SEC subplots: Will Gary Pinkel survive the 2013 season?

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SDS kicks off a series looking in-depth at teams and their biggest subplots heading into 2013. Up next: Missouri.

SEC Subplots

1. Is Pinkel facing his final audition?

As arguably the most impactful coach in Missouri history, Gary Pinkel sits alone on the SEC’s hottest seat. Things are going to get very interesting around Columbia if Pinkel doesn’t take the Tigers to a bowl game this year. He’s been to eight bowl games in the last 10 years, and last year’s first-year SEC impression certainly didn’t help the resume. He’s 90-61 at Missouri, and he’s facing both his and the Tigers’ most important season yet. I lay it all out here why Pinkel could be facing his last season at Mizzou.

2. Offensive encore

Missouri’s offense took 10 steps back last year. After finishing 12th in the country in total offense in 2011, the Tigers finished 11th…in the SEC. Injuries are most to blame, with a banged up quarterback, offensive line and no Henry Josey. I’ll buy that, but the Tigers were exposed for their lack of depth. But then again, how many teams could afford to lose that many impact players and not take a step back? Josh Henson takes over the reigns of the underwhelming offense and will try to jumpstart a lethargic group.

3. Franklin, Josey & DGB

No question: these three offensive players are the keys to 2013. Yeah, I know the offensive line is important, but it will be a year more seasoned and (hopefully) healthy. James Franklin has to have a big year at quarterback. His 10 total touchdowns last year can go nowhere but up. Franklin’s 2011 success coincided with Henry Josey. Josey missed last year with a nasty knee injury suffered in 2011. Assuming he’s 80 to 90 percent of what he was, he’ll be a serviceable running back. And, finally, Baby Lebron: Dorial Beckham-Green. He’s a mix between Julio Jones and AJ Green, and he must have many more touches. He started to really come on towards the latter part of the season, finishing with 28 catches for 395 yards and a team-high five touchdowns. These three skill position players are paramount for success.

4. Getting defensive

Missouri’s defense finished as the 10th best defense in the league for 2012. Honestly, that’s higher than we anticipated. Everyone expected the offense to be the major factor for wins, but it was the defense. A lot of that is directed toward and because of Sheldon Richardson. He was downright nasty. The good news is that Mizzou has a good player at every level. Kony Ealy is an underrated defensive end, Andrew Wilson is more than capable at middle linebacker, and EJ Gaines could be the best corner in the SEC. If they can improve or even duplicate last year’s numbers, it bodes well for a better-than-anticipated finish.

SDS takeaway: The bowl-less Missouri Tigers were nearly an eight-win team. Close losses against Vanderbilt, Florida and Syracuse leave us wondering what could have been. In hindsight, the Tigers played the second-toughest schedule in the SEC last season. But are bowl games the goal at Mizzou? You look at what Vanderbilt and Kentucky are doing right now in recruiting – both are less football brands than Mizzou, and you can’t help but ask yourself whether Gary Pinkel is the right coach for the future.

Photo Credit: Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports

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COMMENTS

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  • If your name is AL, or USC, or Ohio State, or Nebraska, or Penn State, Michigan, or LSU. Your chances of replacing your coach with a better one is small even though you are offering the candidates one of the top 5 or so brands. Missouri has a brand that has been at the top of the rankings in 3 eras, Farout, Divine, and Pinkel. The history of average-ness between these eras is a vast emptiness compared to the far more likely chance that Pinkel will continue to win. So the simple firing idea that sports casters try to sell is paper thin compared to the deeper dynamics to those that really know hiring coaches. It’s gets even easier than this. When you look at history,… not even Farout and Divine demonstrated the ability to adapt and change schemes like Pinkel in the past decade. The Alabamas and Georgias and their supporters are probably amused when other programs alums and fans start dumpster fires all over the league thinking that this will make each program more attractive to great coaches. But it shouldn’t be amusing because the SEC’s continuing leadership, bowl records, etc. depend on great decisions. Pinkel wins with the best students/ citizens among his competitors. Is he too loyal with athletes and assistant coaches sometimes? and does he make his own second guess-able recruiting a coaching plans, yes. An institution should always be looking inside and out for the next great coach, but wisdom about when it’s time retire, or fire, and hire is frequently replaced by political decisions founded in the collective ignorance of alums, fans, and writers. As an institution Missouri has been patient with a large number of very average coaches. So will Missouri suddenly not know the difference between a year of injuries vs. a dramatic reduced ability of the coaching staff to perform. Missouri’s recruiting classes have never been correctly rated hence Missouri has had the great NFL stars. The greatest yet are on the way, that’s why good coaches son’s like Green and Boehm come to Missouri. Sure there will be a time for Pinkel to retire and a greater Missouri coach is out there somewhere, but after watching Georgia and Florida and Vanderbilt and Tennessee and Kentucky struggle against Missouri in it’s first injury littered year, who is going to take this hot seat story selling technique seriously? Sorry Jon, your a good writer, and you are a far better writer than this!

