Tag Archives: Sean Weatherspoon

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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Mizzou makes a statement

Missouri silences critics in blowout of Illinois

Jared Perry and the Missouri offense could not be stopped on Saturday. (AP photo)

Jared Perry and the Missouri offense could not be stopped on Saturday. (AP photo)

The Missouri football players had heard all the doubts.  They had seen all the underwhelming predictions.  They had heard about all the critics.  And in just over three hours they managed to silence all of them.  In an opening game demolition of Illinois, Missouri made its statement.  They made it loud and clear.  Missouri football is here to stay.

“All I know is we bust our butts,” said defensive tackle Jaron Baston.  “We want to prove to the world that Mizzou football is here to stay.”

We are only one game into the 2009 season, but so far, that’s exactly what the Tigers have done.  Already critics are backpedaling.  ESPN writer Tim Griffin, who was less than kind to Missouri this off-season wrote on Sunday:

“We might have written off the Tigers’ chances to contend in the North Division a little too early if Saturday’s performance is any indication.”

Monday at media day, Baston joined in on ripping another ESPN writer, Kirk Herbstreit.  Herbstreit had predicted that Missouri was the number one team on the decline this season.  Baston made a point Monday to poke fun at him.

“Somebody (talking about Herbstreit), said we were the first to go down or something like that,” Baston said with a smile on his face.  “Hey, I guess he did a good job of making that decision or whatever he said,” the starting tackle continued jokingly.

The players were expecting to beat Illinois, but not even linebacker Sean Weatherspoon could have predicted the total beat down that Mizzou handed the Illini.

“I expected it to be a better game,” Weatherspoon said.  “I thought it’d be a lot tougher.   But when you go out there and prepare the way we did, you can’t be surprised when it goes like that.”

In case you missed it, the “like that,” that ‘Spoon’ was referring to, was a complete dismantling of an Illinois team that was supposed to be the program’s most talented roster in years.

On offense, defense, and special teams, Missouri was completely dominant.  They made a veteran Illinois team look ill prepared, demoralized, and just downright bad.

When first time starter Blaine Gabbert wasn’t distributing passes all over the field, he was making plays with his feet.  When a clearly improved Missouri secondary wasn’t forcing Juice Williams into bad throws, the defensive line was harassing him.  As former Missouri standout Jeremy Maclin told Weatherspoon following the game, Mizzou’s performance, “Almost brought tears to his eyes.”

Blaine Gabbert was the Big 12's highest rated passer in week one. (AP photo)

Blaine Gabbert was the Big 12's highest rated passer in week one. (AP photo)

Following Missouri’s drubbing of Illinois it would be easy for the team to get overconfident.  However, Head Coach Gary Pinkel is making sure that will not happen as Mizzou prepares for its home opener this Saturday against Bowling Green.

“Every player has things they can do to improve,” Pinkel said.  “We’re not good enough to be overconfident.”

After yet another victory in the Arch Rivalry, the Tigers are looking forward to returning home to “The Zou.”

The University is trying to get the nickname, “The Zou,” to catch on this year.  The nickname has been added to the new scoreboard and the sides of the stadium.  Whether you call it Faurot Field or The Zou, Pinkel just hopes it is filled this weekend.

“I’ll be real disappointed if we don’t have 70,000 people there in gold,” he said.  We’re trying to create that as one of the toughest places to play in the United States.”

Weatherspoon agrees with his coach about Saturday’s attendance.

“I’ll be disappointed as well [if there aren’t 70,000 in attendance].

If Missouri plays like they did last Saturday, not only will they not be disappointed about attendance, but also their outcome on the field.

-MG

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

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

Scrimmage wrap-up

Thursday afternoon’s scrimmage concluded training camp for the 2009 Missouri Tigers.

Mizzou football’s training camp officially ended today as the Tigers played in their final scrimmage of the summer.  With camp now over, the Tigers will have Friday off before turning all of their attention toward game-planning for Illinois.  If you ask senior captain Sean Weatherspoon, however, he would confess that his mind has been focused on the opener in St. Louis for months.

“Coach may say that we don’t officially put 100-percent of our attention toward Illinois until this weekend, but trust me, I’ve been thinking about the Illini every time I step onto the field,” Weatherspoon said.  “Whenever I stare across the line of scrimmage, all I can see is orange.”

Sean Weatherspoon already has the Illinois game on his mind.

Sean Weatherspoon already has the Illinois game on his mind.

