Friday, August 31, 2007

The M-I-Z Q&A: Illinois

Each week, Every True Son will seek out a blogger of Mizzou's upcoming opponent to exchange questions with regarding the upcoming matchup. This week, the "M-I-Z Q&A" turns to Steven from The Chief Perspective for a look at Illinois. My responses to his questions can be found here

ETS: What should everyone expect from Juice Williams in year two?

TCP: "Juice should get better as the game will slow down and he's had a year to get a better grasp of the offense. Also, his receiving crew is a lot better. Last year, you can see clearly that Juice threw the ball right to the target, but the receiver dropped the ball alot. It wasn't all Juice's fault. In addition, once his passing game gets in gear, you'll see him confuse defenses with his ability to run."

ETS: How underrated and unappreciated is the Illinois defense?

TCP: "That remains to be seen. I think coach Zook has been masterful to recruit athletes vs. position players, but don't know in the physical Big Ten, if a smaller, but faster (Ravens like) defense will make a difference. I think our defense will hold the run really well, but I'm not sure about the secondary just yet. If they can increase their turnover rate, I'd think we'd be really good."

ETS: It seems like Ron Zook has the approval of top recruits, but what is the consensus on Ron Zook as a gameday coach?

TCP: "Another good question. Zooker I think is a relatively good coach, but has been a victim of not enough time to coach up kids. He had winning seasons in florida, but not to Florida standards. I'd love a 7-5 team with a trip to a bowl. In an age where football forums and blogs breakdown every play decision, I think criticism of zook game day strategy is unwarrented until the end of the season. However, the consensus is wait and see right now."

ETS: Tell Missouri fans a little bit about your favorite tradition at Illinois.

TCP: "Well, being a former Chief Illiniwek, I could have told you easily what my favorite tradition is, but the Political Correctness police locked it up and threw away the key. My second favorite football tradition? Fireworks after every score. I grew up in Champaign and would listen to the games on the radio or watch on the TV and I would run to the front of my house after each game to listen to the fireworks announce another score. Normally, loud sounds aren't good, but this one was a celebration and others in my neighborhood would step out and we'd all celebrate together."

ETS: Game prediction?

TCP: Illini 30, Mizzou 24. (I'm a hopeless optimist)

Every True Son sends its thanks to The Chief Perspective.

ADDENDUM: ESPN analyst/MU grad Pat Forde weighed in on the matchup as the "battle of unachievers."

Countdown - 1 day

TOMORROW...

M-I-Z



Z-O-U.

Football season is here Tiger fans. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Illinois Preview

I was unable to find a willing Illini blogger to participate in a Q&A session, so I'm going to try to fly solo on a Mizzou-Illinois preview for this Saturday.



When Mizzou has the ball:

Here's the good news for Illinois: Brad Smith is no longer a Tiger.
Here's the bad news: That may make the Missouri offense even more dangerous.

Illinois fans are quick to claim that their defense is well-adjusted to spread offenses, having seen the likes of Purdue and Northwestern in conference play. In 2006, the Boilermakers averaged about 22 yards and four points less than the Tigers. The Wildcats weren't quite as effective, averaging over 100 yards and 15 points less than Missouri. To put it lightly, Illinois has not seen the likes of the 2007 Missouri offense.

As much as Tiger fans are preparing for a Texas Tech-style air raid against Illinois, expect coach Gary Pinkel to try to establish Tony Temple and the ground game early for a variety of reasons, including:

-- Try to find Temple's magic from the season finale at the Sun Bowl last year, when he rushed for 194 yards and 2 TD
-- Test the knee injury under true game situations
-- See what kind of playing time will be necessary from Marcus Woods, Earl Goldsmith and Jimmy Jackson
-- Most importantly, keep the Illini off balance, and unable to zone blitz the living hell out of Chase Daniel

Additionally, Mizzou supporters seem to be overlooking Illinois' experience on the defensive side of the ball, spearheaded by a solid group of linebackers led by MLB J Leman, who leads ETS to believe a Missouri player needs to go by first initial only as well. As a unit, Illinois' defense combines for only four less starts than Mizzou's heralded offense.

Inside, DL Chris Norwell and David Lindquist manage to fly under the radar to anchor a moderately impressive defensive line. In the secondary, the cover ability of the Illini - on the half of the field not covered by Vontae Davis - is extremely questionable. Illinois' safeties, Kevin Mitchell and Justin Harrison, are primarily known as hitters, not center fielders.

As long as Missouri can feign balance and open up seams for its playmakers in the slot (read: Maclin, Alexander, Coffman, Rucker, etc.), the Tigers shouldn't have too much trouble moving the football. But if the Tigers become one-dimensional, don't underestimate Leman and Co.

When Illinois has the ball:

And so the great enigma returns for year two: Will the Juice be turned loose in 2007, or will he complete less than 40 percent of his passes again?

QB Juice Williams returns from a freshman season that is extremely tough to decipher. As a freshman, Williams completed 39.5 percent of passes, threw 9 TD and 9 INT and was sacked nearly twice a game despite his highly regarded elusiveness. Add in 5-star WR recruit Arrelious Benn, and coach Ron Zook has the makings of another Florida - namely a raw, talented team he has no idea how to coach.

But as much talent as the Illini claim to have through the air, their best chance to beat Missouri lies in the hands - and legs - of RB Rashard Mendenhall. Mendenhall is a tough, between-the-tackles runner that can exploit a Missouri D with well-understood soft spot up the gut. That said, the Tiger D-Line will have much to prove this year beginning against Illinois, and it should be interesting seeing what kind of impact a healthy Ziggy Hood can have on the Mizzou defense.

The most interesting match-up (according to ESPN.com), although it may never surface head-to-head, is the battle of true freshmen: Benn and Mizzou CB Carl Gettis. The following is Scouts, Inc.'s thoughts on the matchup:

"Rarely do two freshmen have the kind of impact on a game that these two should have on this one. Gettis has the quick feet and explosiveness to develop into a quality starter but he has two weaknesses that Benn has the tools to exploit. First off, he doesn't have elite size. Benn can use his 3-inch height advantage to gobble up any jump balls and his 15-pound weight advantage to shield Gettis from the ball when he isn't able to separate from the coverage. Secondly, Gettis doesn't have elite speed. Benn, on the other hand, shows a second gear when tracking the ball and has the body control to make spectacular catches downfield. It's also worth noting that most of Gettis' playing time at the high school level came at running back rather not on defense. As a result, he is still working on his footwork and he's vulnerable to getting caught out of position."


One other development to look for is the development of a pass rush by DEs Strkyer Sulak and Tommy Chavis. How quickly they progress could hold a MAJOR key to Mizzou's success in conference play.

Special teams:

Mizzou should have the edge across all facets of special teams. K Jeff Wolfert is one of the Big 12's top two kickers, ranking right next to Oklahoma's Garrett Hartley. P Adam Crossett has had, according to all reports, one of the best camps of any Tiger. Jeremy Maclin and his newly restructured knee could prove to be an amazing threat in the return game, given the new kickoff rules in 2007.

The Illini are riddled with questions on special teams. Zook refuses to commit to a punter (Jared Bosch, Anthony Santella or Kyle Yelton), will start a kicker who missed a 20-yarder in the '06 finale (Jason Reda), and a return unit (Kyle Hudson and Jacob Willis) that ESPN.com calls "mediocre at best."

Intangibles and Gut Feelings:

Head-to-head:
-- Chase Daniel over Juice Williams
-- Mizzou offense over Illini offense
-- Illini defense over Mizzou defense
-- Mizzou special teams over Illini special teams
-- Mizzou confidence over Illini confidence
-- Gary Pinkel vs. Ron Zook: it's like picking which alcoholic father is most likely to let his kids down.

Write it down (prediciton time):

MIssouri defeats Illinois, 38-21

OVER

Photos courtesy: STL Sports, Illinois Loyalty, The BBBQ, CSTV

Countdown - 2 days

In two days...

It's a bully for ol' Mizzou.



Photo courtesy uncredited Google Image search.

Can you feel it?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Breakdown

I was considering breaking down the Illinois game, but then I stumbled across this gem on Dave Matter's blog.

I assume the average fan trusts Chase's opinion of the Illini much more than the opinion of young student blogger with too much free time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A bit of a stretch...

In this morning's Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Jimmy Burch made this comparison when discussing Missouri and the Big 12 North:

"Can Missouri handle the hype as a preseason favorite in the North Division?

History screams 'no.' The Tigers never have finished better than 4-4 in Big 12 play in six seasons under coach Gary Pinkel. One caveat: Similar concerns dogged Texas in 2005, when a transcendent quarterback (Vince Young) lifted lots of monkeys off Brown's back, giving the coach his first conference title as well as a national crown. Mizzou quarterback Chase Daniel has the talent and intangibles to elevate Pinkel, too."


So, in conclusion: Missouri = 2007 National Champions.

