Mizzou, Pinkel Ready to Win Again

Winning will ease a lot of pain in Columbia, Missouri, where Gary Pinkel hasn't taken to well to losing in his first two seasons on the job. For a coach that won 73 games to just 37 losses over a decade at Toledo, a pair of sub-.500 campaigns with the Tigers is unacceptable.

But at the same time, Pinkel, certainly not a coach to hang settle on moral victories, likes the path his program is headed down.

"This has been very painful for me," said Pinkel, who has only been a part of one losing team in 22 years as a coach before going a combined 9-14 in 2001 and 2002. "I'm used to winning at a high level. I wanted to be undefeated my first season. I'm glad these two years are over with.

"I don't think we have a great team yet, but we're significantly better, personnel-wise, than we were last year or two years ago. We faced some huge personnel issues when I got here. There is nothing wrong with having problems, but there is a problem with not doing anything about them. I'm tired. It's got to get done."

Pinkel's team has followed his lead.

"We're definitely a hungry team," said offensive lineman A.J. Ricker, a senior that has been a part of four losing seasons since arriving at Mizzou. "We're going to give 110 percent no matter what the score is, play all four quarters and have fun doing it. We haven't had too much fun lately and hopefully that's going to change."

Pinkel has tried to address a number of issues in his tenure and one of those is recruiting his type of player. Blessed with being in the middle of a talent-rich area, Pinkel is anxious to reap the benefits of more efficient recruiting.

"The name of this game is speed," he said. "You don't go into a game and season with slow, fat, weak players. There is not magic out there. We had to get better in all areas from the time we got here. These guys are athletic and can run. We might be young at some positions this season, but we'll be able to run. We should look a lot more like what a Big 12 team should be.

"When you inherit a program, you're faced with some personnel issues. We have tried to balance our recruiting every year and have a set system we use for evaluating players. We will recruit some under-sized players, but we have to. Do they have speed potential? We can make them stronger and put more weight on them."

Smith enters year two as starter

A quarterback Pinkel recruited in his first year as Mizzou coach, Brad Smith has plenty of speed potential…and throwing ability. Smith passed for 2,333 yards and 15 touchdowns on 196-of-366 passing. He also joined the 1,000-yard rushing club while averaging 5.3 yards per carry and scoring seven times.

The media has taken notice, too, choosing Smith as a preseason first-team All-Big 12 player. That's quite a feat for a player Pinkel had some concerns about out of high school.

"I was visiting him and he was a little bit too nice," Pinkel said. "As a quarterback, you have to have a moxy about you. You have to have a little something to you. He doesn't really do that, though. He's a very mild-mannered guy. He's a gentleman and class act. When he puts that helmet on, it's a transformation. He becomes a gladiator."

The drive to improve means Smith is more likely to build on last season's success instead of regressing in year two.

"It's a constant learning experience," he said. "There are guys that have played for 20 years that are still improving. I need to be more of a leader on the field and win more games. I look forward to the chance to improve my game this season."

Smith's style is something Ricker and a veteran offense has taken to.

"He's kind of a quiet guy and probably not the type of leader that's as vocal as others," Ricker said. "But he is the leader that will say, ‘follow me and I'll take you there.' He's the type of guy that you want to follow. It's easy to respect him. It carries over from on the field to off. He's very involved doing work in the community and at hospitals. A lot of people don't do that. I give him a lot of respect for that."

(CN would like to thank The Nest Bar & Grill in Johnston for sponsoring our coverage from Kansas City. CN & The Nest would like to invite you to join us on Wednesday, August 27th for our 2003 preseason tailgate party. Stay tuned to CN and 1460-KXNO for more details)

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