2011 Missouri Preview – Offense
Missouri OT Elvis Fisher
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Missouri Tiger Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The offense loses a first round NFL-caliber quarterback in Blaine Gabbert, and it could be even better. Even with Gabbert, it's not like the offense was an unstoppable machine finishing sixth in the Big 12 in yards and eighth in scoring. Gabbert was a special talent, but Mizzou still finished 64th in the nation and ninth in the league in passing efficiency. As long as James Franklin is merely above-average as the new starting quarterback, and he will be, the Tigers could go ballistic. All four starters return on the line, all the targets are back in the receiving corps, including the devastating 1-2 punch of T.J. Moe and tight end Michael Egnew, and backs Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore are a dangerously quick tandem. Consistency has been a problem for the attack over the last few seasons, but there's too much experience returning to not be terrific.
Star of the offense: Junior WR T.J. Moe
Passing: James Franklin
11-14, 106 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: De'Vion Moore
99 carries, 517 yds, 8 TD
Receiving: T.J. Moe
92 catches, 1,045 yds, 6 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore QB James Franklin
Unsung star on the rise: Junior C Travis Ruth
Best pro prospect: Senior TE Michael Egnew
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Moe, 2) Egnew, 3) OT Dan Hoch
Strength of the offense: Experience, Receivers
Weakness of the offense: Veteran Quarterback, Consistency
State of the Unit: Here's what's ignored a bit in the loss of Blaine Gabbert early to the NFL; he wasn't that great. He might have had a few big games with 308 yards against Oklahoma and 434 in the bowl loss to Iowa, but he only threw 16 touchdown passes last year and he didn't do anything all that special. Of course, it's not a plus to replace a top ten overall draft pick, but the Mizzou offense should be more than fine with several excellent options waiting to step in.
Sophomore James Franklin stepped up this offseason to take the lead in a good quarterback battle, and he has the talent and the ability to add another dimension to the attack. Blaine Gabbert was fast and mobile, but he didn't run like Franklin will. The 6-2, 225-pounder got a little time last season completing 11-of-14 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown with an interception, and he ran for 116 yards and two scores. Now he's ready for a bigger role with a live, accurate arm that gets the ball to the receiver in a hurry, and he's accurate when making things happen on the run. He'll always have to be looking over his shoulder, but he has the talent to develop into one of the Big 12's newest stars.
6-0, 205-pound sophomore Ashton Glaser wasn't in the mix for the starting job with Franklin and Tyler Gabbert in the fight for the No. 1 job, but that all changed when Gabbert chose to transfer. Glaser, the former Arkansas Player of the Year, is a good baller who runs well and has the talent to eventually be in the hunt for time; he's perfect for the Tiger attack. Wanted by Arkansas, Auburn, and other strong BCS schools, he has the skills and he has the upside, but he's the clear No. 2 going into the fall.
In a curious move, redshirt freshman Tyler Gabbert chose to leave the program after being No. 1A on the depth chart after spring ball and with every shot to win the starting job. While he's nowhere near the talent his brother is, and at 6-0 and 190 pounds he doesn't have the same size, he has a big arm and is a terrific pro-style passer who proved to be accurate enough this offseason to be
in the hunt for the starting job He fit the mold of what the Mizzou offense likes to do, but now he'll be taking his talents elsewhere.
Watch Out For … Franklin to shine. The bar has been set ridiculously high now with players like Brad Smith, Chase Daniel, and Blaine Gabbert flowing through the program. If Franklin struggles at all, Glaser will be ready to step in. Franklin will be more than fine.
Strength: The program. Smith, Daniel, Gabbert, and even Chase Patton, who made the cover of ESPN The Magazine despite not seeing the light of day, have been among the most talented quarterbacks in college football over the last several seasons. It takes a certain quarterback to be able to play for Gary Pinkel, and Frankin and Glaser are good enough to keep the progression going.
Weakness: Experience. Franklin has a little bit of time under center, but he hasn't needed to do too much in pressure situations. Glaser, and Franklin haven't had to be The Man, and now the pressure is on to replace a first round draft pick who had the pressure of replacing a Heisman finalist.