Nothing like a Tuesday afternoon to blow things out of proportion, right?

ADDENDUM: Some out there have been unable to detect my sarcasm. Do you really think a blog that claims to be for "God's least favorite athletic program" would actually predict a national title?

Big 12 Round Table - Face of the Team

Matt over at Crimson and Cream Machine (heavily endorsed by ETS) has once again put together a set of questions for Big 12 bloggers...

Pick one current player to be the “Face of the Franchise” for your team. You can only select one player so tell us why you selected the person that you did.

-- There should be little to no debate among Tiger fans here: Chase Daniel is the face, arms, legs and torso of the Missouri football program. Since undertaking the monumental task of trying to follow Brad Smith (a task that he somehow managed to exceed expectations), Daniel has given Mizzou a new reputation and new swagger. His knowledge of the offense, outstanding leadership skills and controlled cockiness has redefined Missouri football.

Tell us what makes your team’s stadium great, traditions, facilities, etc…

-- Let's not kid ourselves, Faurot Field can not match some of the towering facades and intimidating structures of many of the stadiums in the Big 12. But Faurot Field has something many other Big 12 shrines lack: charm. The venue seems like a throwback to the days of old without seeming outdated. The brick walls lining the field, grassy hill and, of course, the rock "M" seem to resonate across generations in a way "Godzillatrons," "Gigatrons," and "Tunnel Walks" can't. I'd argue "Every True Son" and "Fight Tigers" are among the top fight songs in the country (at least compared to the five or six different renditions of "We've been working on the railroad" used by other many schools), and the Mizzou cheer is an outstanding bit of tradition crammed in between songs. And, although it's simple, alternating "M-I-Z" and "Z-O-U" between sides of the stadium has its own charm as well.

Hypothetical – Your team has to vacate their current stadium and play a game in another Big 12 stadium which one would you pick for them to play in and why?

-- This is tough for several reasons. Personally, I have a man crush on Texas A&M's Kyle Field for several reasons. The massive structure and three-sided attack is extremely impressive. But I wonder how well Mizzou could pack such a large stadium and what kind of noise Tiger fans would bring. The same applies for Nebraska's Memorial Stadium. Oklahoma's Gaylord Memorial's charm is like Faurot with far more prestige, and I'd love to have my stadium to be a rich man's personal playground like Boone Pickens Stadium at Oklahoma State. But if you make me settle for one, my vote stays with Kyle Field.

Unthinkable – Take your team’s biggest rival’s head coach and make a case as to why he would be a good fit on your sideline.

-- Allow me to make a case for both Mizzou's biggest rival and Mizzou's biggest opponent this season. Kansas' Mark Mangino, for all his shortcomings in his diet, sure knows how to get the most out of his players. It seems like every season the Jayhawks are outmanned or outclassed but manage to pull wins out of nowhere and scare consistently superior opponents (see Texas A&M and Nebraska in 2006). As for Nebraska's Bill Callahan, say what you want about what he's done in his tenure with the Huskers, he does bring an NFL pedigree. His background alone resonates with recruits who are merely looking for their college football experience to be a springboard to the NFL. Allow me to put it this way - does Blaine Gabbert leave the state if there is an ex-NFL coach stalking the Mizzou sidelines?

Prediction Time - Tell us who is going to win:

Baylor @ TCU = TCU
Colorado State @ Colorado = Colorado
Kent State @ Iowa State = Iowa State
Central Michigan @ Kansas = Kansas
Kansas State @ Auburn = Auburn
Missouri/Illinois = Missouri
Nevada @ Nebraska = Nebraska
North Texas @ Oklahoma = Oklahoma
Oklahoma State @ Georgia = Georgia
Arkansas State @ Texas = Texas
Montana State @ Texas A&M = Texas A&M
Texas Tech @ SMU = Texas Tech

Monday, August 27, 2007

Herbie takes Tigers

Every True Son's favorite college football analyst just earned himself a few more points the proverbial book, as College Gameday guru and analyst-extraordinaire Kirk Herbstreit recently published his Seventh Annual Herbie Awards.

Therein, Herbie names Chase Coffman the best tight end in the nation, Chase Daniel the No. 3 dual threat QB in the nation, and Missouri as the favorite to win the Big 12 North. No love was given for "prettiest coeds" or "favorite restaurants," but Herbie has earned quite a bit of collateral with me for withstanding a whole season of night games with Brent Musburger without putting a shotgun in his mouth.

Season Preview: Big 12 Predictions

Here's how ETS sees the Big 12 playing out:

Big 12 North
1. Missouri (10-2, 6-2)
2. Nebraska (7-5, 5-3)
3. Kansas State (7-5, 4-4)
4. Colorado (5-7, 3-5)
5. Iowa State (3-9, 1-7)
6. Kansas (4-8, 1-7)

Notes:
-- Mizzou takes the North on the strength of a win over Nebraska in Columbia. The Tigers finish 6-2 in Big 12 play with a South loss to either Oklahoma/Texas A&M, and a "Gary Pinkel road loss" to either Colorado/Kansas State. In both sets of games, Mizzou wins one of the two games and drops the other.
-- I seem to be one of the few bloggers outside of Lincoln who thinks Nebraska will win on the road against Wake Forest. Additionally, I may be one of few dropping the Huskers to 5-3 in conference play. The Huskers' schedule is a beating, and I have them slated for three losses in a four-game Big 12 stretch against Missouri, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas, all of which come in consecutive weeks (a four-game stretch that will send the entire state into full-fledged panic).
-- Iowa State avoids the North cellar by way of a season ending win over Kansas. Kansas avoids the goose egg in Big 12 play with a win over Baylor.

Big 12 South
1. Texas (11-1, 7-1)
2. Oklahoma State (9-3, 6-2)
3. Oklahoma (9-3, 6-2)
4. Texas A&M (8-4, 5-3)
5. Texas Tech (8-4, 4-4)
6. Baylor (2-10, 0-8)

Notes:
-- Texas survives a non-conference date with TCU, beats Oklahoma in Dallas, staves off Nebraska at home, outduels Texas Tech and enters the national championship picture at 11-0 entering a bye week on Nov 17. Then, while Longhorn fans are busy booking tickets to the national title game, Texas A&M's three-headed option attack will once again wear down the Texas defense, upsetting the Longhorns. This time, the Ags do it in front of The 12th Man (don't sue me), and a brutal season has a beautiful ending in Aggieland, as the Aggies effectively ruin a gorgeous picture for Texas.
-- Oklahoma State runs off impressive upset road victories over Nebraska in Lincoln and Oklahoma in Norman, effectively sending Stillwater into, ironically, bedlam. Losses to Texas and Texas A&M cost them a title shot.
-- Texas A&M rides and survives a horrendous schedule. The Ags lose on the road at Miami, lose to OSU at home, turn around and get upset AGAIN in Lubbock, turn around and upset Nebraska in Lincoln, lose in Oklahoma, potentially upset Missouri on the road, and return home to upset Texas. Much like Mizzou teams of years past, I honestly don't know what to make of this team. They will win a few games they shouldn't have, and drop a few they should have won.
-- Holy hell, I don't think I could have landed any harder on the Oklahoma State bandwagon. Mock me if you must - the Cowboys are the team I'm looking towards to reward me for my preseason faith.
-- Waco real estate spoiler: Guy Morriss' house will be available in early-December.

Big 12 Title game
Texas over Missouri

Big 12 Offensive POY
Co-POYs: Colt McCoy (Texas) and Chase Daniel (Missouri)

Big 12 Defensive POY
Reggie Smith (Oklahoma)

Bowl projections
-- Texas: Fiesta Bowl
-- Missouri: Cotton Bowl
-- Oklahoma State: Holiday Bowl
-- Nebraska: Alamo Bowl
-- Oklahoma: Sun Bowl
-- Texas A&M: Insight Bowl
-- Kansas State: Independence Bowl
-- Texas Tech: Texas Bowl
Left out: Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Baylor

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Season Preview: Big 12 games

With the season opener against Illinois rapidly approaching, I figured it's time to break out the summarized season preview.