Spoon certainly looked like he was visualizing an orange-clad offense during Thursday’s scrimmage as he delivered many punishing hits with aid from his recently upgraded physique.  Spoon wasn’t the only Tiger that shined on defense, however.  Rather, the entire defensive unit coalesced brilliantly and outplayed the offense throughout the entire day.  With strong pressure up front, the defense was able to force the Missouri quarterbacks out of the pocket and into difficult throws, much to the delight of a hungry secondary.

“The [defensive line] is a great asset to our team,” sophomore safety Kenji Jackson said.  “They put pressure on the quarterback so they rush throws so we DB’s can do our job and pick him off and make big hits.”

As a result, two passes were intercepted, one by Hardy Ricks and the other by freshman Andrew Wilson.  Much of the quarterback pressure should be credited to Jacquies Smith, who had an excellent day in picking up a sack and recording multiple tackles for a loss.

Blaine Gabbert looked solid once again in the scrimmage and has proven this off-season that he has the ability to be an elite quarterback.  Even though there was a heavy pass rush on Gabbert throughout the day, he demonstrated that he has the ability to make quick decisions and use his feet when necessary.  Gabbert showed off his 4.5 speed with a number of scurries around the hashes.  He rushed 5 times for 15 yards in the scrimmage.  While he never broke a tremendously long run, he did an excellent job of evading defenders in the backfield and gaining enough yards to pick up first downs.

“Running with the ball is not something that I’m going to force too often,” Gabbert said. “But, whenever I find seams and do not see exactly what I want in coverage, then I am definitely going to try to pick up some yards on the ground.”

Mizzou’s receivers are talented and speedy enough to get open in just about any coverage, but if they aren’t open, Gabbert running should be a present danger on offense.

Missouri certainly has some work to do in preparation for Illinois, but overall, the mood after the scrimmage was positive.

“Overall, really good things out there,” Gary Pinkel said.

Notes

  • When asked which young player impressed him most this off-season, senior wide receiver Danario Alexander said that De’Vion Moore really played well.  Moore, who is the No.2 running back behind Derrick Washington, won the most improved offensive player award in the spring and will have a major role in both the air and ground attack this season.
  • Blaine Dalton, who has been in the running to be the No. 2 quarterback, played terribly in the final scrimmage.  Dalton looked flustered in each of his series and finished 5-15 for 18 yards with an interception.  Jimmy Costello seems to have solidified himself as Blaine Gabbert’s backup.

    Linebacker Will Ebner was shaken up during the scrimmage.

    Linebacker Will Ebner was shaken up during the scrimmage.

  • RS Freshman defensive end Aldon Smith, who was mentioned as being “unblockable” this spring, took around five reps as a defensive tackle during the scrimmage.  This could be a sign that the Tiger coaching staff is experimenting with innovative ways to get Smith on the field as much as possible, especially on passing downs.  Opposing offenses should be concerned if the Tigers are finding alternative methods to bolster their already stout defensive line.
  • The Missouri punting controversy seemed to have cleared up a little during the scrimmage.  Sophomore Matt Grabner outperformed senior Jake Harry during the practice as each one took reps kicking the football during punting situations.  While most of Harry’s punts were low and spun awkwardly, Grabner’s boots consistently hit the roof inside Dan Divine Pavilion.
  • True freshman receivers T.J. Moe and L’Damian Washington were on the field quite a bit throughout the day.  Still no word on whether they will see the field this season.  I’d put money on the fact that Moe sees time this year.
  • Sophomore tackle Dan Hoch was held out of the scrimmage while still nursing his knee injury.  However, he moved well while working one-on-one with a coach on the sideline.
  • Linebacker Will Ebner was temporarily shaken up during the scrimmage, but has suffered no major injury.

-PF

Weatherspoon adds weight, expectations in 2009

Sean Weatherspoon and Missouri look to hold off media favorites Nebraska and Kansas to win a third straight Big 12 North title.

Sean Weatherspoon and Missouri look to hold off media favorites Nebraska and Kansas to win a third straight Big 12 North title.

This year’s Missouri Tigers football team is full of question marks.  How will Blaine Gabbert do in his first year as a starter?  Can the defense rebound from a disappointing 2008 campaign?  Do the Tigers have a true number one receiver in Danario Alexander?  What changes will occur after losing both Dave Christensen and Matt Eberflus?

However, amid all the questions and speculation, Missouri fans can count on at least one truth heading into the season: The Tigers have one of the best  linebackers in the nation.  But just how good is Sean Weatherspoon?

