2003 College Football Preview's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Missouri Tigers

The Lowdown
Coach: Gary Pinkel (3rd year, 9-14)
2002 record: 5-7
Big 12 finish: 5th (North)
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 183.7 ypg
(5th in Big 12, 36th in nation)
Pass: 203.2 ypg (7th, 66th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 167.8 ypg (9th, 78th)
Pass: 282.6 ypg (12th, 113th)
Projected Starters
Offense (9 returning starters in bold)
WR  80  Chris Crosby  So. 
WR  88  Arnold Britt  So. 
WR   12   Sean Coffey   So.  
WT   76   Rob Droege   Sr.  
WG   52   Tony Palmer   So.  
C   70   A.J. Ricker   Sr.  
SG   58   Cliff Young   Sr.  
ST   78   Scott Paffrath   Jr.  
TE   89   J.D. McCoy   Sr.  
QB   16   Brad Smith   So.  
TB   38   Zack Abron   Sr.  
Defense (8)
DE  92  Brian Smith  Fr. 
DT  94  Phil Pitts  Jr. 
NT   99   C.J. Mosley   So.  
DE   97   Atiyyah Ellison   Jr.  
LB   46   Henry Sweat   Jr.  
LB   24   James Kinney   Jr.  
Whip   40   Jason Simpson   So.  
CB   7   A.J. Kincade   So.  
CB   26   Michael Harden   Sr.  
ROV  Justin Scott  So. 
FS   36   Marcus King   Jr.  
Special Teams
K   34   Mike Matheny   Sr.  
P   13   Brock Harvey   Jr.  
KR  86  Shirdonya Mitchell  Sr. 
PR  Marcus James  Sr. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  #Illinois 
Sept. 6  at Ball State 
Sept. 13  Eastern Illinois 
Sept. 20  Middle Tennessee 
Sept. 27  at Kansas 
Oct. 11  Nebraska 
Oct. 18  at Oklahoma 
Oct. 25  Texas Tech 
Nov. 1  Iowa State 
Nov. 8  at Colorado 
Nov. 15  Texas A&M 
Nov. 22  at Kansas State 
   #St. Louis, Mo. 
Missouri had a chance to qualify for a bowl last season right up to the final game, a disaster against Kansas State. Even after being shut out that day, it is apparent the Tigers are making significant strides in the disciplined system of coach Gary Pinkel. Now they're ready to take the next big step, under the direction of quarterback Brad Smith, a runaway choice as the Big 12's Offensive Newcomer of the Year.

"There's no special way to prepare for him," says Nebraska defensive tackle LeKevin Smith, who has compared him to former Iowa State quarterback Seneca Wallace. Brad Smith is surrounded by a veteran offense. What he doesn't have, however, is a proven defense.


Smith is draped in potential greatness after becoming only the second player in NCAA Division I-A history to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 yards in a season. And he isn't simply a running back lined up under center, as indicated by his 2,333 passing yards, 53.6 completion percentage and 15-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Tailback Zack Abron is another potential 1,000-yard rusher, and both he and Smith have the security of a veteran offensive line, built around Rob Droege, A.J. Ricker and Tony Palmer.
Wide receiver Justin Gage is the only significant loss on offense, but the passing game should be more diversified with Smith spreading the ball around to a group of receivers headed by Darius Outlaw.


Missouri gave up about as many points as it scored last season, and defense again is a concern because of inexperience and lack of depth. The run defense has improved, but not enough to prevent opponents from controlling the ball. And the pass defense has been woeful. The Tigers ranked 113th nationally in pass defense and 91st in pass efficiency defense, allowing 59.4 percent completions and 19 touchdown passes.

Tackle Russ Bell has the strength and athleticism to hold up inside, while linebacker James Kinney has established himself among the best in the Big 12. He ranked second in the conference and ninth nationally in tackles per game last fall. He was involved in 148 stops, third most in school history.

Michael Harden is the most experienced defensive back and the most consistent, with excellent cover speed. Nino Williams, a first-team junior college All-American, is expected to have an immediate impact at free safety.


The kicking game, a source of frustration in Pinkel's first season, has improved markedly. Nowhere was this more apparent than in punting. Brock Harvey averaged 42.5 yards to rank fourth in the conference and 20th nationally. More important, the Tigers ranked 19th nationally in net punting after ranking 112th in 2001. Walk-on Mike Matheny appears to have solved the placekicking problem. Marcus James and Shirdonya Mitchell are kick returners with big-play ability.


The Tigers have a formidable offense in the hands of one of the Big 12's premier players. Smith has mobility, great field vision, deceptive speed, poise and confidence. He is surrounded by experience, including a dominating line that returns intact, and a productive tailback in the sure-handed Abron, who rarely fumbles and has improved his speed during the offseason.

The offense is good enough to allow Missouri to contend in the conference's North Division. But the defense probably will again prevent that from happening. Still, the Tigers can't be worse defensively this season, and their schedule is conducive to a fast start. The stretch run will be tough, with games at Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas State, but Missouri should have a bowl bid wrapped up by the time it heads to Manhattan.

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