A: The main thing that I took away was that the Tiger defense will be as good as I thought it might be during pre-season camp. They have good talent and depth along the defensive line, which was able to with stand the loss of Jacquies Smith and not miss a beat, and they stepped up and helped win the game. I think they will counted on more with some unknowns still surrounding the offense to possibly lead this team to victory more than the offense.
With first-year QB James Franklin at the helm now, how different do you expect the Tigers' offense to look from last year?
A: The biggest difference will be the added threat of Franklin being able to run the ball. We saw that already in the first game where his running ability came in handy. He is basically like having a 225lbs tailback in there along with his ability to throw the ball. So, even though you will see primarily 1-back sets, defenses will have to account for his running ability. It will allow the Tigers to do some different things on offense, including being able to use the option more if they choose to.
Tight end Michael Egnew is obviously one of the stars on offense. Can you talk about what makes him such a special player and how crucial is his performance this season especially with a new quarterback?
A: Michael Egnew is just a great athlete with size and great concentration when it comes to catching the ball. He came to Mizzou as basically a 6'6" wide receiver, but has gotten bigger and stronger with a lot of hard work in the weight room. He kind of snuck up on people last year, but he is a marked man this season after doing what he did as a junior. What makes him special is that athleticism, along with being able to get open and catching the ball in traffic.
Can you talk about Missouri's defensive speed and how will the recent injuries affect it this week?
A: This is the fastest Missouri defense in the Gary Pinkel era and possibly ever. They have speed and go two deep pretty much across the board with the exception of a position or two. As you saw in the Miami game, losing Smith and Will Ebner did not affect the defense at all. This is due to the depth coach Pinkel has developed in recent year. When Ebner went down he was replaced by 5th year senior Luke Lamber, who was even with Ebner on the depth chart. Lambert and SAM LB Andrew Wilson split time between the two positions, and Wilson is the biggest hitter on the squad and will see a lot of time at MLB this week as well.
Defensive end is probably the Tigers deepest position and they had a 5 man rotation going there already. Losing Smith will just shorten it a bit.
Which Missouri injury, on either side of the ball, do you think will have the biggest impact on the game?
A: It's tough to say. The Tigers just lost starting tailback Kendial Lawrence to a broken leg on Monday. However, he was listed as even this week with Henry Josey and De'Vion Moore at the position before he suffered the injury. Moore was the starter last year and Josey was Missouri's biggest home run threat at tailback last season, so they will be fine there.
Personally, I think it will be senior WR Jerrell Jackson who is most missed. He was likely the Tigers best option to stretch the field, but was lost back during pre-season camp and will not be ready for this week's game either. There has been a question about how good the Tigers outside receivers are even before losing Jackson.
Can you talk about Missouri's special teams, especially the kicking game?
A: The Tigers return an All-American placekicker in Grant Ressel, who was perfect last week and god good depth on his kickoffs, and punter Trey Barrow put 4 punts inside the 10 yard line, including two at the 1 against Miami last week. The return game features T.J. Moe at punt returner and Josey as the kick returner. Moe has some of the most reliable hands on the team, and Josey is a speedy runner who is a threat to take it all the way.
Do you think that all the recent turmoil within the Big-12, about Texas A&M bolting the conference etc. will have any negative effect on the Tigers' players' concentration level going into this game at Arizona State, let alone for the rest of the season?
A: No. Not at all. The Tigers do a great job of staying focused and leaving off the field stuff where it belongs. Off the field. When they had some turmoil on the team before the start of last season, losing starting tailback and leader Derrick Washington for the year, they were able to put it completely out of their minds. The conference stuff isn't really thought about by the players.
Arizona State fans feel like this week's game can define their season. Is that the same sentiment among Missouri fans?
A: Missouri fans are looking at this game to get a better idea of how good the team might be right now as opposed to defining the season. Winning on the road is huge in the Big 12 and this will be a stiff test as most feel that Arizona State is pretty equal to some of the Big 12 opponents Missouri will face. A win here would go a long way in making fans feel pretty good about their chances come Big 12 time.
What are the Missouri fans' expectations for their team this year?
A: I think most have realistic expectations for this season. Pinkel has risen the level of expectations during his time here and most expect 8 wins or more and a bowl game. Losing two top 10 NFL draft picks have kept most from thinking too big when it comes to 2011.
What in your opinion are some of the keys for a Missouri victory?
A: I think the keys to victory will be for the Tigers to start fast and be able to score on the Sun Devils early. Take the crowd out of the game as much as possible and give the defense a lead to work with. They lost the time of possession to Miami and I think they don't want to lose that battle to ASU. They will need to be able to run the ball and control the time of possession. Limit turnovers and have a few takeaways, and execute well limiting penalties. A lot of the Tigers problems against Miami were brought on by themselves. And of course, score more times than the Sun Devils.