Preview 2017: Missouri Tigers
Previewing and looking ahead at the Missouri Tigers season – and what you need to know.
What You Need To Know About The Missouri Offense
The Josh Heupel Air Raid offense worked.
After the Mizzou offense struggled to move the ball in 2015, in came Heupel as the offensive coordinator under new head coach Barry Odom, and boom – it cranked up the production, going from 124th in the nation two yeas ago to 13th, averaging a whopping 220 more yards per game.
QB Drew Lock blew up, throwing for 3,399 yards and 23 scores despite completing just 55% of his passes. However, he’s it – there’s no depth behind him with backup Marvin Sanders transferring to Virginia.
The receiving corps might have been a bit inconsistent, but it returns loaded with the top four targets back led by J’Mon Moore on the outside. This group is deep, fast, and versatile, to go along with a terrific group of running backs. 1,062-yard rushier Damarea Crockett it the top option with the top three backs returning.
Best of all, all five starters are back up front for a line that paved the way for close to five yards per carry while allowing just 14 sacks.
Biggest Key To The Missouri Offense
The passing game has to be consistent. SEC defenses had a lot to do with the issues, but Mizzou – while it put up a ton of yards – never seemed to come up with the same passing game twice.
On the year, the Tigers were 3-0 when hitting for ten yards per pass or more, but that was against the mediocre early, and with a great game against Arkansas late. However, it was tough completing a pass against Florida, and Lock struggled against Tennessee – even though the O threw for 320 yards.
The production will be there. Now it just needs to happen each week.
What You Need To Know About The Missouri Defense
What happened? The defense that crushed and killed under Gary Pinkel – it was sixth in the nation in 2015 – was supposed to keep on rolling. Instead, even with all the great defensive minds on the coaching staff, the Tigers struggled, finishing 118th in the nation, hurt mostly by a front seven that couldn’t do anything against the run.
Now, will the Tigers move more towards a 4-2-5 alignment to generate more production, and take advantage of the potentially solid secondary?
The pass rush didn’t miss a beat, but top sacker Charles Harris is gone, along with top tackler, LB Donavin Newsom. However, it’s a veteran group returning, especially among the safeties.
The corner situation is iffy with both starters gone, but the combination of Ronnell Perkins, Cam Hilton and Anthony Sherrils should shine at safety. Logan Cheadle has seen enough time at corner to be okay, and there’s athleticism and wheels to fill in the gaps.
How will the linebacking corps look if and when the alignment changes up? Brandon Lee, Eric Beisel and Joey Burkett all saw plenty of action, but they need help from the line that should revolve around 325-pounder A.J. Logan on the inside. On the outside, with Harris gone, Marcela Frazier has to grow into the new playmaker behind the line.
Biggest Key To The Missouri Defense
The run defense has to be back up to snuff. Two years ago, the Tigers didn’t allow more than 200 yards on the ground until the final two games, allowed just seven rushing scores until Arkansas went wild in the final regular season game, and allowed just over three yards per carry.
Last year, Mizzou gave up 28 touchdown runs, well over five yards per carry, and 300 yards four times in SEC play with LSU cranking up 418. Five SEC teams averaged more than six yards per carry.
Missouri Will Be Far Better If …
It doesn’t forget about time of possession. It’s the danger when moving over to an Air Raid style attack. It’s great to crank up over 500 yards per game, but not when the offense gets off the field in a hurry and the defense can’t seem to stop teams from grinding out long drives.
The Tigers haven’t been great in time of possession since joining the SEC, but last season was different. They were dead last in the nation, holding the ball for just over 24 minutes a game, after keeping it just 27 minutes an outing two years ago.
Best Missouri Offensive Player
QB Drew Lock, Jr. – The 6-4, 225-pounder did a fine job as a freshman when thrown into the fire, and last year he took to the new offense and put up massive numbers, hitting the 250-yard mark or more nine times.
A bit inconsistent, he had a nightmare of a time against Florida – hitting 4-of-18 throws – but roared after that. He’s got the downfield arm, he’s just mobile enough to not be stuck in the mud, and if he can start hitting 60% of his throws – he connected on 55% last year – look out.
2. WR J’Mon Moore, Sr.
3. RB Damarea Crockett, Soph.
4. OT Tyler Howell, Sr.
5. WR Dimetrios Mason, Soph.
Best Missouri Defensive Player
DE Marcell Frazier, Sr. – Is he ready to be the next star pass rusher up in the Mizzou system? The 6-5, 265-pounder doesn’t have the speed and quickness of Charles Harris, but he’s always going 100 miles per hour and knows how to get into the backfield, making 7.5 sacks and 33 tackles last season. He’s got the talent to bump up his game a bit.
2. LB Cale Garrett, Soph.
3. S Anthony Sherrils, Sr.
4. LB Eric Beisel, Sr.
5. S Thomas Wilson, Sr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
S Anthony Sherrils, Sr. – The first 6-0, 205-pound veteran was a part-time starter last season after cranking up 64 tackles as a full-time starter two years ago. A big hitter with great range, he needs to one of the key leaders and playmakers in a secondary that came up with plenty of big plays last year, but has to be stronger after allowing 247 yards per game and now moving to more of a 4-2-5 alignment.
The Missouri Season Will Be A Success If …
It comes up with seven wins. The Tigers won’t be ready to get back to their old SEC East title status, but they should be able to better blend the defense from 2015 and a few years before with the offense of last year.
With winnable games against Missouri State, South Carolina and Purdue at home to open things up, and dates against Idaho and UConn that have to be must-wins, there should be a base of five victories. This year’s team should be good enough to get at least a few more wins to get bowling.
Key Game To The Missouri Season
Sept. 9 vs. South Carolina – Assuming the Tigers are good enough to beat Purdue, beating the Gamecocks – after losing 31-21 last year in the other Columbia – would go a long way to showing how much different this year’s team is under Barry Odom. After winning just four games last year, starting 3-0 would be wonderful going into the date at home against Auburn.
2016 Missouri Fun Stats
– Field Goals: Opponents 12-of-22 – Missouri 6-of-13
– Fumbles: Missouri 28 (lost 13) – Opponents 7 (lost 5)
– Time of Possession: Opponents 36:07 – Missouri 24:18