“The old Danario’s back,” coach Gary Pinkel said.

If you’re an Illinois supporter that is not what you want to hear.

The old Danario is the man who caught nine passes for 82 yards against the Illini in 2007 before suffering a wrist injury.  The old Danario is the man who was originally listed ahead of Jeremy Maclin on the depth chart.  The old Danario is the man who hauled in a 74-yard touchdown in the Sun Bowl as a true freshman.  The old Danario is a man defenses do not want to face this season.

Just ask Missouri defensive tackle Jaron Baston.  He agrees with coach Pinkel that Alexander is on the verge of a great season.

“Oh man that guy is amazing on the field,” Baston said when asked about Alexander.  “He’s athletic.  I’ve never seen in-person an athlete that can do what he can do as far as agility, jumping.”  No, Baston did not just have his eyes closed for the Maclin era.  He is just that serious about Alexander’s resurgence.

“We had an All-American man, but as far as an overall receiver, [Alexander] is special,” Baston continued.  “I think that he has the size, the speed, athleticism to be just as good or even better than some of those All-American guys we’ve had.”

Photo from stltoday.com

Photo from stltoday.com

The question for Alexander has never been his talent.  It’s been his health.  But now 100 percent healthy for the first time since 2007, Alexander is anxious to hit the field on Saturday.

“I’m just looking forward to playing,” Alexander said.

So while people will continue to discuss the differences in this year’s Missouri team from last year’s, those differences are not always a negative.  The Tigers are hoping one difference will include a healthy Alexander for an entire season.

If that happens, the so-called drop off in talent at wide receiver might not be as extreme as everyone expects.  Tiger fans, we only have a few more hours before we find out.

-MG

Mizzou expresses confidence at media day

Gary Pinkel addresses the media.

Gary Pinkel addresses the media.

If the 2009 Missouri Tigers were to listen to national media, there is no reason for them to even play Illinois this year.  After all, Mizzou has so many question marks that hardly anyone outside of Columbia even expects them to compete with Juice Williams and the Illini.  But inside the Mizzou Athletic Complex on Monday, the Tigers were expressing no shortage of confidence.

After gashing the Illinois defense for 130 rushing yards and two touchdowns last year, junior running back Derrick Washington thinks Missouri’s critics are in for a big surprise this time around.

“We lost a lot of talent.  I can’t argue with that.  A lot of these young guys are going to step up and prove a lot of people wrong.”

Derrick Washington is hoping for another big day against Illinois (Photo by Joshua Bickel, Columbia Missourian).

Derrick Washington is hoping for another big day against Illinois (Photo by Joshua Bickel, Columbia Missourian).

Members of the Tigers defense are also confident heading into Saturday, despite giving up 42 points and 532 yards of total offense to the Illini a year ago.

“I don’t see any weak links in our defense as far as confidence-wise,” senior defensive end Brian Coulter said.  “Everybody’s ready to go out there.”

Washington was willing to go even further than saying the defense is confident, “Our defense is stacked,” Washington said.

But while the players may be feeling positive heading into Saturday’s game, Head Coach Gary Pinkel is mindful that the Tigers still have their work cut out for them.

“They’re a great team,” Pinkel said when talking about Illinois.  “They have a much more experienced team than we have.  It will be a very difficult task.”

Although Pinkel will concede that Illinois is more experienced, he is downplaying the fact that experience will be a much of a factor for his quarterback, Blaine Gabbert.

“He may have less experience, but no one cares,” Pinkel said.  He reiterated that fact again when asked about that “E” word saying, “Any youth or lack of experience to me is absolutely insignificant.”

Pinkel feels Gabbert is ready, but more importantly Gabbert feels he is ready.

Blaine Gabber (11) feels he is ready to lead this Missouri team. (Photo courtesy of stltoday.com)

Blaine Gabbert (11) feels he is ready to lead this Missouri team. (Photo courtesy of stltoday.com)

“The talent is there (for us) and the playmaking ability is there, Gabbert said.  “It’s a big game. It’s a rivalry game.  Why not start big?”

Speaking of big, one of Gabbert’s biggest receiving targets backed up what Gabbert said.  When asked if he was ready for Saturday, Danario Alexander replied:

“We’re ready to play them.  I’m just looking forward to playing them Saturday.”