His list of accomplishments is long.  Among them are 2007 All Big 12 honors, 2008 All-American honors, 2009 preseason All-American honors, and the chance to leave Missouri as the school’s all time leading tackler.  After racking up a team-leading 155 tackles in 2008 one might think Weatherspoon would want to keep himself as exactly as he was a season ago.  But Weatherspoon has added 12 lbs. this off-season and now weighs in at 250 lbs.

“I feel great playing at that weight,” Weatherspoon said in an interview with ESPN.com’s Tim Griffin.  The added weight isn’t slowing him down either.  He still runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds; the same speed he ran when he weighed 235 lbs. a year ago.

"Spoon" hopes added weight will help him deliver bigger hits such as this one against Buffalo last fall.  (Photo courtesy of missouri.edu)

"Spoon" hopes added weight will help him deliver bigger hits, such as this one against Buffalo last fall. (Photo courtesy of missouri.edu)

“I can still run. I could run at 235 just like I did at 215,” he said. “And now at 250, I’m still running with cornerbacks and racing against those backs. And the good thing is that if you put on more pounds, you can bring more thump when you hit.”

Hitting is exactly what the man everyone calls “Spoon” plans to do this year.  Currently, Weatherspoon sits at 14th on Missouri’s all-time career tackles list with 302.  James Kinney who recorded 434 career tackles between 2001-2004 currently holds the school record.  If Weatherspoon has a year even close to his 2008 season, he should walk away as the school record holder.  But while records are nice, Weatherspoon is not all about individual accomplishments.

“We have this thing called the law of the big picture. The big picture has nothing to do with one’s own agenda. I gotta put my agenda to the side and focus on what the team is all about,” Weatherspoon said in a recent interview with KOMU’s Eric Blumberg.

If you ask “media experts,” Missouri’s ‘big picture’ this season is not pretty.  Mizzou has been given virtually no respect this offseason.  At best, they have been picked to finish second in the Big 12 North.  In some publications, the Tigers have been picked to finish as poorly as fifth in the North.  Earlier this year, ESPN’s Andre Ware dogged Mizzou perhaps worse than anyone when he said, “It’s hard to find five wins for Missouri this year.”

That means Ware thinks Missouri will win four games this season.  I don’t know about you, but I’m a little more optimistic than that.  And more importantly, so is Sean Weatherspoon and the rest of the Tigers.  If things go according to planned, not only will Mizzou prove doubters like Ware wrong, but Weatherspoon will also improve his draft stock while he’s at it.

Weatherspoon had three interceptions in 2008 en route to being named an All-American. (Photo by Cat Szalkowski, Columbia Missourian).

Weatherspoon had three interceptions in 2008 en route to being named an All-American. (Photo by Cat Szalkowski, Columbia Missourian).

Despite a 2008 season in which Weatherspoon led the Big 12 in tackles per game (11.07 per game), was named a 2nd team All-American, recorded 155 tackles, three interceptions, 7 pass break ups, and scored two touchdowns, he was still projected as only a third round NFL draft pick.  Weatherspoon wants to prove doubters wrong and that has motivated him to return to Missouri for his senior season.

“Let’s come back and prove them wrong.  Let’s win the Butkus [award],” Weatherspoon said.

In his effort to prove his individual doubters wrong, Weatherspoon has added weight, added motivation, and plans to prove Mizzou’s doubters wrong in the process.

Only time will tell who is right about the Tiger’s team this year, but one thing we know is true.  Weatherspoon is the greatest linebacker in Missouri history and Tiger fans should be happy ‘Spoon’ is back for his senior season.

-MG

No news is good news

MizzouTigers

The Mizzou football and basketball teams haven’t exactly been making headlines lately.  But for this time of the year, that is nothing but good news.  

   There are a lot of good things happening with Missouri’s athletic  department lately.  The softball team won the Big 12 Championship, the baseball team clinched the border war victory with two wins over Kansas. Faurot Field and Taylor Stadium will be getting upgraded sound and video systems.  

   Notice how none of those things deal directly with the football team or the men’s basketball team. Some may consider that a bad thing, but in reality, that is exactly what Mizzou fans should be hoping for.  At this time of the year for the football team, spring practice is over, the NFL draft has come and gone, and summer workouts are yet to begin.  In hoops, the season is long gone and outside of recruiting, there isn’t much to discuss. Missouri fans should only hope that both teams remain out of the headlines for the time being.

