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COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2016 PRESEASON TOP 25

#62 Missouri Tigers

NATIONAL FORECAST

#62

SEC East PREDICTION

#6

HEAD COACH: Barry Odom, First Season | OFF. COORDINATOR: Josh Heupel | DEF. COORDINATOR: DeMontie Cross, Ryan Walters

Previewing Missouri’s Offense for 2016: 

With almost no support — the run game was mostly dreadful, and the receivers were mostly sophomores — quarterback Drew Lock’s freshman season was a struggle. He completed just 49 percent of his passes and went 2–6 as a starter. He enters his sophomore season with new coaching (offensive coordinator Josh Heupel takes over) and a much more experienced receiving corps at his disposal. His throwing motion is still museum-worthy, and there’s still time for him to develop into the star he was supposed to become, but last year proved how far he might still have to go.

Mizzou will have quantity and experience at receiver in 2016 — whether it will have quality remains to be seen. Freshmen and sophomores ended up accounting for 121 of the Tigers’ 186 receptions last season, but there are no excuses in 2016. Juniors J’Mon Moore and Nate Brown will be joined by Alabama graduate transfer and former blue-chipper Chris Black. Lock needs a security blanket, and in the spring, Black filled that role nicely. Tight end Sean Culkin might, too.
With Russell Hansbrough injuring his ankle on his first carry of the season, Ish Witter ended up leading the team in both carries and yards. Witter struggled, but he showed flashes of late-season development. He’ll be pushed by sophomore Trevon Walters and newcomer Damarea Crockett. Additionally, Missouri added Oklahoma graduate transfer Alex Ross at the end of spring ball, giving Heupel another option at this position. 
Injuries and depth issues doomed Missouri’s offensive line in 2015, and it remains the single biggest issue — not only was the line poor, but it was also full of seniors. Juniors Nate Crawford and Alec Abeln both have starting experience, and junior college tackle Tyler Howell is both enormous and well-regarded. But any injuries could be devastating.

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Previewing Missouri’s Defense for 2016:  

Missouri’s offensive issues were underscored by the simple fact that the defense was playing so incredibly well but couldn’t even get a little bit of help. And once again, the catalyst for the Tigers’ defensive success came up front. New line coach Jackie Shipp inherits an incredible set of weapons, including ends Charles Harris and Walter Brady, and tackles Josh Augusta, Rickey Hatley and Terry Beckner Jr., a sophomore blue-chipper. The depth is impressive enough that Missouri can afford to work 2014 star Harold Brantley slowly back into the fold; Brantley was severely injured in a car accident last summer and redshirted.

New linebackers coach (and co-defensive coordinator) Demontie Cross inherits a pretty stocked cupboard as well, with seniors Michael Scherer and Donavin Newsom back. The calling card of a Barry Odom defense is versatility, and he and Cross should have fun mixing between 3-4 and 4-3 personnel. They have a lot of options in their front seven.

Cornerback Aarion Penton and safety Anthony Sherrils were stalwarts last fall, combining for 8.5 tackles for a loss, 14 passes defensed and two forced fumbles. Battles for the other two starting spots will continue in fall camp.

Previewing Missouri’s Specialists for 2016: 

Punter Corey Fatony was outstanding as a freshman, averaging 42.9 yards per kick last year. But while Fatony should be a starter for three more years, the Tigers must replace longtime placekicker Andrew Baggett. Meanwhile, the return game was one of the country’s worst.

Final Analysis

Mizzou’s 2015 campaign was frustrating and memorable. The offense bottomed out, the team announced a brief boycott, and 15-year head coach Gary Pinkel retired to fight lymphoma. With Odom taking over for Pinkel, Mizzou is hoping for a quieter, more successful 2016. The defense should again be stout, but nothing else matters until the offense rebounds. And that will likely depend on an offensive line patched together with string and duct tape.




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