SDS kicks off a series looking in-depth at teams and their biggest subplots heading into 2013. Up next: Missouri.
- Mississippi State
- Ole Miss
- South Carolina
- Texas A&M
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.
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