Howdy, chatters. Sorry for the delayed start. Got a quick story to post on the site. Freshman tight end Brendan Scales is undergoing surgery today for a broken foot that happened in practice Tuesday. Submit your questions now and I'll get to them over the next two hours.
Good question. It's not a very long list because MU is playing a lot of freshmen: Nine of the 15 the team signed in February have seen the field this year. I think Trystan Castillo can work his way into the depth and eventually take over at guard or center, maybe in a timeshare next year then emerge as a starter by 2018. The staff was close to playing Tre Williams this year, so he could be a guy who earns a look as an edge pass rusher. And then you've got the two tight ends, Scales and Okwuegbunam, who should be able to work their way into the depth.
I think the biggest thing this team lacks is a genuine No. 1 receiver, a reliable guy who Lock can count on to go up and catch the ball and make a play against any kind of defense. Brad Smith had that for a year with Justin Gage. Chase Daniel had that with Maclin, Rucker and Coffman. Gabbert had it with Alexander. Franklin had it with Moe and Egnew. Mauk had it with Sasser. It appeared J'Mon Moore was going to be that guy for Lock, but his production has fizzled - and he didn't start Saturday's game, the first time 20 games he wasn't in the starting lineup. He still leads the team with 33 catches but we're seeing other guys make more plays in the passing game, like Hall and Mason and Johnson. Lock needs someone/something he knows he can trust to make a play for him - and we haven't seen that in weeks.
Does Missouri win at South Carolina? I'll have my prediction in Saturday's paper, but no, I don't see it happening. The Gamecocks are playing solid defense. They're making just enough plays on offense to win. And it's a road game. Other than blind faith, I'm not sure how anyone could expect Missouri to suddenly play well enough to win this week. South Carolina isn't unbeatable by any means, but it's a better team, a more complete team at this point. If Missouri can learn to tackle a running back it'll have a better shot against Vandy, but Vandy has a legit defense. Points won't come easy next week.
I can't imagine any scenario where Sterk changes head coaches. For one, that's not his style and hasn't been during the course of his career. He's not a knee-jerk AD who believes he can only win with coaches he's hired. He went all in on Odom's preference for the south end zone facility before Odom ever coached a game. That was a big investment, a lot of faith based on his early impression of the coach. I don't see any indication that he's going to change course now. It would be an EXTREMELY unconventional move. First-year head coaches just don't get fired in college football unless they're attached to a scandal or major crime or violation. Now, that doesn't mean Sterk won't want to see some staff changes. And I think Odom will be aggressive in making sure he's got the right staff in place to move forward. He doesn't have decades of loyalty wrapped up in these coaches. Will Mizzou win another game? Based on what we've seen the last four weeks, I can't predict them to beat any of their next four opponents.
How do we measure who is or isn't getting blame? I wrote a lengthy piece last week about recruiting missteps and miscalculations at the onset of the SEC move that were responsible for the current roster. All of that happened under Pinkel's watch. Lots of player attrition, some related to players getting in trouble, some because of injuries, some because of players who couldn't cut it or weren't willing to stick it out. I think history will look back on the last two seasons and however long this rut lasts and cast some blame on Pinkel. Just like the situation Pinkel inherited happened on Larry Smith's watch, even though he did an incredible job getting the program back in position to win games and go to bowls in the late 90s.
For one, I think the schedule is a bit easier, to some degree. Missouri plays at UConn and gets Purdue (with a new head coach), Idaho and Missouri State at home. Road SEC games at Georgia, Vandy, Kentucky and Arkansas and home games against Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina and Auburn. You trade a road game at LSU for a home game vs. Auburn. Purdue/UConn look like more winnable games than the combo of West Virginia/Middle Tennessee. Otherwise, on the roster, the entire offense is back other than Culkin, Laurent and the two grad transfers who aren't contributing much of anything. Common sense says the offense should deb better in year two of this system. Defense will be a challenge. A lot of young players will have to grow up quick and embrace whatever system the coaches decide to use. The D-line is going to lose Hatley, Augusta and probably Harris. No Scherer, Newsom, Penton or Gibson in the back seven. That's a lot of quality players from a defense that hasn't played all that well.
Missouri will win more than 10 games, maybe as many as nine during nonconference play. At worst, MU will go 1-2 in Orlando and will lose to Arizona at home. Then you've got noncon wins over Alabama A&M, NW State, NC Central, Miami-Ohio, Eastern Illinois and Lipscomb. Then you've got two toss-up games against Western Kentucky and Illinois. There are a bunch of winnable SEC home games: Auburn, South Carolina, Alabama among others. Not as many winnable road games, but MU will have a shot at Tennessee, Bama and Auburn. I've seen a couple practices and the B&G game. They're not big. I'm not sure if the 3-point shooting will be very consistent. But they do have some athletic wings in Jackson, Walton, Hughes and Barnett who can give the rotations some flexibility. They need more rebounding from Puryear and some kind of post presence from Woods. They've got some interesting pieces, but nothing comes easy for this team.
I asked receivers coach Andy Hill about what seems like sporadic playing time decisions for the wideouts from week to week. Here's what he said: "You play hard you’re going to play. If you make plays and have results and help our team by playing hard you’ll have more reps next week. If you do it in practice, that obviously helps, too." Moore's production has fallen off, clearly. The staff wasn't thrilled with his competitiveness against LSU and Florida's cornerbacks. Granted, Hill said those were the most talented corners he can remember coaching against, but you have to win some of those 1-on-1 matchups on the outside to give the offense any fighting chance.