So while the critics continue to pick against the Tigers, Missouri is embracing the role of underdog this year.  Among the team’s biggest critics: ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, who in a recent article on espn.com ranked Mizzou as the number one team on the way down in 2009.  But with such low expectations, the Tigers feel they have nowhere to go but up this season.

As Sean Weatherspoon put it, “We control our own destiny.  What everybody is saying now doesn’t mean anything.  If we go out each and every week and put up, people will be talking about the Missouri Tigers again.”

-MG

Replacing playmakers – inside Mizzou football recruiting

The Columns would like to proudly introduce our first-ever guest contributor.  Tom Weyerich is a Mizzou sports specialist with an emphasis in recruiting.

Head coach Gary Pinkel and the rest of the Missouri staff will need to continue to sign quality recruiting classes as they try to replace stars like Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman, and William Moore among others.  (Photo courtesy of mutigers.com

Head coach Gary Pinkel and the rest of the Missouri staff will need to continue to sign quality recruiting classes as they try to replace stars such as Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman, and William Moore among others. (Photo courtesy of mutigers.com)

 

When it comes to recruiting, rarely do you come across a must-get player, however, for Mizzou football there are “must-gets” this year. The Tigers areas of need come at running back, wideout, and the respective lines. We’ll take a look at why each spot is important in this class and who can help address this problem.

Offensive Line:

            They never get the glory on the field so here you go offensive line, you’re number one right here. The general consensus for the Tigers is that line play has been the biggest sources of separation between Mizzou and the likes of Big 12 powers, OU and Texas. Simply look to the draft this year where OU’s left side of the line will be gone by the second round and they have a RG and C that will go in the middle or late rounds. Also look back to the Tigers ‘07 squad where LT Tyler Luellen and C Adam Spieker were considered to be two of the best at their position in Tiger history. Neither sniffed a candle of getting drafted but were scooped up as unsigned free agents. The Tigers need to get bigger, stronger, and nastier along the offensive line and they have three guys on the roster that seem to have a good shot at getting this done. Anchoring the line in the middle is Tim Barnes, a 6’4 305LB junior, who was good as a sophomore, but according to PowerMizzou.com looks to be dominant in spring ball, and is apparently developing a nasty mean streak. The bookends are Elvis Fisher, a freshman All American and Dan Hoch who might be the biggest non basketball player on campus. Hoch was named the team’s most improved lineman this past spring.

What does the future hold?

Four lineman were taken in the ’09 class. The most exciting prospects seem to be Jack Meiners and Chris Freeman who are already larger than life at 6’6 315 and 6’7 325 respectively, and were both highly sought after prospects. Also added were Mark Hill and Justin Britt who appear to be more of project players. They need to add a lot of weight before seeing the field. The class of ’10 already has one commit Mitch Morse a 6’6 285 LB who just turned 17 years old, so he still has potential to grow.  Morse was named All District, All Area, and All State in Texas as a junior.  Daryl Williams and Nick Demien are the two other tackles that the Tigers are hard after and in good shape to land. Williams is a highly regarded guy out of Texas routinely ranked on lists of top Texas players, and Missouri is in great shape because Williams’ friend James Franklin is a Tiger pledge. Williams has already declared the Tigers as his leader. Demien is ranked as the 51st best player in America by Rivals.com, was at a recent Missouri practice and declared that Missouri has a definite advantage after the trip and said that he grew up a Tiger fan.

Elvis Fisher looks to emerge as one of the best left tackles in the Big 12 this season after earning freshman All American honors a year ago. (Photo by Andrew Worrall)

Elvis Fisher looks to emerge as one of the best left tackles in the Big 12 this season after earning freshman All American honors a year ago. (Photo by Andrew Worrall)

Wide Receiver:

The Tigers need a game changer at the wide out position. Over the last two years they will have lost four professionals in Maclin, Franklin, Coffman, and Rucker. They will lose their top two wide outs in Danario Alexander and Jared Perry after the 2009 season. Jerrel Jackson, Rolandis Woodland and Wes Kemp seem to be the prospective game changers. Jackson seems to have the best chance and has shown the most talent during spring ball. Woodland has the best combination of height speed and raw talent, but drops and picking up of the playbook seems to have been the biggest issue this spring for him. Wes Kemp seems to be the safest bet, and has great size but needs to improve speed to become a true game changer. The Tigers signed a group of solid receivers in  ’09 but not one person stands out as a game changer.

