Coach: Gary Pinkel (5th season, 22-25) 2004 record: 5-6 Big 12 finish: 3-5 (t-3rd North) 2004 I-A offensive rankings:Rushing: 48th (165.0 ypg) Passing: 68th (207.5 ypg) 2004 I-A defensive rankings: Rushing: 64th (152.1 ypg) Passing: 3rd (149.3 ypg)
at Oklahoma State
* in Kansas City
Depth Chart: Offense
7 returning starters in red
Depth Chart: Defense
3 returning starters in red
Emmett Morris Jr.
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Missouri is looking for a second chance to break through. A year ago, the Tigers were expected to contend for the Big 12 North title and instead struggled through a 5-6 campaign that featured a late-season, five-game losing streak.
There is hope, however, that Gary Pinkel's club can make a splash in 2005. The Tigers welcome back Brad Smith, one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the nation, and the Mizzou defense, once a major weakness, has made tremendous progress. And don't forget -- these aren't exactly the glory days of the Big 12 North.
Last offseason, the Missouri coaching staff concentrated on making Smith a better passer. The result was Smith's lowest rushing output of his career by nearly 500 yards. This time around, the staff has installed a new scheme designed to put Smith on the move and give him options.
"We're moving [the quarterbacks] around a little more, there's no question," said Pinkel. "We made some changes that we felt were necessary so that we could be a more attacking offense."
That offense is designed to get the ball to playmakers like sophomores Will Franklin, Tony Temple and Marcus Woods, as well as senior receiver Sean Coffey, in the open field.
Missouri must get its running game back on track this fall. After ranking sixth in the nation in rushing in '03, the Tigers slipped to 48th a year ago. Temple and Woods, two highly regarded young tailbacks, will replace Damien Nash, last season's leading rusher, who declared for the NFL Draft. In addition, the offensive line will have to make major strides after struggling in '04.
"Everything starts up front with the offensive line," said senior guard Tony Palmer. "If we don't get it going up front, it's hard to get the rest of the team motivated."
Missouri's defense ranked second in the Big 12 a year ago but enters 2005 with more issues than the offense. The Tigers' defense must replace eight starters, including two standout tackles.
Lorenzo Williams and Scott Wheatley are the favorites to replace Atiyyah Ellison and C.J. Mosley in the middle of the line. But they'll receive competition from a host of players.
Missouri must replace its top two linebackers, but the Tigers have an athletic group of players ready to step in. Dedrick Harrington, David Richard and Marcus Bacon all started at times a season ago, and Derrick Ming will likely join Harrington and Bacon on the first unit. However, an infusion of youth, led by former Columbia high school star Van Alexander, will have the competition heated in fall camp.
Senior safety Jason Simpson and junior end Xzavie Jackson should be the leaders of the defense. Both will be candidates for all-conference honors.
Adam Crossett took over the place-kicking duties late in '04 and hit 1-of-3 field goals and 2-of-2 extra points. He has the inside track on the position. The punting job currently belongs to Matt Hoenes, but incoming freshman Matt Casaday will be given every opportunity to take over.
Missouri's season will hinge on its performance at the point of attack. The offensive line had problems blocking for much of last year. If Smith, Temple and Woods have no room to run, it won't matter what scheme the Tigers install.
Defensively, Mizzou will have to find some suitable replacements for Ellison and Mosley. The newcomers don't have to be All-Big 12 material, but they have to stand up and show they can slow down opposing ground games.
The bottom line is that Missouri may have a better record without being a better team. If you include a "road game" in Kansas City against Arkansas State, the Tigers will play six of their first seven games at home. Add that to a Big 12 North Division that may not be any better than it was a season ago and anything less than seven wins will be deemed a disappointment.