Missouri struggled in the early part of the season last year, but won four in a row including a 41-24 victory against North Carolina in the Independence Bowl to finish their final season in the Big 12 at 8-5, with a 5-4 conference record. Head coach Gary Pinkel had yet another outstanding offensive season where his offense ranked among the best in the nation. The Tigers will face off against some unfamiliar foes this season, as they join the SEC East, which contains legendary head coaches and punishing defenses. Under the direction of Pinkel and returning quarterback, James Franklin, Missouri looks to contend for the SEC East title with their Big 12 offensive attack.
AUDIO Gary Pinkel at the podium (23:00)
2011 Offensive Ranks (Nationally)
Scoring: 32.9 PPG (30th)
Rushing: 244.0 YPG (9th)
Passing: 231.5 YPG (64th)
Total: 475.5 YPG (12th)
Pinkel enters his twelfth season as the head coach of the Missouri Tigers and every year it seems that his offense does not miss a beat. This year the Tigers return just five starters from their offense last season; James Franklin (QB), T.J. Moe (WR), Travis Ruth (LG), Jack Meiners (RG) and Justin Britt (RT). Missouri has been plagued with unfortunate injuries including their starting quarterback, Franklin, who tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder this spring. The Tigers expect Franklin, who threw for 2865 yards and 21 touchdowns, to be healthy once the season starts in the beginning of September. Missouri were misfortunate to lose Henry Josey (RB), who suffered a serious knee injury last fall, as he led the Tigers in rushing with 1168 yards and nine touchdowns. Luckily for Missouri, Franklin is a dual-threat quarterback and can disrupt defenses with his legs, as he ran for 981 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Kendial Lawrence (RB), who started in the replace of Josey, will be the primary running back this season.
Missouri’s offense features many wide receivers and pass catching tight ends, and the Tigers will have a great group of wide-outs including Moe, who lead the yards last season (649). Height is another attribute that the Tigers receivers contain, as out of the top four wide receivers, three of them are over 6-4 including the highly talked about freshman, Dorial- Green Beckham (6-6, 220). The Tigers did lose a key player at tight end, Michael Egnew, to the draft and Eric Waters (6-4, 240 Jr.) will try to fill the void. The offensive line for the Tigers returns three starters and returns Elvis Fisher, who was granted a sixth-year of eligibility due to torn patellar tendon last season. Against teams like Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and A&M, this offensive line will need to grind it out all season long to keep this offense rolling.
AUDIO Elvis Fisher on coming back for a sixth year (4:30)
Strength: Quarterback. Even though Franklin endured an injury this spring and is recovering still, he showed last year he is capable of taking this offense to new heights. With a talented receiving core, Franklin is expected to have even a better season than last year.
Weakness: Tight End. Over the past few years, Missouri has had great pass catching tight ends. Waters has not yet proven himself that he can be that next great tight end, as he only caught two balls for 46 yards and one touchdown last season.
2011 Defensive Ranks (Nationally)
Scoring: 23.5 PPG (44th)
Rushing: 127.4 YPG (29th)
Passing: 252.6 YPG (94th)
Total: 380.0 YPG (61th)
Along with Texas A&M, Missouri’s defense struggled to keep up with their offense and stop pass-happy offenses. Missouri returns five starters from last year’s defense including Brad Madison (DE), Zaviar Gooden (LB), Andrew Wilson (LB), E.J. Gaines (CB) and Kip Edwards (CB). The Tigers are set at the defensive end position, as Madison, former All-Big 12 DE, returns for his senior season after racking up 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks last season. Michael Sam, who started in just one game last year, will be at the other defensive end position. Defensive tackle should be a concern for Missouri, as depth at that position might be an issue. Sheldon Richardson is said to be the most experienced out of the bunch, but he also suffered a shoulder injury in the spring.
AUDIO E.J. Gaines answers questions (3:00)
The Tigers are sitting pretty with their linebackers though, as Will Ebner (6-0, 230 Sr.) was granted another year of eligibility after suffering an ankle injury against Miami (OH) in their season opener last year. Gooden and Wilson also return for the Tigers after combining for 178 tackles and 15.5 tackles for loss. The secondary should be much improved for last year and will benefit from slower paced offenses in the SEC. Gaines, First-team All-Big 12 last season, leads a secondary that picked up 13 passes and broke up 51 passes. Kenronte Walker (6-0, 210 Sr.) and Braylon Webb (6-2, 210 So.) will start at the safety positions this year for the Tigers. If Missouri’s defense can keep up with their offense this season, the Tigers have a chance to pull off some big upsets in the SEC.
Sept. 1 S.E. LOUISIANA
Sept. 8 GEORGIA
Sept. 15 ARIZONA STATE
Sept. 22 at South Carolina
Sept. 29 at UCF
Oct. 6 VANDERBILT
Oct. 13 ALABAMA
Oct. 27 KENTUCKY
Nov. 3 at Florida
Nov. 10 at Tennessee
Nov. 17 SYRACUSE
Nov. 24 at Texas A&M
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Story written by Graham Pope