Opposition Danger Men: Missouri

Next up on our opposition danger men preview of the Commodores opponents is the still relatively new to the SEC foe Missouri. This series is where we are taking a closer look at a couple of difference makers who Vandy will come up against in this non-conference clash. These are the guys that the coaches must game plan for if the 2014 Commodores football season is going to be a success.

Missouri

Offense: QB – Maty Mauk

He may be the only person in the country to spell Matty with just one “t”, but Maty Mauk is the guy who will drive this Missouri team as they look to prove that their SEC East Title in 2013 was no fluke. Mauk has more experience than you would expect from a sophomore at the quarterback position after he filled in for the perennially injured James Franklin for a stretch last fall. It was during that stretch that he gave Tigers’ fans a glimpse of their future, throwing ten touchdowns with only two interceptions including a break out five touchdown performance in a blowout victory over Kentucky.

Mauk has to get his completion percentage (51%) up now that he is the full time guy, but his knack for the big play is what makes him dangerous. In 2013 he averaged nearly 16 yards per completion, so the Vandy defenders are going to have to be sure to cover and Tigers player who is trying to get free deep downfield. Mauk is by no means a dink and dunk quarterback and he will stand in the pocket unafraid of getting hit if he thinks he can buy another second or two for someone to get open. This means that the ‘Dores pass rush will need to be at its best and if they are not able to sack the quarterback they must at least have a collection of hurries and hits on the day.

It is also worth noting that while the Tigers have a strong supporting cast, especially in the backfield where three 600 yard rushers return, they took a big blow when the tremendous former five-star recruit Dorial Green-Beckham was dismissed from the team in April. DGB had almost 900 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns in 2013 and the Commodore defensive backs will be happy that they don’t have to deal with the connection he and Mauk seemed to have developed.

Defense: DE – Markus Golden and Shane Ray

If we are being honest it makes no sense at all that the strength of this Missouri defense would be at the defensive end position. The Tigers, remember, lost a pair of ferocious pass rushers to the NFL with SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam (11.5 sacks) joined by the less appreciated but still deadly Kony Early (8 sacks, 3 forced fumbles) in the pros. Luckily for Gary Pinkel and his staff the cupboard is hardly bare behind them.

The Tigers will be rolling out a pair of ends who combined for 63 tackles and 11 sacks in mop up duty last fall. Both Markus Golden (6.5 sacks) and Shane Ray (4.5 sacks) have vital experience in the Missouri defensive scheme and have proven production. This will be vital for a defense which keeps the bulk of its defensive tackle rotation intact, but which is short on experience in the back seven.

Golden in particular is an interesting case as it has been such a long wait for him to get his chance to shine. The 6-foot-3, 260-pounder is a junior college transfer who has had to fight the system every step of the way just to get this opportunity. Missouri has had a habit of churning out stud defensive ends over the last few seasons and Golden has every chance to use his senior season to be the next one off of the production line. His greatest strength is his quick first step and his unnatural speed for his size in getting around the corner. The Vandy offensive tackles are going to have long day at the office with Golden and Ray working on them and don’t be at all surprised if the ‘Dores use a game plan full of chips, rubs, and double teams to keep the pressure off of the quarterback.

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