Each game is categorized in one of three ways:
-- Win - More than 75 percent chance of winning
-- Loss - More than 75 percent chance of losing
-- Push - Somewhere in between

With that said, away we go with conference play:

Oct. 6 - Nebraska

There has perhaps been no bigger game for Mizzou football since the days of Kellen Winslow than this Big 12 North showdown set to take place this October. Whether or not that is a testament to the growth of the program or a sad statement of the team's history, I don't know. Regardless, Faurot Field will be loud and likely inebriated for the de facto North title. Sam Keller and Marlon Lucky hold the keys to keeping the Mizzou offense off the field - which Nebraska fans don't seem to be too worried about. Sorry to burst the Big Red bubble, but the Mizzou offense will be far more effective at home compared to the conservative offense the Huskers saw in Lincoln last year. The teams have traded home wins for four years, and thus it should be the Tigers turn, but its hard turning your back on years of futility and blowing opportunities.
ETS Prediction: Push

Oct. 13 - at Oklahoma

Last season, Oklahoma was the only team that appeared in total control against the Tigers at Faurot Field. However, the Tigers were still in the game late until a roughing the kicker penalty drove a dagger in Mizzou's chances. This season, most pundits have the Tigers marked for a loss in Norman. The shaky quarterback situation at OU (which I heard plenty about during my drive through Oklahoma on the way to Columbia) is a MAJOR advantage for Mizzou, but Oklahoma has the ultimate trump card: Allen Patrick/DeMarco Murray against the MU run defense. This factor, coupled with the Big 12's top secondary, creates mismatches Mizzou may not be able to adjust to. The upset factor is there, but Oklahoma, QB issues aside, is built to beat Missouri.
ETS Prediction: Loss (24-20)

Oct. 20 - Texas Tech

Last season, Mizzou's road win at Texas Tech put the Tigers on the national map, if only for a brief moment until the collapse at Texas A&M. The Tigers stormed Lubbock, crushed souls on Tech's homecoming, made Graham Harrell cry, and introduced Mike Leach to an air raid offense that can actually run the ball. For some reason, I have some skepticism about whether or not Mizzou can put on that kind of show against Tech again this year. Outside of returning Harrell at QB, the Red Raiders have been gutted for the most part, but the system offense never seems to have problems producing. However, Mizzou has played the Red Raiders extremely well at home in their two meetings since 1999 - destroying Tech 62-31 on a "Brad Smith is the Hammer of Thor" game back in 2003 and a solid defensive effort in a 34-7 win in 1999. I have Mizzou marked down for a win, but this game screams "home upset potential" to me.
ETS Prediction: Win (41-31)

Oct. 27 - Iowa State

ETS is going to go ahead and pretend like last year never happened. The great travesty in Ames last year made a man whose last name is "Kock" look like Adrian Peterson and officially handed the Tigers the "fall apart down the stretch" status card for the next nine months. Not to mention, the loss came just days after Mike Alden's announcement of Gary Pinkel's contract extension. Nothing inspires confidence in your coach after an extension like a late-season road loss in Ames, right? Iowa State seems like they have a lot of parts returning, as well as a future star at coach in Gene Chizik, but I'm going to lock this one in as a win. There's NO chance Iowa State pulls the same upset again, especially against a motivated (read: pissed off) Mizzou at home.
ETS Prediction: Win (38-10)

Nov. 3 - at Colorado

Everything about this game screams "Gary Pinkel late-season road game collapse" (trademark ETS). It seems like most of America is overlooking Colorado, a team that was much better than its record last year. Bernard Jackson moves from QB to "Slash" a la Kordell Stewart of Buffalo years of old, and Dan Hawkins has shiny new toys to play with at quarterback (JuCo transfer Nick Nelson and Hawkins' son Cody) as well as new gadget plays stemming from Jackson's move away from center. The Colorado defense is somewhat confounding, having lost six seniors but added multiple JuCo transfers, but that said, Mizzou didn't exactly have that much trouble with Colorado's D in 2006. Mizzou is the better team, but with the game on the road late in the season, the Pinkel factor absolutely scares me to death.
ETS Prediction: Push

Nov. 10 - Texas A&M

Of nearly every game on the college football schedule, I've yet to find one harder to predict than Mizzou-Texas A&M. The Texas A&M offense is built to exploit the Missouri defense. The Missouri offense can do likewise to the Aggies. The teams' styles are so drastically different that you simply can not predict which style will win until the pace of the game has been dictated. Let me put it this way - whichever team takes a two-possession lead first will win. If Mizzou gets up on the Ags by 10-14, Texas A&M will have to go to the air with an inexperienced receiving corps and a jumpy Stephen McGee in the pocket. If Texas A&M goes up 10-14, Mizzou gets hammered by McGee, J-Train Jorvorskie Lane and Mike Goodson. The question is: Who gets that lead?
ETS Prediction: Push

Nov. 17 - at Kansas State

To see my thoughts about this road game against Kansas State, you can just refer back to my thoughts about the Colorado game. Once again, any late season road game under a certain visor-wearing head coach is never safe. Mizzou fans seem to be overlooking the Wildcats after what transpired in 2006, with Mizzou dismantling K-State at Faurot to welcome the Tigers back into the win column against Kansas State for the first time since 1992. Let's recap: one win after 14 consecutive years of losses, and I shouldn't be worried? One Missouri poster pegged Josh Freeman, who gained infamy for his weight problems entering camp, as "the next Jared Lorenzen, only not as accurate." As far as I can tell, Lorenzen never upset Texas in Manhattan as a true freshman. Mizzou is definitely vulnerable here - especially in the trap game scenario between a tough matchup with Texas A&M behind them and the Border War with Kansas looming.
ETS Prediction: Push

Nov. 24 - Kansas (in Kansas City)

KU did Mizzou a great favor by agreeing to move the Border War to Kansas City for the next two years, allowing the Tigers avoid another trip to Lawrence, a place where Mizzou frustratingly just can't seem to find a way to win. The one Jayhawk weapon that scared me in 2006 - RB Jon Cornish - is no longer at Kansas. The three to thirteen Mizzou weapons that scared Kansas in 2006 return, sans only Brad Ekwerekwu. Once again, this game could be prone to a late-season collaspe, but I can't see Mizzou dropping this game. The dominating win last year restored the Tigers' confidence against KU, and with a potential trip to the Big 12 title game on the line, I think Missouri finds a way to remain focused despite decades of falling short when it matters.
ETS Prediction: Win (38-20)

Preview Recap
-- Record (Win-Loss-Push): 7-1-4
-- Therefore, at worst: 7-5
-- And, at best: 11-1
-- Splitting the push games puts Mizzou at 9-3, around where most pundits have the Tigers for 2007
-- Cause for concern: All four push games are in conference, meaning Mizzou could be anywhere from 3-5 to 7-1 in Big 12 play.

Coming tomorrow: Big 12 Overview, Predictions and Standings

All helmet images courtesy the Helmet Project at NationalChamps.net.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Countdown - One week from today...

One week from today...

The road/river to San Antonio begins.



Photo courtesy the city of San Antonio.

Season Preview: Non-conference

With one week officially left until the season opener against Illinois, I figured it's time to break out the summarized season preview.

Each game is categorized in one of three ways:
-- Win - More than 75 percent chance of winning
-- Loss - More than 75 percent chance of losing
-- Push - Somewhere in between

With that said, away we go:

Sept. 1 - Illinois (in St. Louis)

In 2006, Mizzou opened the season at home against Murray State. In 2007, there's no margin for error in the opener, especially under a national TV spotlight at a neutral site. The Illini are 8-38 over the last four seasons, yet they remain one of the Big Ten's biggest enigmas. Ron Zook has lit up the recruiting trail in Champaign, pulling in big time WR Arrelious Benn and somehow selling a program that has gone 4-19 under his tenure. However, the addition of Benn will be a moot point if sophomore QB Juice Williams does not find a way to distribute the ball more effectively. Williams completed under 40 percent of his passes in 2006, throwing for nine TD and nine INT. Defensively, the Illini boast an underrated set of linebackers and a defense that can best be described as "improving." That said, "improving" doesn't exactly equate to the ability to slow Chase Daniel and Mizzou's high-flying offense.
ETS Prediction: Win (38-21)

Sept. 8 - at Ole Miss

Last year, when the Rebels visited Columbia, each team was searching for an identity. A convincing win by Missouri established Chase Daniel as a bona fide leader and galvanized the Tiger offense, whereas a dismal performance by the Ole Miss offense created a slippery slope leading to a 4-8 record and a crisis at quarterback. Last season, Brent Schaeffer, formerly of Tennessee, transferred in from the College of the Sequoias and inherited the starting job without any competition. This season, Schaeffer is moving to WR and the reins of the offense appear to be falling to Seth Adams. Granted, any road game for Mizzou, much less one in the Southeastern Conference, is never a given. But with the Ole Miss offense in panic mode and a defense that will sorely miss NFL first-rounder Patrick Willis, Mizzou should be able to walk out of The Grove 2-0. The one thing that can change this game, however, is the consistent attack of RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (ETS' vote for "best name in the non-conference schedule"). Green-Ellis got shut down by Mizzou last year, but if Ole Miss forces a few turnovers and can win the possession battle with the running game, things could get very interesting very quickly.
ETS Prediction: Win (31-13)

Sept. 15 - Western Michigan

After opening with two big name schools from BCS power conferences, it would be easy to overlook the steadily improving Broncos in the Faurot Field season opener. After winning only one game two seasons ago, Bill Cubit's program has become a player in the MAC, winning 15 games over the past two seasons and nearly pulling off a comeback win against Cincinnati in the International Bowl last January. Nearly all of Western Michigan's skill positions are rife with competition, competition that could either solidfy or destroy stability at each spot, depending on how the young Broncos adapt and adjust to the pressure. The Bronco defense should remain strong and pose a threat in turnover margin, but as long as the Tigers protect the football, Mizzou should appease the home crowd with a win in the home opener.
ETS Prediction: Win (41-17)

Sept. 22 - Illinois State

Admittedly, my knowledge of FCS teams is not high. However, Illinois State should make some noise on the level formerly known as Division 1-AA, entering the preseasn ranked No. 8 in the division. According to camp reports, coach Denver Johnson seems genuinely excited about the Redbird defense, a defense that, like most FCS schools, can often be extremely athletic but undersized. The real intrigue with this game will be how Gary Pinkel divides playing time. Does he risk the first team offense and defense to injury, hoping to have them prepared for the Nebraska game in early October? Or do players like Chase Patton, Gilbert Moye and Derrick Washington get their chance to shine at the expense of preparing the first teams for Big 12 play?
ETS Prediction: Win (52-14)

All helmet images courtesy the Helmet Project at NationalChamps.net.