   Currently, the only way members of the men’s basketball or football team will make headlines would be for all the wrong reasons.  When I say Blaine Dalton, what comes to mind?  It’s probably not the 193 passing yards he accounted for in spring scrimmages.  More than likely, it is his recent arrest.  While Dalton may very well be innocent (let’s hope his side of the story is true), it is imperative for the university, the athletic department, and their respective teams that these young men stay out of trouble during the off-season.  You would think it would be easy for players to stay out of trouble in Columbia, Missouri in the middle of summer, but the past has proved otherwise.  Let’s just hope that these current teams don’t make the same mistakes.

   Gary Pinkel and Mike Anderson are both known as coaches that recruit high character players.  However, before we assume that their players will stay out of trouble, let’s take a little trip down memory lane to a time when each program had more than its fair share of run-ins with the law.  We’ll begin with the basketball team, where past headlines tell a dismal story of violence, drinking and criminal acts.  It is amazing how a team that at one point had more arrests than Big 12 wins, was able to turn things around so quickly.  However, as quickly as things can be improved, one or two poor decisions can very quickly turn the promising upcoming  2009-2010 season into a depressing one.

  Take for instance this time just two years ago.  The Tiger basketball team was coming off an 18-12 season, their first under Head Coach Mike Anderson.  They had improved their record from 12-16 just the season before.  Mizzou was set to lose only one player to graduation and Greg Dandridge was far from an impact player.  All five starters including Big 12 newcomer of the year, Stefhon Hannah, would return and many believed the Tigers would end their NCAA tournament drought.  Plus, Anderson’s nephew, a big man who transferred from Vanderbilt named DeMarre Carroll would be eligible to play.  Carroll would add needed depth to the front court.  All signs pointed to a good 2008-2009 season.  What a difference a few decisions can make.

 

Missouri could have used Grimes in the 2007-2008 season.  Apparently it's team policy that if you hit someone with a loaded shotgun you get dismissed from the team though.

Missouri could have used Grimes in the 2007-2008 season. Apparently it's team policy that if you hit someone with a loaded shotgun you get dismissed from the team though.

 

   Between Missouri’s disappointing loss to Baylor in the first round of the Big 12 tournament to end their 2006-2007 season and January 30th of the following season, Mizzou would see countless off-court incidents doom their season.  DeMarre Carroll got shot, Kalen Grimes was dismissed from the team for assaulting someone with a loaded shotgun, Daryl Butterfield earned a suspension for hitting his girlfriend, Mike Anderson Jr. received a DUI, and five players were suspended for the infamous Athena brawl.  Before the season began, Missouri had lost its starting center in Grimes.  Before the season ended they lost their leading scorer, assister and shooter in Hannah.  A total of 7 players had earned suspensions during the year.  The result: a 16-16 record, including a 6-10 record in Big 12 play.  Missouri had taken a serious step backward in Anderson’s second year as coach.  Attendance plummeted.  Community support plummeted.  The Missouri Tigers had quickly become a team of thugs in the eye of the community.

   This past season, the basketball team earned many accolades for their great season.  However, they earned fewer accolades for the fact that they were able to avoid the off court disasters that doom an entire season.  The only headlines Missouri fans should be hoping for from these players is for their play on the court and nothing else.

   Until school resumes and the buzz of the upcoming Arch Rivalry game picks up, Missouri fans should also be hoping that I have very little on which to comment about the football team.  A year ago, Missouri dismissed reserve linebacker Marquis Booker following his run-in with the law.  Again, the Missouri athletic department was drawing off-season headlines for all the wrong reasons.

   Booker was arrested on suspicion of unlawful use of a weapon after police found a loaded 9-millimeter Ruger handgun in the passenger seat of a car Booker was driving.  While this incident was bad enough, throw in the fact that the car was Jeremy Maclin’s and that Maclin, Sean Weatherspoon and incoming freshman George White were in the car at the time, and the Mizzou football team had potential for a complete disaster.  Luckily, Maclin, Spoon, and White made good decisions and were not involved in the incident.  Could you imagine if that night had gone differently how different the already disappointing 2008 season would have been?  Let’s say it’s Maclin that was flashing the gun instead of Booker.  How different would the 2008 season have been?  How different would the program be?  Where would Maclin be right now?

 

Can you imagine Missouri without Maclin last season?  I can't.

Can you imagine Missouri without Maclin last season? I can't.

 

   An entire season and even an entire athletic department can be torn down in a matter of minutes by poor decisions made by just one or two people.  Mike Alden and the athletic department have worked hard to establish Missouri on the national scene in both football and men’s basketball.  Bad choices could quickly wipe that all away.  So while summer can be a little dull without major headlines being made by those two sports, Missouri fans should hope it stays that way.  Because in this time of the year, Mizzou could only draw major headlines for all the wrong reasons.

-MG