Big 12 Preview: Missouri

In conjunction with the Big 12 Football Media Days being held this week in Houston, Go Pokes will be publishing previews on each of the conference's schools.

Missouri Tigers
vs. OSU, Oct, 8, at Boone Pickens Stadium
Head Coach: Gary Pinkel (5th year)
2004 Record: 5-6, 3-5 Big 12

The Missouri football team enters the 2005 campaign as a team trying to regain the momentum it enjoyed during the 2003 season, when the Tigers 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.

The major complaint head coach Gary Pinkel heard last season was quarterback 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 nothing had changed in Missouri's offense. But, clearly, that was not the case. Smith struggled behind a young, inexperienced offensive line, and Missouri appeared to go away from the things it had done well in previous seasons.

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 huddles or no-huddle formations in 2005. Key offensive returners include wide out Sean Coffey, tight end Martin Rucker, running back Marcus Woods and offensive linemen Adam Spieker and Tony Palmer.

The Tigers will be successful on offense if Smith adapts 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. And if the Tigers' offensive line improves after last year's trial by fire, Missouri will be tough to stop.

On defense, the spring produced both good and bad news. The bad news was junior defensive tackle C.J. Mosley left Missouri for the NFL draft. Couple Mosley's loss with the graduation of fellow tackle Atiyyah Ellison and end Zach Ville, and the Tigers had to replace the nucleus of a very effective defensive line. The good news was that Missouri appears to have quality starters and depth in place at linebacker and in the defensive backfield. Jason Simpson is probably the best strong safety in the Big 12, and the Tigers displayed more speed at almost every position in the spring, than a year ago.

If a committee of unproven defensive tackles can fill Mosley's old position on the line, and if MU improves the coverage and aggressiveness from its linebacker corps, Missouri should continue to have a very competitive defense.

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