Friday, August 24, 2007

What they're saying

With the first round of the Big 12 Round Table officially complete, let's take a look at what Big 12 bloggers have to say about the Tigers entering the season.

(All responses to the Round Table can be found here, thanks to our friends at Crimson and Cream Machine)

Bring On The Cats
-- On the topic of the best team in the division:
"I've picked Missouri to win the North and Texas to win the South"

-- On the topic of Heisman contenders:
"Other candidates could include A&M's Mike Goodson (will be hurt by sharing time with Jorvorskie Lane), Oklahoma State's Bobby Reid and perhaps Adarius Bowman (will be hurt by Okie State's lack of prominence on the national radar), and Mizzou's Chase Daniel (will need to overcome Gary Pinkel's coaching and will probably need to lead his team to the North crown, at least, to get any real credit)."

-- On a Big 12 Top 25 snub:
"It has to be Missouri. They're the media pick to win the North over Nebraska and are the top vote-getter among non-ranked teams in the AP Poll."


Midwest Coast Bias
-- On the topic of the best team in the division:
"North - …You’re kidding, right? Missouri would have to be the obvious choice as Iowa State’s biggest event lately involves uniforms, Colorado is still questioning their manhood over losing to Montana St., Kansas no longer has three linebackers a’leaping (although they do have Aqib Talib) and Kansas State has the second coming of Jared Lorenzen only not as accurate.
Chase Daniel is a great quarterback for the offense he’s being put in charge of. Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman are the deadliest pair of tight ends in the nation. Tony Temple has settled down some and Will Franklin has always brought his lunch pail as far as I’ve seen, but see if you can do this: Name five Missouri defensive starters."

-- On the topic of Top 25 rankings:
"I’d switch Mizzou and A&M. To be quite honest, I’m surprised the AP didn’t. Maybe the coaches will have a different take. It seems like most publications pick Mizzou to win the North and play in their first Big XII Championship ever, but whenever watching a preview of the Big XII, all I ever hear is that Nebraska’s been pegged to head to San Antonio which has treated them oh so well in odd-numbered years past. Still, I think that Missouri’s offense alone would be enough to get them into the rankings. They have a schedule that will afford them a season end’s spot in the Top 20 as well."


Clone Chronicles
-- On the topic of the best team in the divison:
"Nebraska's defense will carry them as far as they want to go. Missouri has had a condition where they tend to lose one or two games that they shouldn't. I also can't rightly pick a team that lost to us last year."

-- On the topic of Top 25 rankings:
"Probably Mizzou, as I can't think of a better candidate unless Okie State breaks through, as many feel they will, but with Chase Daniel and what we know they can be capable of, Mizzou is the team."


Rock Chalk Talk
-- On the topic of the best team in the division:
"Instead of discussing my division winners, I am going to take a look at the teams I have slotted for second, just for equality purposes. In the North, Missouri is the team. They have all the talent needed on offense, led by Big 12 POY candidate Chase Daniel. However, their coach is a question mark at best and their defense isn't quite championship caliber, even if it is just the "champion" of the Big 12 North."

-- On the topic of coach most likely to get fired:
"Well first off, I would never gamble money on something so trivial, it is often hard to predict the motives and beliefs of school presidents and athletic directors. However, there are a couple of coaches I would be less than surprised to see let go after the season. Gary Pinkel comes to mind first, and I guess he is my pick on the most likely coach to be axed. Kansas State and Colorado are rebuilding, and Nebraska is playing worse than he has in the past. Combine that with the best Muzzurrah team in awhile, and folks in Columbia could get a little angry if they are denied a Big 12 North title."

Corn Nation
-- On the topic of coach most likely to get fired:
"I did an article earlier in the season entitled Big 12 Coaches Most Likely To Be Fired in which I stated that Gary Pinkel is the most likely to go. Unfortunately, people in Missouri don’t care all that much about football, so someone else will probably go first."

-- On the topic of Top 25 rankings:
"Missouri should be ranked so that we can all enjoy it more when we beat them early in conference play and knock them out of the Top 25."


Husker Mike
-- On the topic of the best team in the division
"In the North, the best team not named "Nebraska" would be the Missouri Tigers. I think Chase Daniel is the best quarterback in the conference, the best tight ends, and they'll have one of the top offenses in the conference, with Tony Temple as the featured back to keep defenses from thinking they are one-dimensional. They'll be a fun squad to watch this season."

-- On the topic of coach most likely to get fired:
"If I had to put money on anybody, it would be Missouri's Gary Pinkel. Pinkel tempts Tiger fans with some big wins, then befuddles them two or three times a season by losing games they shouldn't. He got an extension to keep his recruiting moving forward, but expectations are growing in Columbia."

-- On the topic of Top 25 rankings:
"Missouri. Granted, preseason rankings are just guesses, but they'll be loaded on offense and can't be much worse than last year on defense."

-- On the topic of impact players in the conference:
"On offense, Chase Daniel from Missouri. That offense is going to be loaded. (My second and third choices are Keller and Bowman, who have the capability to explode.) But from a consistency perspective, I think Daniel is the conference offensive MVP."


Buffs.tv
-- On the topic of the best team in the division:
"Missouri is the team to beat in the North. Everything is finally coming together for them. They will have the leadership and ability of Chase Daniel. But they also have the desire after being shut out of the title game for too long. Missouri has Nebraska at home and that will make the difference."

-- On the topic of Heisman candidates:
"People talk about Colt McCoy and Malcolm Kelly Jr, but I they are the best players on good teams top to bottom. Chase Daniel is my vote. He has the ability to carry the Tigers on his shoulders and make the rest of his team play at his level. He is much more special individually than McCoy or Kelly."

-- On the topic of Top 25 rankings:
"This one is easy. Missouri. They are picked to win the BigXII North over Nebraska, but are ranked behind them. Total inconsistency. This is another example of Nebraska being overrated in the polls"


Crimson and Cream Machine
-- On the topic of the best team in the division:
"Last year in the north I bought into the Iowa State hype and got burned. This year I'm on the Missouri Tigers bandwagon. I think Nebraska might have a slight upper hand in that division but I like the Tigers schedule and the fact that they are more settled in the quarterback position."

-- On the topic of coach most likely to be fired:
"Another guy to keep an eye on is Gary Pinkel at Missouri. The Tigers are loaded on offense and the people in Columbia are hungry for a title shot. The problem for Mizzou is going to be defense and if the Tigers fall on their face then Pinkel could really be in trouble."

-- On the topic of Top 25 rankings:
"The Missouri Tigers should be ranked! I realize that I've got a personal love fest going on for the Tigers here but their offense will win them enough games to deserve a Top 25 ranking."

-- On the topic of impact players in the conference:
"Offensively I'll continue with my crush on the Tigers and go with Chase Daniels [sic]. In my opinion he's sitting in the best position to make the biggest impact. Playing in the North will allow the possibility of eye-popping stats and there aren't the question marks around him like some of the other top offensive players in the conference. Malcolm Kelly and Adarious Bowman have quarterback question marks. Colt McCoy and Jammal Charles have offensive line question marks and Mike Goodson has the Coach Fran question mark. Daniels [sic] is setting pretty good to be an impact player."


Mizzou Sanity
-- On the topic of Heisman candidates:
"I guess Colt McCoy. Chase Daniel will put up bigger numbers, and there’s at least some chance that Mizzou has a really really good year, but Texas is more likely to be at the top of the polls in December, and that obviously means a lot."


So what did ETS learn from other bloggers?
-- Mizzou's rivals, Kansas and Nebraska, have some serious doubts about Gary Pinkel's job security.
-- Nearly all bloggers agree Mizzou was shafted out of a Top 25 ranking.
-- There is some love brewing for Chase Daniel, which should only continue to grow if the team breaks through to the Big 12 title game this season.

