Big 12 Preview — Missouri Tigers

A season ago Iowa State was 24-yards away from the Big 12 Championship Game at the end of regulation, but a wide right field goal by Bret Culbertson sent the game into overtime. Missouri capitalized in the extra session and Adam Crossett's 25-yard field goal gave the Tiger the 17-14 win. Inside, a look at the 2005 Tigers, written by publisher Brad Burgess.

(Editor's Note: This preview was written prior to the tragic death of Missouri's Aaron O'Neal on July 12. O'Neal passed away during a voluntary summer workout in Columbia. See related story: In Loving Memory)

Missouri Tigers
at Folsom Field • Nov. 5
Head Coach: Gary Pinkel (5th year)
2004 Record: 5-6, 3-5 Big 12

The Missouri Tigers enter the 2005 campaign as a team that is trying to regain the momentum it enjoyed during the 2003 season, when Missouri finished the regular season 8-4.

The Tigers took a big step forward defensively in 2004, finishing second in the conference in defense. However, the offense and special teams consistently faltered late in games last season, and Missouri retreated to a 5-6 mark.

The major complaint that head coach Gary Pinkel heard last season was why QB Brad Smith wasn't being allowed to be Brad Smith, and was instead, being used primarily as a passing threat. Pinkel publicly dismissed the criticism saying that nothing had changed in Missouri's offense, but that clearly was not the case. Smith, a gifted runner and always a threat to break long runs, was held to under four yards per carry in 2004. He struggled behind a young, inexperienced offensive line, but Missouri appeared to go away from the things it had done well in previous seasons offensively.

During the spring, Missouri adjusted its offense to be more attack oriented. The Tigers will run exclusively from the shotgun formation, and will use quick sugar huddles or no-huddle formations in 2005. Brad Smith will have more opportunities to run options and attack defenses with his feet when passing opportunities aren't there.

On defense, the spring produced both good and bad news. The bad news was junior 1st team All-Big 12 DT, CJ Mosley left Missouri for the NFL draft. Couple Mosley's loss with the graduation of fellow DT, Atiyyah Ellison, and DE Zach Ville, and the Tigers had to replace several players on a very effective defensive line. The good news was that Missouri appears to have quality starters and depth positions in place at linebacker and in the defensive backfield. Jason Simpson is probably the best strong safety in the Big 12 this season, and the Tigers displayed more speed at almost every position in the spring.

Scheme, or changes in scheme or emphasis: Shotgun, with elements of the QB option series. More up tempo play calling and execution.

Key returning players: Brad Smith, QB; Sean Coffey, WR; Martin Rucker, TE; William Franklin, WR; Marcus Woods, RB; Adam Spieker, C, Tony Palmer, OG.

Key newcomers: Tony Temple, RB; Louis Pintola, OL; Matt Russell, OL.

The Tigers will be successful on offense if Brad Smith adapts quickly to the new offensive concepts and allows his legs to beat teams more than his arm. Tony Temple is a mercurial sophomore tailback who was the offensive star of the spring. If Temple can keep defenses from keying completely on Smith, as they have in the past, Missouri will improve tremendously on offense. Finally, if the Tigers offensive line improves after the last year's trial by fire, Missouri will be tough to stop.

Scheme, or changes in scheme or emphasis: Missouri runs a 4-3 base defense, but has tremendous depth at both safety positions. Expect plenty of nickel packages, even in running situations.

Key returning players: Xzavier Jackson, DE; Brian Smith, DE; Lorenzo Williams, DT; Dedrick Harrington, LB; Derrick Ming, LB; Jason Simpson, S.

Key newcomers: Darnell Terrell, S/CB; William Moore, S; Van Alexander, LB; Josh Barbo, DT.

The Tigers will be successful on defense if a committee of unproven defensive tackles can effectively fill Mosley's old position on the line. If the Tigers improve the coverage and aggressiveness from its linebacker corps in addition, Missouri should continue to have a very competitive defense.

Key Games: Given last season's five game losing streak, it is more important than ever that the Tigers get off to a fast start. The Sept. 3 game against Arkansas State in Kansas City is as important as any other game on the schedule. The conference opener at home vs. Texas is also critical for Missouri.

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