For the Future:

The 2010 class could prove to be the biggest wide out class in Missouri history. They have one pledge in Marquise Hill, who is small, shifty, and fast. However, the real excitement lies in the four 4* receiver, Jimmie Hunt.  Mizzou seems to be in excellent shape to land him.  At 6’1 195 and listed speed at 4.45, the Cahokia, Illinois native appears to have very nice combination to become an impact player. He has already declared Missouri to be his leader by a good margin and it would be a surprise if a letter of intent is not faxed into Columbia on signing day. One of two in-state targets for Mizzou is Keeston Terry, a 6’2 skinny kid from Blue Springs, is a member of the Rivals 250 and his best offers are Missouri, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Kansas. It was long believed he was destined to MU or kU with Missouri as the leader, but now declares no favorites. Marcus Lucas is a little larger at 6’5 and his recruitment is a little heavier at this point, with offers from Arkansas, Iowa, both of the Kansas schools, Nebraska Stanford, and UCLA. It’s really down to his other two schools that have offered, which are Missouri and Oklahoma, with the slight lead to Oklahoma at this point. Lucas is a member of the Rivals 250 and just missed the top 100. The most highly sought after guy is Justin McCay from just across the border.  He checks in at 6’3 200 lbs and a 40 speed of 4.5 and is ranked by rivals as there 43 best prospect in the nation. His offers are highlighted by Florida, FSU, Georgia, OU, ND, Missouri, Tennessee and Oregon. It is believed McCay likes Missouri, Florida, and Oklahoma, but the distance to Florida may be too far.

Missouri will look to add size, like Danario Alexander, at the receiver position in the upcoming class.  (AP photo)

Missouri will look to add size, like Danario Alexander, at the receiver position in the upcoming class. (AP photo)

Running Backs:

Heading into next fall, the Missouri running back situation includes one junior and two sophomores returning for the tigers. The junior, Derrick Washington has to return healthy and show that his slowdown in conference play a year ago was a result of the cyst on his calf, not just playing against higher level competition. Indications are that when returning to full speed in spring ball he looked the part. The questions come at the number two spot, the men competing for the spot have a combined 41 rushes for just over 250 yards, all coming from DeVion Moore, some coming in meaningful minutes, others in mop up duty. The other option at running back is Gilbert Moye, who took all of his collegiate snaps on the defensive side of the ball before this spring, but checking in at 6’2 215 with above average speed he has the tools to play the part but must learn the position.

The future?

The tigers signed a somewhat sleeper in highly ranked Kendial Lawrence plucked out of Texas. His highlight film and physical specs scream Tony Temple part 2. Missouri swung and missed on three 4* guys losing Stefan Taylor to Standford, Knile Davis and in-state star Ronnie Wingo to Arkansas. The tigers have offered three players in 2010 so far, two from Witchita Kansas, although Demarcus Robinson is already a K-State commit, and one from Oklahoma. The two uncommitted players are rivals ranked 4* Joseph Randle, who has a top three of Missouri and the schools in Kansas. However with Robinson going to K-State my belief is it is a Mu ku battle. Delans Griffin is out of Oklahoma and claims no leaders but says he likes Missouri.  I’m not oozing with confidence there but it’s a shot.

Defense:

You ask why the must gets include no defensive positions on the list, after such a wretched season? My reasoning: the talent is there but its young. There are playmakers at every position, the earlier post cites the tremendous ends, on top of that Brad Madison and Malbrough have promising futures. Ty Phillips, Brayden Burnett and one of the most sought after players in the country, Sheldon Richardson add even more promise. Jaron Baston and two sophomores Terrell Ressono and Dominique Hamilton run the show in the middle. A strong pass rush from the above immediately make the back seven that much better with top round draft choice Spoon anchoring it all and the considerable talent of freshman, sophomores and juniors in the defensive backfield.

Note: Most information gathered from PowerMizzou.com and staff and other Rivals.com networks

-TW