I've tried to explain the reasoning the coaches laid out for the defensive changes going into the season: The old system, where D-linemen weren't asked to read the formation or care whether it's run or pass, worked well against some Big 12 style passing teams and some other more pass-oriented offenses. The linemen were taught to stop the run on the way to the quarterback. That philosophy got exposed against run-first power offenses, especially those that used misdirection and screens. Think Auburn 2013. Alabama 2014. Tennessee and Arkansas last year. Cross and the new staff wanted a sturdier approach to running offenses this year, knowing what they faced against West Virginia, LSU, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, etc. The new system would put more emphasis on containing gaps and less on rushing upfield to pressure a QB who's not throwing the ball. The hardest part of the transition seemed to be the pre-snap reads. Now, not for all players. Rickey Hatley, a sharp guy who's a senior, said it wasn't that hard to figure out. They don't have to read the formation now but he said he's got a better feel for what the offense is going to do now that he's been taught to read formations. Why did Odom go back to the old system? Desperate times call for desperate measures. This system is easier for the younger guys who are now playing expanded roles because of the injuries to Scherer and Beckner. It didn't work last week after just three days of practice, but maybe the results get better with more work heading into Saturday's game.
Also, if these defensive players expect to play in the NFL, they're going to have to learn how to read formations and control gaps. Try complaining to the media about an NFL coach's system and see where that gets you.
Really? Are you implying the SEC might dump Missouri because of 5-7 and 2-6 football seasons? Missouri won the East two years in a row. That's more division titles than six of the league's other 13 teams. Did the Big Eight dump K-State before Bill Snyder got to town? Did Vandy football's horrendous play for decades get the Dores dumped from the SEC? Yes, MU football and hoops are down right now, but the SEC isn't kicking the institution out of the league. That's absurd.
Yes, it would have been. They never formed a healthy relationship and it would be naive to think Mack didn't have a personal grudge against Ehren the way that whole saga unfolded. That said, Ehren has to watch himself in the future. He can't cross the line if he wants to keep his job longer.
Yes, as was reported at the time, Cal's Sonny Dykes and Temple's Matt Rhule definitely interviewed for the job. MU talked to Matt Campbell and explored others, too. Rhoades was impressed with Odom, but let's be real. This was not an attractive job for outside candidates last year on the heels of the player boycott.
Actually, if we were to rank the position groups on how they've played this year, I might put the O-line second behind the cornerbacks. They've far surpassed most reasonable expectations for this season. Pass protection has been solid. Until the UK game, the line gradually got more physical and better at the point of attack in the run game. I think it's a more cohesive group than last year and has far fewer glaring weaknesses. Last year you could just watch certain players get spun around by defenders and leave gaping holes along the line. You don't see those same breakdowns this year. They've got to eliminate the penalties and hold up better against big, strong fronts. But overall, I think the line has been a relative strength for this team this year - and returns all five starters and the backup at each position.
He's 4-12. These coaches aren't beyond making mistakes, but they see these players in practice every day, every week. If they believed they had a better option at quarterback who would give them a better chance to play, they'd play that guy. They clearly don't have faith in Zanders' arm. And this offense doesn't work with a run-only QB.
He went through a divorce and got a DWI. He had some tough times in his personal life. Did that hurt recruiting? You can cook up a theory and make that argument, I suppose, but I don't know how you prove it. During those same years, he was also involved in the school's move to the SEC, which added pressure and stress, I imagine.
Signals to the players. They don't share their trade secrets, so I don't know what the images mean specifically. Some coaches are signaling in real calls; others are making dummy calls.
It's going to be a close race. SLU is widely picked to finish last in the A-10. Their noncon schedules look similar. SLU plays BYU, K-State, Wichita State and Alabama or Valpo. I would think the bottom teams in the A-10 are more beatable than the SEC, but it's probably not all that different.
I said this in the press box Saturday. If you're a backup linebacker on this team and you're not in the mix for playing time, it's probably time to find somewhere else to play. They moved TJ Warren from cornerback to play SAM linebacker because they didn't have anyone else. Agbasimere is still relatively new to the sport. He seemed a step behind the other LBs during drills during preseason camp. He was a risk in recruiting based on his frame and athleticism, but you can't play SEC defense if you haven't picked up the sport's basic fundamentals and the position's core techniques. I'd say he's a longshot to become a factor just based on the current depth.
I'm not sold that Odom knows what he's doing yet. If Cross isn't calling plays next year, you can't justify paying a position coach $600K. That's coordinator money. To bring in someone new as coordinator, you have to get rid of a full-time position coach. Maybe that would be Cross. Odom could call the defense himself and just hire a linebackers coach. Long-term, I doubt he wants to be the only person running the defense. A handful of head coaches who are offensive guys still call plays (Freeze, Mullen,) but it seems like most defensive coaches turn those duties over to a coordinator - or they share it to some degree.
Yes, obviously. Hell, I picked MU to win six or seven. The Middle Tennessee game was the first game I picked Mizzou to win during the preseason that it lost; Kentucky was No. 2. I thought the defense would be better - not top 10 like last year but top 25. I thought the offense would be more potent against the better teams on the schedule. It's just been too inconsistent.
Not necessarily. It was geared to contain the run on running downs and go after the QB on passing downs. Spread teams that pass all the time don't fit into that structure necessarily. But the defense essentially worked against Georgia. They did a nice job neutralizing the run and got after Eason when UGA was forced into passing situations. Ultimately, the pass defense came up short, but the system worked against the run.
I was hoping this chat would be a Cubs-free zone.