  • In 1983 after his first losing season The University of Missouri fired coach Warren Powers. that was the first of 19 seasons of which 17 we’re losing seasons. the next three coaches had such little character that in state high school she didn’t even want the University of Missouri in there. gary has done so much to rebuild our program that he could lose the next three seasons before I would even consider letting him go. Seldom do we get big time players, but because of his development we have been able to play 10 to 20 spots above our recruiting. and we are actually getting a lot of visits from big time recruits. do I think we’ll ever be contenders in the SEC. convention would say no. but then again it wasn’t very long ago that we were national contenders

  • I’m tell her Urban Meyer, Nick Saban or even Pete Carroll are actively seeking the position I say dance with the girl what brung you. without Gary we wouldn’t have even been at the dance

  • Wolfman has it down pat, except for failing to mention my favorite Mizzou coach, Al Onofrio, who’d win the big ones and then lose to Kansas. No doubt there will be Mizzou fans that criticize and second guess GP no matter what he does, but the faithful understand, are patient, and appreciate what he has done with the program. And now that Coach Yost is gone, I’ll be keeping my mouth shut and watch. The “hot seat” stuff that seems to generate a lot of ink, is for that purpose and no other.

  • Judging by the comments, Missouri fans are very loyal to arguably the best coach in Missouri history. I think that’s beautiful, because 99% of other fan bases wouldn’t be so quick to ignore the idea of starting over without him.

    • Saturday Down South seems to be THE superior SEC football story source. Thanks to all the Missouri fans who join me in reading here. It shows we are products of maybe the greatest journalism tradition. If we patronize the best writers and expect thoughtful journalism they will come through for us. If we read the bologna from sources that are four letter ?words, then we are supporting tabloid football writing that makes the sport of college football worse by exploiting every negative handle. Go SEC, Go Saturday Down South, NOBODY is more Down South than Missouri Tiger football fans and readers. Mizzou student athletes and coaches, all we want is your best shot, we KNOW you are contenders.

  • This is good article but I don’t believe it is a very accurate one in a sense. We all know the SEC is a dominating conference and tough to have a winning program in it. The problem in the article lies in the facts of the 2012 season. 1. Mizzou had one of the toughest schedules in the nation, with 90% of the teams going to a bowl game. 2. INJURIES plagued, but they have to get better in recruiting to have more depth. They played with their second string and a true freshman for an offensive line all year in the toughest conference with 5 wins. With MU’s first loosing season is still better than Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Auburn 2012 season? 3. MU had Georgia beat with 5 min left in the 4th qtr until they let it get away. Mizzou Should have have beat Florida on their turf but blew it in the end. Mizzou didn’t show up to South Carolina at all, and that’s in the coaching staff. 4. Everyone doubts Mizzou in their recruiting and not getting all 4 and 5 star recruits. Missouri has made its living on 2 and 3 prospects and molding them into first round draft picks but their is always room for improvement. That’s why Mu is the only college team to have its last 3 quarterbacks playing in the NFL. With all that being said, I think its early to say Gary Pinkle shouldnt be on the chopping block. He has done wonders for our program and have recruited prospects we would have never would have landed under any other coach. I believe if the program suffers for a couple more years then it might be time for a change in the position. Jon you have a good article and well written but your going to have trouble persuading MU fans in letting the coach go after one bowl-less season.

  • It is refreshing to see other Mizzou fans supporting Coach Pinkel. I predicted a 7-5 season last season. Take into account the lackluster Vandy and Syracuse games, we could have been 7-5. Wolfman’s comments were spot on! If Saban is interested in Mizzou, then hell yeah. BUT he’s not. Many fans think that the grass is always greener on the other side, but I’m not willing to take that gamble. Coach Pinkel came in and transformed this program and has, for the most part, been very consistent with his record. Had it not been for Gary Pinkel, we would probably still be in the Big 12.

    Jon – you are, hands down, my favorite follow on twitter. Your work is always first class and well informed.

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