If there are any Big 12 blogs that participated that I missed, let me know. So, to the blogosphere, what are your thoughts on how Blog Nation sees Mizzou in 2007?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Delving the Depth Chart - Linebackers

Every True Son will take a position-by-position look at the Tigers headed into this season. Today, "Delving the Depth Chart" takes a look at the linebackers.

The linebacker corps may have incurred some of the biggest losses following the 2006 season, but may also have the most potential of any unit on the defensive side of the ball.

The Tigers can no longer lean on First Team All-Big 12 LB Marcus Bacon, who led the team in tackles in 2006 with 112. Additionally, gone is MLB Dedrick Harrington, who contributed 100 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 13 starts last year.

Yet, there is cautious optimism about the strength of this year's unit, as noted in an article in early August by the STL P-D's Graham Watson.

Junior Brock Christopher moves inside after 87 tackles outside last season, and his heads-up, cerebral style of play may benefit the unit as a whole. Christopher saw playing time last year in the absence of Van Alexander, who will once again try to stay healthy enough to see consistent snaps.

They will be joined primarily by Sean Witherspoon, a sophomore described by DT Lorenzo WIlliams as "everything you could ever want in a linebacker." Witherspoon is physical for an OLB, and should help shore up the Mizzou run defense, but his aptitude in coverage may need to develop as the year progresses.

But the truly exciting part of the LB unit is the potential quality of its depth. At weakside, Witherspoon will be backed by Connell Davis and true freshman Michael Keck. Davis, who recently switched over from RB, has drawn accolades throughout preseason practice for the strides he's made. Keck endured injury issues throughout camp, but the four-star recruit has a blend of speed and physicality never before seen in the Pinkel regime or, perhaps, in school history. How well he adjusts to coverage and playing stand-up may determine his opportunity for greatness. That talent may have to wait, however, as it appears Pinkel is content to redshirt in 2007.

Inside, Christopher will be backed by another true freshman, Luke Lambert. Recent reports show Lambert will likely avoid a redshirt - Lambert enrolled early last spring, and the extra preparation could pay off in the form of significant time at MLB as the season progresses.

The strongside is a bit more of an enigma. Behind Alexander, three names fill out the depth chart: Steve Redmond, Marquis Booker and Andrew Gachkar. Pinkel recently announced Gachkar, like Lambert, will avoid a redshirt.

The unit as a whole is much like Mizzou's first opponent, Illinois: inexperienced but extremely talented, with the capacity for big things as the players grow older and pick up the nuances of the game.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Countdown - 10 days

In 10 days,

It's business time.



Yeah - it's a stretch, but college football is frustratingly close and I'm not thinking clearly...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Big 12 Round Table

In the midst of classes starting and spending several hours per day wishing it was football season, I was greeted in my inbox by the official arrival of football season in the blogosphere:

Our friends over at Crimson and Cream Machine helped spearhead the Round Table/Preview movement and put together a Big 12 Blogger Round Table. Below is ETS' response. Be sure to visit all other Big 12 blogs for their responses.

Pick a team (other than the one you blog about) from the North and South divisions and explain why they may be the best team in the division.
- South: Texas - Not much of a surprise, but the work of the man they call "Coach February" is starting to pay off in the form of depth. It seems like Texas has strong athletes across the board, and even though as many as three teams (OU, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State) could legitmiately take them on any given day, it's hard to ignore the athleticism at each position. And that depth may come in handy if the team continues its mission to fill the ticket/arrest quota for the Austin PD.
- North: Nebraska - Other teams in the division may be improving, but all five teams are in the shadow of the Huskers' prestige, as much as it pains me to say it. The Nebraska mystique usually speaks for itself, but 2007 ought to be a great test whether or not the division wilts under the Big Red pressure.

If the Big 12 Conference had a Heisman trophy candidate who would it be and why?
- Colt McCoy takes the nod merely by "quarterback on a top team" standards. Adarius Bowman would have a shot if not for being a wide receiver. Chase Daniel and Graham Harrell would have a shot if not for being "system" quarterbacks on middle-tier teams. Stephen McGee/Jorvorskie Lane/Mike Goodson don't play sexy enough football to warrant Heisman talk. The Sooner stable of backs is extremely solid but won't out-electrify a McFadden or a Slaton. (photo courtesy USA Today)

The one non-conference game, not involving your school, you would pay money to see would be?
- Within the Big 12, it's a three-way tie between TCU at Texas, and either OU/Texas A&M against Miami. Outside of the Big 12, it is without a doubt Virginia Tech/LSU.

If you had to place a $100.00 bet on a current Big 12 head coach being fired at the end of the season who would you pick and why?


- Guy Morriss. His best shot to take Baylor to a bowl just left with diplomas last spring.

Which of the four Big 12 schools currently ranked in the AP Top 25 doesn’t belong there?
- Texas A&M. The team is definitely Top 25 material, maybe Top 20. But there's absolutely no way the Ags survive their schedule.

Make a case for one of the 8 Big 12 schools not ranked as to why they should be.
- Staying local, I have to point to Mizzou, who were only a few points shy of making the Top 25. The offense ranked eighth in the nation last year and returns 98 percent of its yards from scrimmage from that unit. The defense has a lot of question marks, but the schedule sets up very nicely and there's a confidence among Missouri circles that is usually replaced by "how can we screw this up." Additionally, I think a case, be it very small, could be made for Oklahoma State.

Prediction Time:
Tell us the offensive and defensive players who are going to make the biggest impact on the conference this season.

- Offense: Sam Keller. Whether positive or negative, his performance will have the biggest impact on the conference as a whole. If he's the All-American that Husker faithful make him out to be, Nebraska could return to the national scene in a hurry. If he's the fluke that got kicked off of Arizona State's squad, then all hell breaks loose in the North, and Missouri may break the will of God by qualifying for the Big 12 Championship.
- Defense: Reggie Smith: My gut feeling was Kansas CB Aqib Talib, but I doubt teams will have any reason to put the ball in the air against the Jayhawks this year. Smith is the impact defensive back on a loaded DB unit, and will likely see a lot more passes head his way because of Oklahoma's overall stength of the DB corps across the field.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Countdown - 12 days...

In 12 days...

The Arch Rivalry is renewed, and Illini nightmares of Brad Smith return.



Photo by Sarah Becking. More photos available at Becking.com.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Delving the Depth Chart - Defensive Line

Every True Son will take a position-by-position look at the Tigers headed into this season. Today, "Delving the Depth Chart" takes a look at the defensive line.

Two VERY different defensive lines showed up in 2006. In the first half of the season, the defensive line was solid against semi-mediocre competition, helping propel the Tiger D to tops in the nation heading into the Colorado game. The unit's premier game came on the road in the trademark victory of 2006 against Texas Tech. The unit pressured Graham Harrell several times, forcing four fumbles and recovering three (the other came on a play where Harrell fumbled twice). Xzavie Jackson even picked off an errant screen pass, running it back for a touchdown, solidifying the lead, and seemingly announcing the line's prescence as a force.

Then, two things happened - injuries and Jorvorskie Lane.

Mizzou's defense was on a high after the Tech win, entering College Station 6-0. Then the Aggie ball-control offense slowly wore away at the interior defense, as the J-Train rolled up 127 yards, primarily up the gut, with Stephen McGee and Mike Goodson adding another 84 combined yards. The rushing trio helped the Aggies possess the ball for 41:30 minutes to Mizzou's 18:30.

Yet, the defensive line still appeared to be in decent shape until injuries devestated the unit. Brian Smith broke his hip in what he termed a "freak accident" blocking following an interception against Kansas State. The loss of Smith, MU's all-time sack leader, was a tremendous loss to the defensive front, a loss the unit never seemed to recover from. Ziggy Hood missed the middle of the season with a broken bone in his foot, returning later in the year but never at 100 percent effectiveness.

This season, it's hard to fully gauge what remains. Both Smith and Jackson are gone on the ends, leaving Stryker Sulak and Tommy Chavis the massive burden of developing a pass rush that was non-existant late in the season. Inside, Lorenzo Williams and Ziggy Hood must shore up a run defense that EVERY scouting report in the nation says is the Achilles heel of this football team. A stronger run defense last year would have allowed Mizzou to hang on to a victory at Texas A&M, avoid the upset at Iowa State, and force Oregon State to take the ball out of Yvenson Bernard's hands in the Sun Bowl.

Behind those four, the rest of the squad is similar to the enitre Missouri bench: talented, but inexperienced. DEs John Stull, Tarell Corby and Jayson Corbatt have had impressive camps according to different reports. The depth behind Hood is extremely questionable, but the depth behind Williams at nose tackle may be surprising strong. Andy Maples, Jason Baston and Dominique Hamilton have a lot to prove but potentially a lot to add to a line that could use some fresh enthusiasm.

How the line holds up against Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas A&M will likely determine whether Tiger fans should start making December reservations in San Antonio. Tiger message boards even consider Hood among Mizzou's "most indispensible players" after seeing how badly his injury cost the team in 2007.

