With 16 starters returning off a team that was in line to play for the national championship last season, there is just one place to insert Missouri in the preseason polls.
The Tigers will likely be installed as the Big 12 favorite and will certainly be favored to repeat as North Division champions after going 12-2 last season with a rout of Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl.
With quarterback Chase Daniel returning to engineer an explosive offense and versatile receiver Jeremy Maclin around to produce potentially more all-purpose yards, the Tigers should not have any trouble moving the football.
There are some concerns along the offensive line after the Tigers lost two starters, plus valuable tight end Martin Rucker is no longer part of the receiving corps.
Where the Missouri staff must scrutinize candidates is on defense, where it ranked 59th nationally last season with a 380.3-yard allowance. That wasn't bad, though defensive tackle Lorenzo Williams will be tough to replace up front, where he commanded considerable attention and freed linebackers to make plays.
The good news for the Tigers is they'll operate with as much confidence as at any time under Gary Pinkel, who enters his eighth season as coach. After taking considerable heat for fielding underachieving teams that suffered inexplicable defeats, the run last season by Pinkel's Tigers was encouraging.
Spring Objectives: Missouri must audition talent like every college team in the spring, but it will do so while brimming with confidence stemming from a 12-2 finish last season. The return of 16 starters helps, too. Although it took more time than some impatient Missouri fans wanted to give him, eighth-year coach Gary Pinkel has established his principles and has the Tigers rolling. A combination of coaching and recruiting, essential elements to building a winner, position Missouri as the preseason favorite in the Big 12.
Building Blocks: With QB Chase Daniel returning to engineer the Missouri attack, the Tigers should be explosive again despite the loss of two key contributors, TE Martin Rucker and RB Tony Temple. WR Jeremy Maclin set an NCAA freshman record for all-purpose yardage by averaging 208.7 yards. He was a huge threat on returns. The Tigers' second-leading tackler, FS William Moore, also led the Big 12 with seven interceptions. LB Sean Weatherspoon is back after leading Missouri with 121 tackles.
Schedule Situation: Although Missouri has built its program to where it will be favored to repeat in the North Division, if not win the Big 12 title, the Tigers will not be tested in non-conference, except for its opener against Rose Bowl participant Illinois on a neutral field in St. Louis, Mo. Southeast Missouri, Nevada and Buffalo fill out the non-conference portion before the Tigers visit Nebraska to open conference play.
Strategy & Personnel
Stars Of 2008:
QB Chase Daniel-A finalist for the Heisman Trophy last season, Daniel will be among the top candidates to win that award as he attempts to improve on the impressive numbers he posted last season. Daniel ranked fourth nationally in total offense, throwing for 4,170 yards and 33 touchdowns while completing 69.7 percent of his attempts.
WR/KR Jeremy Maclin-A threat to score any time he touched the football, Maclin averaged 5.9 receptions and 78.7 yards receiving per game and also was a threat anytime he returned punts and kickoffs.
FS William Moore-Although he must sit out spring drills after undergoing surgery for a torn labrum he played with for half the 2007 season, Moore brings stability to the Tigers' secondary after leading the Big 12 with seven interceptions.
P Jake Harry-Tops the list of candidates so far as the Tigers look to replace Adam Crossett. Harry, a junior-college transfer, is the lone scholarship player listed at the position, though Missouri is auditioning three walk-ons.
WR Blake May-A walk-on, May worked exclusively with the first team during one of Missouri's early spring practices as the Tigers attempt to build depth among receivers.
DE Michael Keck-A prized recruit, Keck redshirted last season as a freshman in order to repair a strained shoulder and will now attempt to make an impact off the edge, which may be more suitable for a player with his frame (6-5, 230 pounds).
OG Dan Hoch-The top high school recruit who could play right away, Hoch will get some looks when he reports in the fall. The only Missouri signee rated higher was QB Blaine Gabbert, though he figures to redshirt behind Daniel.
- Jay (StLDieHard)
**aka: Skip Schumaker**