Outlook: Missouri has the talent and the depth to be more than fine. How many other schools could lose a talent like Blaine Gabbert and potentially come out better? The pressure will be on Franklin to be a top playmaker, and he has the talent to make the offense shine. If he can't do it, Glaser should be excellent.
Unit Rating: 8
State of the Unit: The Missouri running game isn't supposed to be along for the ride, but it couldn't seem to take control last year finishing 57th in the nation with the leading rusher finishing with just 517 yards. Derrick Washington was supposed to be the main man after running for 1,036 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2009, but he was never part of the mix thanks to off-the-field issues; no one picked up the slack. There needs to be more pop and explosion this year, and there has to be more balance to help out the new starting quarterback.
Senior De'Vion Moore had his moments last season and was solid around the goal line, but he only ran the ball ten times or more four times, and there were just ten carries in three of those games. The 5-9, 195-pounder led the team with 517 yards with eight scores, averaging 5.2 yards per carry, but he's not going to catch the ball too often even though he has the athleticism and the talent to do big things with the ball in his hands. He might not be a workhorse, but he's a sound, reliable veteran who can handle carrying the ground game.
5-9, 190-pound junior Kendial Lawrence is a typical Mizzou speed back who can bust off a big run whenever he has the ball in his hands. He came up with one huge run against Texas Tech blasting away for 71 yards, but he only finished with 422 yards and four touchdowns. Not all that big and not powerful, he's not going to do much between the tackles but he can be used as a receiver and will be a flash of lightning in the running back rotation.
The Tigers have a stockpile of smallish, quick backs with 5-10, 185-pound sophomore Henry Josey and 5-9, 195-pound sophomore Marcus Murphy both speedy enough to do big thins. Josey finished second on the team with 437 yards and five touchdowns averaging 5.8 yards per carry doing most of his work in the blowout against McNeese State. He's physical for his size, while Murphy has mostly been a special teamer so far averaging 8.2 yards per carry with two scores and just 181 yards. Mostly a kickoff returner so far, he'll utilize his speed and quickness in some way.
The Tigers don't use a fullback, but 6-1, 215-pound redshirt freshman Greg White is the biggest back in the group and should provide the most power. Not just a big bruiser, he's a great athlete earning Arkansas all-state basketball honors. The Tigers were able to get him away from the Hogs, as well as Oklahoma and other top programs, but he's still low on the depth chart going into the fall.
Watch Out For … a regular rotation. The Tigers should have more of a running game and more production, but there probably won't be any one player who dominates on a regular basis. Lawrence and Moore aren't going to regularly carry the ball 15 times or more, while Josey, Murphy, and White will be a part of the mix.
Strength: Smallish, quick backs. Mizzou likes to get a certain type of back, and it has several 5-9 backs who all check in around 195 pounds with tremendous speed and quickness. Tiger backs always average over five yards per carry – although they didn't in 2009 - and this group will crank out yards in chunks.
Weakness: A thumper. White could end up being the power back in the mix, but the Tigers rely on quick backs who can scoot through the hole. On third and short, either the passing game will throw for the first or it'll take a big block by the line to get the opening needed.
Outlook: The running game turned out to be fine, but not special, and now it has the talent to do far more with plenty of speed and experience. Lawrence and Moore should combine for 25 carries and over 100 yards per game, but there should be a deep rotation of talents who can combine to balance out the attack.
Unit Rating: 7
State of the Unit: Everyone is back. EVERYONE is back. The Tigers return all the top targets to help ease in the new starting quarterback, and they should take the pressure off the rest of the attack. There's speed, hands, depth, and lots and lots of experience, so if the passing game doesn't shine, it's probably not the receivers' fault.
Junior T.J. Moe didn't exactly come from out of nowhere, but he ended up going from backup to starter before the season and led the way with 92 catches for 1,045 yards and six touchdowns. After starting the season with 23 catches in his first two games, he came up with the Mizzou play of the year, taking a Blaine Gabbert pass 68 yards for what would be the game-winning score against San Diego State. The 15 catches in the bowl loss to Iowa ended the season with a bang. The 2008 Missouri Player of the Year was a 2,029-yard runner who threw for 2,557 yards in his senior season, and now, after suffering a broken foot earlier in his career, he has become one of the nation's most reliable playmakers from the H position.