While a lot of the players on the line are not marquee names, the performance of the defensive line may be the difference between a 10-2 year and a 7-5 year.

Photos courtesy Google images

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Mizzou at No. 26

Associated Press rankings have Mizzou just missing the top 25, but leading all teams in points through "additional votes." The system amounts to a de facto No. 26 ranking for the Tigers.

Full rankings can be seen here.

Countdown - 14 days

In 14 days,

The 117th installment of Mizzou football pays tribute to Tigers of old.



Photo courtesy MU Archives.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Sidelines - Aug. 17

"Sidelines" features a collection of Mizzou related news and notes...

-- I've been somewhat out of the loop so this edition of Sidelines will be very link heavy to articles you might not have come across and likely several you already have.

-- STL P-D's Graham Watson churned out stories all through camp, including stories on Martin Rucker and Chase Patton. Watson's blog also notes the close of two-a-days and an updated depth chart.

-- Dave Matter brought several interesting stories to light, including how Mizzou stumbled across Danario Alexander, the struggles of the young defensive backs and the inclusion of tailbacks into the passing attack. And, not to mention, Matter's blog had wall-to-wall coverage of all practices.

-- And of course, there's always the athletic department's view on the FootBlog

Thursday, August 16, 2007

No love

Not surprising, but the Worldwide Leader in Sports apparently doesn't have much love for Mizzou this season:

Only two of ESPN's 12 polled experts picked Mizzou to take the Big 12 North. Rod Gilmore and Bruce Feldman likely just earned themselves free drinks in downtown Columbia.

While it's not exactly news that the majority of ESPN analysts are seeing the Big 12 North through big red glasses, apparently Scouts Inc.'s Todd McShay sees something in Kansas seen by NO ONE else in America.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Delving the Depth Chart - OL

Every True Son will take a position-by-position look at the Tigers headed into this season. Today, "Delving the Depth Chart" takes a look at the offensive line.

It's hard to figure out what to make for the Tiger offensive line in 2007. It's an extremely athletic group well suited to the wide splits and pass blocking of Pinkel's Spread offense. But for Tiger fans frustrated by Mizzou's inability to punch the ball in the endzone inside the 5-yard line, look no further than this group.

The line may collectively be one of the top pass blocking units in the Big 12, but they lack the pure strength and "pancake" ability to allow Mizzou to line Daniel up under center and feature a singleback or I-form style set. It's highly unlikely the Tigers find the ability to "pound the rock" when necessary - most of the Tigers' success on the ground will be on options, misdirections, draws and zone reads from shotgun, where his athletic line can keep opposing D-lines off-balance.

The group will miss right tackle Joel Clinger, but there is a surprising amount of depth on the unit. As it stands, here's how things likely look from left tackle to right:

Tyler Luellen
Ryan Madison
Adam Spieker
Kurtis Gregory
Dain Wise

Behind those five, there are several capable backups, including Monte Wyrick, James Stigall and Colin Brown.

It's safe to consider the line "specialized" or even a "niche line," but the squad's depth and profiency at containing the pass rush should play a large role in launching the Tigers' air attack this season.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Countdown - 17 days

In 17 days...

Chase Daniel's air attack begins.



Photo courtesy Sarah Becking. More photos at Becking.com.

ETS apologizes for the delay in posting - the blog is on the move to Columbia for the season.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Countdown - 20 days

In 20 days...

The bond between player and fan is renewed.



Photo by Sarah Becking. More photos available at becking.com

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Delving the Depth Chart - WR/TE

Every True Son will take a position-by-position look at the Tigers headed into this season. Today, "Delving the Depth Chart" takes a look at the receivers and tight ends.

The Texas Longhorns have the deepest, most talented group of pass catchers in the Big 12. The burnt orange air attack can roll out Limas Sweed, Billy Pittman, Quan Cosby, Jordan Shipley, Nate Jones and TE Jermichael Finley. But it's not blasphemy to imply Mizzou's group of wideouts and ends can compete somewhere close to that level.

The pure depth at the position is the primary reason why every deal I proposed on the Mock Trade Deadline post was centered around Mizzou's loaded corps, which could hypothetically be used as extremely attractive trade bait.

This group of wideouts, bolstered by the emergence of Danario Alexander and Jared Perry coupled with the return of Jeremy Maclin, is easily the strongest group of receivers Mizzou has seen in some time, perhaps ever. The depth of the group is simply outstanding - including Will Franklin, who returns after finishing fifth in the receiving yards in the Big 12 last season despite missing the later part of the year.

Franklin will be the elder statesman in the WR corps, but for my money, my eye is most drawn to Perry, who's blazing speed was put on display in the Kansas game (watch with 4:19 left in the clip below - notice all-world KU corner Aqib Talib get caught flat-footed in zone coverage):



My excitement carries over to Alexander, who I'll admit I'd never heard of until his 74-yard touchdown reception against Oregon State in the Sun Bowl. Additionally, Mizzou has senior workhorse Tommy Saunders who will likely return kicks and be a security blanket posession receiver. Saunders is famous around MU circles for his work ethic, including making a vow to complete 10,000 pushups in the calendar year 2006 - a goal he completed and then stopped at 10,084 to match his jersey No. 84.

Redshirt freshman Maclin throws his hat in the ring this year as well, returning from an ACL injury that cost the higly-heralded receiver all of last season. The kid whose speed has been a talking point for Mizzou coaches' for the last two season will finally get his shot to prove them right, and if he does, Big 12 North secondary coaches are going to have nervous breakdowns finding ways to cover all of Chase Daniel's options.

And did I mention the best TE duo in the nation? Senior Martin Rucker and junior Chase Coffman are unquestionably, undoubtedly, un[insert word for disbelief]ly the BEST duo in all of college football. ESPN and Blue Ribbon put it best:

If you thought the Tigers were stacked at receiver, they're equally loaded at tight end. They return two that combined for 111 receptions, 1,149 yards and 14 touchdowns last year and who should only improve with a more experienced Daniel at quarterback. Senior Martin Rucker (6-5, 255) was a first-team all-conference pick by the coaches after he caught 53 balls for 511 yards and five touchdowns.

Meanwhile, junior Chase Coffman (6-6, 245) was a first-team All-Big 12 pick by the media who led the team with 58 catches (for 638 yards) and nine touchdowns, and even threw a 29-yard touchdown pass in the Sun Bowl.

No team in the country has a more productive pair of tight ends.


Combining the tight ends and wide receivers, things may never be better for the aerial attack at Faurot Field than they will be in 2007.

Three photos by Sarah Becking. More photos available at Becking.com. Coffman photo credit Kyle Coburn.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

In Response...

Brad at The12thManchild (heavily endorsed by Every True Son) recently posted a link to a Big 12 Preview by The Battalion, the student newspaper at Texas A&M.

Brad called out the paper for setting off what he so aptly titled his "bullsh!t alarm." After reading what "The Batt" had to say about Mizzou this season, I can't help but agree. Here's what the preview said about Missouri:

"Missouri had one of the best defenses in the Big 12 in 2006, allowing 17.9 points per game, but some losses on that side will hurt the Tigers. Quarterback Chase Daniel is returning, however, and he had a standout year as a sophomore. The offense should be good, but the Tiger defense won't be able to stop anyone. A difficult preseason schedule at Illinois and Mississippi State will leave the Tigers tenderized heading into Big 12 season.
6-6 overall, 3-5 Big 12, 4th in Big 12 North


One of the Big 12's best defenses? Yes, it was the best in the country after the Colorado game FIVE GAMES INTO THE SEASON, but calling the squad one of the best might be a stretch - no matter what the numbers say.

What makes that statement worse is the fact that he called the defense "one of the best" in the Big 12 in 2006, but he classifies the Tigers' offense in 2007 as merely "good." Anyone think that should be flipped?

Additionally, the writer had Mizzou at 6-6, and 3-5 IN THE BIG 12. Are you joking? Most publications have Mizzou at 9-3 or 8-4 overall and no worse than 6-2 or 5-3 in the Big 12. Perhaps the writer forgets that of the six teams on Mizzou's schedule that he has ranked higher, only three games are away from home: Kansas State and Oklahoma on the road and Kansas at a neutral site. Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Nebraska all come to Missouri. Five losses is a worst case, kicked ball, Tyus Edney, fifth down-type of scenario.

And does anyone really think the Tigers will be "tenderized" by the NON-CONFERENCE (note he called it preseason - is this the NFL?) schedule this season? The Batt's esteemed writer even goes 0-2 talking about the first two games, as Mizzou is not "at Illinois" but rather playing at a neutral site, and he also has the Tigers slotted for a trip to play Mississippi State. Last time I checked, Missouri was planning to play Ole Miss in Oxford, so the trip to play Sylvester Croom's Bulldogs as MSU is news to me. And even if that was the case, would playing two teams that were a combined 5-19 in 2006 count as "tenderizing" (poor choice of words aside)? As it is, Illinois and Mizzou's actual opponent (Ole Miss) went 6-18 last season. Will these games be tough? Indeed. But tenderizing? I am speechless.

