Black and Gold Illustrated's Nate Latsch took some time out to answer our questions about the Tigers.
Q: What can we expect to see different, in terms of scheme or style, from the Missouri offense?
Latsch: Missouri has done everything it can throughout spring and fall practices to limit how much of the new-look offensive and defensive schemes are seen by the media covering the team. They only allowed the media to see about 30 minutes of every other practice session in the spring and fall and during those open periods were careful not to reveal much. The Tigers even went so far, from what I was told, as installing separate schemes to use just for the spring game that was televised by ESPN.
The new offensive scheme will probably look a lot like what offensive coordinator Josh Heupel has run during his stints at Utah State and Oklahoma. Same with defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross, who came back to Missouri by way of TCU. Offensively I can say that the Tigers want to go at a faster tempo and try to get as many plays run as possible, though head coach Barry Odom tempered that recently by saying there will be times they will want to work slower and more methodically.
Odom was the Tigers’ defensive coordinator a year ago, so you’d think the defense will look similar to what Missouri did in 2015, though maybe with some more aggressive looks to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Q: How much will the preseason defensive line losses affect what is expected to be a very good Tiger defense?
Latsch: The Tigers lost two potential starters right before fall practice when defensive end Walter Brady was dismissed from the team and we learned defensive tackle Harold Brantley would not be back because of academic issues. Brady earned some freshman All-America accolades a year ago and tied Charles Harris (photo above) for the team lead with seven sacks. He will be a big loss, but the Tigers feel like they have a couple players who fill in at that spot.
It looks like junior walk-on Jordan Harold, a transfer from Division II Northwest Missouri State, will get the start on Saturday but Spencer Williams and Marcell Frazier will also get playing time there. Brantley’s loss is easier to absorb because after starting in 2014 he missed the entire 2015 season due to injuries sustained in a car accident. He’s a talented player, but he lost a lot of weight after the accident and there were concerns that he would never return to his previous form.
The Tigers are pretty loaded at the defensive tackle spot with four guys who should see a lot of time — starters Rickey Hatley and A.J. Logan and then reserves Josh Augusta and Terry Beckner Jr. Augusta, who is anywhere from 355 to 370 pounds, started all 12 games a year ago. Beckner was one of the top recruits nationally in the 2015 class and earned some freshman All-America honors with a strong debut season.
Q: Does Missouri have to beat WVU for this to be a good season for the Tigers? How much would a loss hurt the enthusiasm that a new head coach brings?
Latsch: This is definitely a tricky season opener for Odom, who said on Monday that if he had input in the schedule he would have done things differently. I don’t think Missouri has to win this game to have a good season, but a loss on Saturday could end up making the difference in whether the Tigers have a successful season. They went 5-7 a year ago, with a couple close wins and close closes, and I think they are anywhere from a six, seven or eight-win team this season with the possibility of being better if they get some breaks.
This defense should be very good and possibly even one of the best in the country again this fall. But the offense is so young that it may be a year or two away from being as good as it could be. There are just a lot of questions on offense that won’t be answered until Saturday afternoon in Morgantown.