6-1, 185-pound senior Jerrell Jackson might not have been too splashy, outside of a big performance against Oklahoma and a nine-catch game against Iowa, but he finished third on the team with 50 catches for 656 yards and three scores averaging 13.1 yards per carry. Speedy and smooth, he can be used a big as a runner, scoring on the ground against Kansas State, but he's the deep threat at the X. Backing him up will be sophomore L'Damian Washington , who at 6-4 and 185 pounds is a bigger option with good flash. Very smart, he's not going to make too many mistakes, and now he'll be a good part of the rotation after catching five passes for 35 yards.
Senior Wes Kemp was supposed to be the No. 1 target last year, but he ended up being just a good part of the mix catching 39 passes for 420 yards and three scores. At 6-4 and 220 pounds he's big, physical, and speedy with the talent to work at the outside X and the ability to do even more at the Z. He lit up Texas A&M for ten catches for 89 yards and two scores, but he disappeared way too often over the second half of the season. Also working at the Z will be veteran Brandon Gerau , who only caught seven passes but they went for 120 yards averaging 17.1 yards per catch. At 6-0 an 185 pounds he's not all that big, but he can scoot.
Senior Michael Egnew got hosed in the Mackey Award voting. D.J. Williams of Arkansas got the honor mostly because he had a great back story about his tough upbringing, but Egnew was the best tight end in America catching 90 passes for 762 yards and five scores. While the 6-6, 240-pounder isn't a field stretcher, but he's an athletic, wide receiver-type who makes lots of good midrange plays catching ten passes against Illinois and Texas A&M and 13 against San Diego State. While he hasn't been an elite scorer so far, and he's not a top shelf blocker, but he'll be a whale of a safety valve.
Combining for the backup tight end job will be 6-4, 230-pound sophomore Eric Waters and 6-5, 245-pound senior Andrew Jones . Waters is a strong athlete who has all the tools and all the talent to be the next great Tiger tight end. With basketball player skills and soft hands, Waters needs to be a part of the passing game soon, while Jones has been a part of the mix for the last two years but only made one catch for seven yards. Staying healthy has been a problem, but he has the skills to be a steady part of the rotation.
Watch Out For … Jackson. Egnew and Moe are proven midrange targets who'll keep the chains moving, but it's Jackson who can hit the home runs on the outside and make big things happen. It's not like he was kept under wraps last year, but it wasn't like he was turned loose and it wasn't like Blaine Gabbert pushed the ball deep to him on a regular basis.
Strength: Experience. No other BCS team has all of its production coming back, and while Gabbert made everyone look good, the receivers did their part in the equation. There are plenty of options to step up and make big things happen depending on the game.
Weakness: Quarterback? It's nitpicking, but the only thing that might be able to hold this group down, or possibly expose it for being mediocre, would be not having a first round NFL talent slinging it around. As good as Gabbert was, and as good as the receivers were, there were only 17 touchdown catches with Moe and Egnew combining for 11.
Outlook: The receiving corps might not be the most talented in America, but there's no real weakness whatsoever with a true No. 1 in Moe, arguably the best pass catching tight end in America in Egnew, and a speed receiver on the outside in Jackson. There's talent, depth, and options to play around with. There might not be a Jeremy Maclin or a Danario Alexander, but this will be one of the team's biggest strengths.
Unit Rating: 10
State of the Unit: Missouri always has a strong, talented offensive line, but it didn't do as much as expected in pass protection last year and didn't blast away like it needed to for the ground game. Four starters return with center Tim Barnes the only one gone from the mix, and now the expectations are sky high for a front five that should be dominant from the start.
Barnes is an NFL-caliber center or guard, but the Tigers reload with top-shelf players in the middle. 6-3, 295-pound junior Travis Ruth spent last year as the understudy and now he's ready to handle the gig. With good size and toughness, he can play guard if needed, but this will be his line to quarterback over the next two seasons. A two-time Academic All-Big 12 performer, having the smarts to make the line calls won't be a problem. Backing up Ruth will be the versatile Mitch Morse , a 6-6, 290-pound redshirt freshman who's a bit too tall for a center and can play anywhere on the line. Originally an offensive tackle prospect, he'll be moved around where needed.