Maybe the writer spent too much time at College Station's famed Dixie Chicken and enjoying too much grass from the leaders in agriculture, but this is just too much. Maybe it's harsh to come down like this on a school that can't decide whether or not it wants to maintain a journalism program (they just recently decided to bring back the program they discontinued a few years back). But for an Aggie not to know college football seems like pure heresy in Aggieland.

So am I overreacting? Or did the Battalion just make Every True Son's eternal sh!tlist? To read the entire article, click here.

Delving the Depth Chart - RB

Every True Son will take a position-by-position look at the Tigers headed into this season. Today, "Delving the Depth Chart" takes a look at the running backs.

The running back position at Mizzou has been juggled around for the past few years, since the departure of the late Damien Nash after 2004. In 2005, neither Marcus Woods nor Tony Temple seemed to lock up the job. Each one of them seemed as committed to protecting the football as Leon Lett in Super Bowl XXVII with Don Beebe on his tail. Brad Smith became options A through X running the football, with Temple representing option Y and Woods representing option Z.

So when 2006 rolled around and Temple was named the starter, I immediately had my doubts. And from a ball security standpoint, things could have gone much worse, but they could have also gone much better. The Tigers fumbled the ball a total of 22 times in 2006, losing 15 of those fumbles. The turnovers cost Mizzou several games, most notably the loss at Texas A&M, where fumbles by Temple and Woods allowed the Aggies to regain possession and wear down Mizzou's run defense. Such problems prompted this summer's practice slogan "It's all about the ball."

But otherwise, Temple solidified a very unstable position for the Tigers. He returns to Mizzou as the leading returning rusher in the Big 12, having rushed for 1,000-plus yards and seven touchdowns last season. Temple announced his prescence to a national TV audience in the Sun Bowl, finally living up to the hype that followed him from Rockhurst High to Missouri, finishing the game with 194 yards and 2 touchdowns. The emergence of Temple as a ground threat presents a serious issue for opposing defenses - let Temple carve up defenses five yards at a time or prevent the run and leave the seams open for Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman through the air? Either way, Temple stepping up adds a major dimension to the offense, which is why his knee injury early in camp sent shockwaves through the Mizzou community. Temple could be vital to helping Mizzou preserve leads it always seems to blow, giving Pinkel and co. a security blanket rather than relying on bubble screens to Will Franklin to run out clocks.

Behind Temple, Woods is fighting for playing time with junior Jimmy Jackson, the latter of whom averaged about 4.5 yards per carry in limited playing time over the past two years. Throw junior Earl Goldsmith in the mix, and the team has talented, yet unproven depth in the backfield. Additionally, freshmen Derrick Washington and De'Vion Moore show promise for life after the Temple/Woods/Jackson/Goldsmith era, although it's a push to expect anything out of them until 2009.

While the Mizzou backs won't make any noise on a national scene exploding with big names (see McFadden, Darren), this set of backs - especially if Temple lives up to the precedent he set at the Sun Bowl - may be the first in awhile Mizzou fans can feel confident about entering the season.

Photos courtesy Sarah Becking photography. More photos available at Becking.com.

Aug. 8 - Practice Recap/Injury Report

Short notes from the morning practice today:

-- An MRI confirmed Tony Temple only bruised his knee. He wore a red jersey this morning and should be back rather soon. The Trib's Dave Matter had a funny quote from Temple's father regarding the hit:
“Well, finally. I like the defense playing like that.”

-- Marcus Woods and Jimmy Jackson will get extra reps to determine the No. 2 at running back. Woods will have to overcome ball security problems and Jackson's inexperience is a built-in disadvantage. Woods continues to refuse to talk to the media.

-- Hardy Ricks did indeed dislocate his shoulder, and says whether or not he will play in the season opener against Illinois will be determined by his range of motion. Paul Simpson is getting a look in his place.

-- Tempers flared up between the first team offense and defense, as a confrontation between William Moore and Danario Alexander sparked a meeting of the minds in the end zone.

-- Both Adam Crossett and Jeff Wolfert kicked off - no word on who is winning that job.

-- Graham Watson's Tiger Tracker has a couple of interesting notes, including Monte Wyrick earning some reps and Chase Patton's confidence at QB.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Delving the Depth Chart - QB

Every True Son will take a position-by-position look at the Tigers headed into this season. Today, "Delving the Depth Chart" takes a look at the quarterbacks.

Missouri entered 2006 with a MAJOR question mark hanging over the quarterback position - and for good reason. Mizzou parted ways with four-year starter Brad Smith, a Missouri legend and keeper of 69 different records. Smith's tremendous athleticism is currently making New York Jets coaches turn giddy like 5-year-old's on Christmas morning.

But the question was not without an answer. Throughout Chase Daniel's freshman year, coaches hinted about the kind of leader Daniel was becoming, in addition to his knowledge of offense. Daniel was wildly successful in high school running the same offense leading most Mizzou fans to be cautiously optimistic about his future. That optimism was confirmed as legit when Daniel entered the 2005 Iowa State game for an injured Smith, leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind victory. As the Columbia Tribune noted before the 2006 season, the torch was being passed.

Daniel took it and ran with it. He broke the school record for TD passes in one game in his first start, throwing for 5 TD against Murray State (a powerhouse, I know). Daniel orchestrated wins over Ole Miss, Ohio, New Mexico, Colorado and Texas Tech, all the while quieting concerns about his size and creeping Mizzou into the national conscience.

The Tigers struggled down the stretch, but it's hard to fault Daniel for most of it. The inability to protect the football, inability to stop the run and poor playcalling hamstrung the Tigers in the second half of the season, directly contributing to losses against Texas A&M, Nebraska, Iowa State and Oregon State. Only Oklahoma truly outmanned and outclassed Daniel and the Tigers, and Mizzou even had a shot at the Sooners for a large portion of the game. Only Oklahoma and Nebraska had Daniel the least bit flustered.

When all was done, he finished the year with 28 touchdown passes, 3,527 passing yards and 3,906 total yards - all school records. Entering 2007, the only question at quarterback is depth.

Daniel is the man unless, God forbid, he gets hurt. Sitting behind Daniel is senior QB Chase Patton, who may be the only player on the roster hurt by what Daniel's done for the program. Patton seemed to be the heir apparent to Smith. Patton was a 4-star, hometown hero who passed up the likes of Tennessee and UCLA to stay in CoMo. Coaches have expressed how comfortable and confident they feel with Patton as the No. 2, but it's hard not to feel somewhat bad for the one Mizzou didn't let get away.

After Patton, the questions pick up - perhaps not for 2007, but as a backup in 2008 and a starter in 2009. The two redshirt freshmen each bring a different style - with Dominic Grooms able to make some plays with his feet and J.P. Tillman able to make more plays from the pocket. If neither can prove they are up to the task in two years, the amount of pressure on Pinkel and Co. to recruit a top quarterback will only continue to compound - especially after losing in-state QB Blaine Gabbert to Nebraska. But if any lesson has been learned from the Daniel era at QB, it shows that size and recruiting stars don't win ball games, and here's to hoping Mizzou pulls another diamond from the rough in the future.

But for 2007: In Chase We Trust.

Please say no...

It's clear that the Mizzou offense runs, or rather passes, through the arm of Chase Daniel. His precision passing propelled this offense to the No. 8 spot in the nation last season and is arguably the biggest reason why Mizzou is picked to win the Big 12 North.

But the improved running (and more importantly, improved ball security) of Tony Temple last season helped put the Mizzou offense on the brink of moving from "good" to "great."

At Tuesday morning's practice, Temple had to be carted off the practice field with an apparent knee injury following a collision with several linebackers. Early reports and rumors suggest the injury is just a sprain, but anything more serious could be a severe blow to the Mizzou offense. Marcus Woods, Earl Goldsmith and Jimmy Jackson are all fine backs, but Temple's impressive 2006 season and breakout performance in the Sun Bowl had Tiger fans primed for a big year with big expectations from No. 22.

Adding fuel to the "How can Mizzou blow this season" fire lit by Temple's injury, CB Hardy Ricks dislocated his left shoulder Tuesday morning and has an MRI pending. Ricks returns following a promising 2006 and outstanding few days of practice this summer, and losing Ricks could be a nasty blow to a secondary that can use all the experience it can get.

More practice analysis to come later as we await word on the severity of each injury...

Monday, August 6, 2007

Aug. 6 Practice recap

Monday morning's practice saw the addition of shoulder pads, and the debut of a term (according to Footblog at MUTigers.com) I hope to see a lot of heading into this season:

"Defensively-controlled"

Allow me to recover for a second...