6-5, 295-pound senior Elvis Fisher has flirted around with all-star honors after starting the last 40 games at left tackle, and now the two-time Honorable Mention All-Big 12 performer should be the anchor of the line once he's back from a shoulder problem. With a good frame and nice feet, he's great in pass protection, but the shoulder is an ongoing issue and he's not necessarily the type of blocker who'll bury someone. Serving as the backup before likely taking over next year will be 6-6, 295-pound redshirt freshman Anthony Gatti , a bright talent with the strength to become a whale of a run blocker.
Senior Dan Hoch might not be as athletic at Fisher, but at 6-7 and 315 pounds the starting right tackle is very big with a great frame and has plenty of experience. Smart off the field and good enough to earn Second Team All-Big 12 teams on it, he's still emerging as a top talent and continues to improve as a run blocker. The former Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year is more than living up to the hype proving he could not only play from Day One, but to keep improving along the way. Sophomore Chris Freeman is a massive 6-8, 325-pounder who'll get time this year to be ready to start next year. He needs time and technique work, but he's a top talent who should be terrific in time.
While senior Jayson Palmgren doesn't get much of the spotlight, he's one of the team's toughest blockers and proved he could handle himself well as the starting left guard. At 6-2 and 305 pounds, he's not massive, but he's a strong mauler who beats up defenders. 6-5, 295-pound sophomore Justin Britt will push for playing time after beefing up a few pounds to be able to handle the workload inside. Smart and versatile, he can move around where needed and could see time at center if he's fantastic in fall camp.
Working again at right guard is 6-4, 295-pound senior Austin Wuebbels , a three-time First Team Academic All-Big 12 performer who has slimmed down a bit to become a big quicker, and has the experience to start doing even more on the interior. While he's a nice run blocker, he's mostly a wall off pass protector who doesn't make mistakes. Now that he's lighter and more athletic, the Honorable Mention All-Big 12 performer should get more honors as one of the league's top pass protectors. Backing him up is veteran Jack Meiners , a 6-6, 305-pound junior who saw time as a true freshman and showed the versatility to play where needed. A great prospect coming out of high school, he has been tried out at tackle but is better suited for a key guard spot.
Watch Out For … Ruth. Just pen him into an All-Big 12 spot. Mizzou always knows how to find the right leaders for the line, and Ruth has the talent and the potential to be the program's next star center.
Strength: Experience and smarts. Ruth has been around long enough to know what he's doing, while the other four starters have been through the wars and should be able to shine. Not only is this group full of veterans, but it also has a slew of all-conference performers in the classroom. There shouldn't be too many mistakes, if any.
Weakness: Backup experience. The Tigers had so much success from their rock of a front five last year that few backups got into the mix. There's plenty of talent waiting in the wings, but it's young and a bit raw. It's asking a lot for another year without too many injuries striking the starters.
Outlook: The line was good last year, but it wasn't a killer. There isn't a superstar up front who demands All-Big 12 honors, even though Fisher and Hoch are close, but the starting five will be cohesive, experienced, smart, and extremely effective. As long as everyone stays healthy, this will be one of the Big 12's best lines.
Unit Rating: 8.5
What You Need To Know: The run defense got ripped to shreds way too easily and there weren't nearly enough key stops considering the Tigers were among the best in America at getting into the backfield. Even with the concerns, the D finished first in the Big 12 and sixth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 16.08 points per game, and finished third in the nation in total defense. The key will once again be the pass rush that led the Big 12 and should be dominant, even with Aldon Smith off to the NFL. The line has at least two good pass rushing options at each corner spot, and the tackles have the athleticism to make things happen behind the line. The back seven might not have a slew of all-stars, but it'll be fast and should fly around to clean up everything the strong line doesn't get to. This is an aggressive, fast defense that will shut down the mediocre offenses cold.
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