I was absolutely estatic to hear all the focus isn't all offense this summer, as any true Mizzou fan can tell you this team will go as far as its defense will allow. Everyone knows the ifs: If Ziggy Hood and Lorenzo Williams shut down the run, if Stryker Sulak and Tommy Chavis improve the pass rush, if Brock Christopher and Sean Witherspoon can step in at linebacker, if [insert names here] can [insert defensive jargon here], etc. Daniel and the offense will spend the season swimming in media praise and points, but whether or not Mizzou is swimming in wins and swimming at Sea World in San Antonio after the Big 12 Championship depends solely on defensive output.

Among the day's highlights according to different accounts were transfer Justin Garrett's hit on Danario Alexander and solid play (including a pick-six) from converted LB Connell Davis. One disappointing note: LB Michael Keck and DB Darnell Terrell did not participate in full contact drills.

Once again, the Trib's Dave Matter was on top of all things Tigers. Matter had this outstanding tidbit from Pinkel:
“I thought the 1 and 2 defense dominated the offense in almost everything. Every drill,” Pinkel said. “That’s good. Maybe the offense is reading the papers too much. And the defense is, ‘Hey, we’re pretty good, too.’ That’s healthy. But I thought it was just total domination today by the defense.”

Matter notes Castine Bridges' push for playing time (especially with the injury to Terrell), Tommy Saunders' lead in the punt returner race, tough hits by Pig Brown and Hardy Ricks forcing rare drops from Mizzou's dynamic TE duo, and Pinkel's impressions of the linebacker corps so far.

The Tigers hit the practice field again Tuesday morning at 8:15. ETS promises to wish it could be there.

Countdown - 25 Days...

In 25 days...

Truman wants YOU



M-I-Z

Photo courtesy Sarah Becking photography. More photos available at Becking.com.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

First Practice

Here's some notes and recaps from different impressions of Mizzou's first practice:

-- Dave Matter had an interesting article in the Tribune detailing Chase Daniel meeting a very special guest at EA's Elite 11 Camp a few weeks ago.

-- TE Martin Rucker, DT Lorenzo Williams, WR Jason Ray and S Pig Brown were named team captains. The first three are not much of a surprise, with each entering their fifth year in the program. However, Brown was named despite being in the program for just over a year.

-- With kickoffs being pushed back five yards this year, there's been a lot of talk NCAA-wide about the kind of athletes teams will use for returns. On the first day of practice, Mizzou ran out Jared Perry, Tommy Saunders, Jeremy Maclin and Marcus Woods. Not a bad tandem, but they desperately need to find a unit that can cover kicks effectively.

-- The first answer to the Gilbert Moye question may have appeared, as he started camp at free safety. The highly regarded athlete chose the position because of the opportunity for early playing time.

-- The team's motto this year is "It's all about the ball," helping the coaching staff preach the importance of turnover margin and ball security.

-- Mizzou's selection as the Big 12 North favorite was the talk of the day, and Matter's blog had a great quote from Will Franklin regarding the selection:
“It’s a great thing to be picked like that,” [Franklin] said. “But we know those same people didn’t think we’d be able to have the record we had last year. There’s still a sense of urgency for us to go out there, play our best and earn that respect even more than we’ve picked up now.”

-- Matter's blog also includes an early depth chart.

-- STL Post Dispatch's Graham Watson says Adam Crossett may make the punter race with Jake Harry obsolete.

-- Watson also had a great article talking about the mood around camp. The expectations, returning starters and immense confidence appear to be a great mix for this squad. Watson's second paragraph describes that same sentiment in outstanding fashion:
"Instead of the awkward orientation that usually comes with the first few days of a new season, the Tigers took to the field with the business-like confidence of a team that knows this could be one of the greatest seasons in the school's history."

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Camp opens...

Folks, it is the greatest day of the year. Mizzou Tiger football has begun.

The Tigers opened camp this morning, and ETS has begun the process of relying heavily on message boards and Dave Matter's Behind the Stripes blog to keep up with all the action. Stay tuned to ETS for continued reaction and outlandish theories.

On a side note, Mizzou received votes in the USA Today Coaches' Poll but did not crack the Top 25.

Wehrli induction tonight

This evening, football will honor Mizzou All-American Roger Wehrli with induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Wehrli was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003 and was part of the first class inducted into the Missouri Hall of Fame.

At Mizzou, Wehrli was twice named all-Big-8, including a senior year that led to his selection as a unanimous All-American and Big 8 Defensive Player of the Year. A Wehrli interception played a large role in Mizzou's victory over Alabama in the 1968 Gator Bowl.

The last Tiger to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame was Kellen Winslow, who was inducted as a part of the Class of 2002. Wehrli will be the 13th member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame with Mizzou ties.

Wehrli's HOF bio can be found here.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Countdown - 29 days...

In 29 days

It's time to rip 'em up.



Z-O-U


Photo by Sarah Becking. More photos available at Becking.com

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Mock Trade Deadline

Tuesday's edition of ESPN's College Football Live presented an interesting concept to parallel the time peg created by the Major League Baseball trading deadline - a fictional college football trade market.

Of course, the trades presented on the show mainly focused on the ESPN national darlings and powerhouses, and understandably so. However, the idea got me thinking - what trades would ETS make to improve the Tigers chances entering the 2007 season?

Before we begin, I established these rules:
- Trades may not be conducted within the North division. Trading between the Big 12 North and South divisions is allowed.
- Unnamed recruits can be traded like draft picks.
- The trade partner's needs must be taken into consideration.

That said, as Mizzou's interim GM, here are the offers I put on the block:

1) Mizzou-Arkansas
- Mizzou gets: DT Marcus Harrison
- Arkansas gets: TE Martin Rucker, QB Chase Patton, One 3-star recruit
Analysis: The move gives Mizzou 310 pounds of beef to drop in the middle of the defensive line and shore up the run stopping issues that derailed the Tigers last year. Arkansas gets a better-than-average QB and a premier TE, giving the Razorbacks enough of a passing threat to open up lanes for Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. It would be a shame to see T-Ruck go, but it's either Rucker or Coffman - and here's to hoping Coffman will stick around for his senior season.

2) Mizzou-TCU
- Mizzou gets: MLB Jason Phillips
- TCU gets: WR Jeremy Maclin, WR Tommy Saunders, 3-star recruit
Analysis: TCU coach Gary Patterson expressed concern about his receiving corps and Mizzou has receivers to spare. Maclin would offer a risky, but potentially rewarding long term payoff for TCU, and Saunders would provide a sure-handed possession receiver for their BCS run this season. Phillips would provide Mizzou with an athletic middle linebacker to help lead a defense with several question marks in the middle. He and Brock Christopher could hold down the MLB spot until freshman Lake Lambert is ready to go in two years.

3) Mizzou-West Virginia
- Mizzou gets: RB Noel Devine
- West Virginia gets: K Jeff Wolfert, WR Will Franklin, Three 4-star recruits
Analysis: Mizzou gets the Mountaineers' gem of the 2007 recruiting class in exchange for two potential difference makers on WVU's quest for a National Championship game appearance. Devine is the shifty, speedy back that absolutely thrives in the spread offense, but has to sit behind Heisman candidate Steve Slaton for the next two years at WVU. Devine would step in immediately at Mizzou, spelled only by Temple if necessary. Wolfert would be major step up at kicker for WVU, and Franklin would become a reliable target, especially in WVU's misdirection, playaction-happy version of the spread. The 4-star recruits and the entire king's ransom would have to be added for WVU to even consider giving up its star of the future.

4) Mizzou-UCLA
- Mizzou gets: Two 4-star recruits, One 2-star recruit
- UCLA gets: TE Martin Rucker, WR Jared Perry, WR Greg Bracey, 3-star recruit
Analysis: I had to throw in a "mortgage the present for the future" trade just for good measure. Mizzou picks up three recruits from the team ranked No. 2 in the nation for 2008 recruiting by Rivals.com. UCLA completely revamps its aerial attack, turning what coach Karl Dorrell called the weakest part of his team, into one of its strengths. Rucker and Bracey would be one-year rentals, but the addition of Perry and the recruit gives UCLA some semblance of an eye to the future.

5) Mizzou-Shakespeare's Pizza
- Mizzou/ETS gets: Free pizza for life
- Shakespeare's gets: Athletic Director Mike Alden
Analysis: If you could get free pizza in exchange for incompetence, wouldn't you take it? Granted, the football, wrestling and baseball programs have grown under Alden, but I'm running out of ideas and pizza sounds delectable.

I highly coveted several members of Texas' defense, but couldn't figure out any kind of plausable trade - given that Texas is rather solid through the depth chart and has no need for the type of recruits Mizzou would pull. I eyed DTs Derek Lokey/Frank Okam and LB Sergio Kindle (despite the character issues), but found no way to package a trade with even the slightest shred of credibility, even in my own personal fantasy trading market.

So Mizzou fans, what trade would you make? What about fans of other teams - any Mizzou players you covet? How ridiculous are my proposals?