2009 CFN Missouri Preview
Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon
Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon
Posted Jun 4, 2009

Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman, William Moore, Jeff Wolfert ... and the list of Missouri superstars gone from last year's team goes on. But this year's team is just as athletic and just as fast. Can Sean Weatherspoon lead the way to a third straight Big 12 North title? Check out the CFN 2009 Mizzou Preview.

Missouri Tigers

Preview 2009

By Pete Fiutak

- 2009 CFN Missouri Preview | 2009 Missouri Offense
2009 Missouri Defense | 2009 Missouri Depth Chart
2008 Missouri Preview | 2007 Missouri Preview | 2006 Missouri Preview 

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Head coach: Gary Pinkel
9th year: 59-41
19h year overall: 132-78-3
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 15 Def. 18, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best Tiger Players
1. LB Sean Weatherspoon, Sr.
2. RB Derrick Washington, Jr.
3. OG Kurtis Gregory, Sr.
4. OT Dan Hoch, Soph.
5. DT Jaron Baston, Sr.
6. QB Blaine Gabbert, Soph.
7. WR Danario Alexander, Sr.
8. C Tim Barnes, Jr.
9. WR Jared Perry, Sr.
10. CB Kevin Rutland, Jr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2009 Record:

9/5 Illinois (in St. Louis)
9/12 Bowling Green
9/19 Furman
9/25 at Nevada
10/8 Nebraska
10/17 at Oklahoma St
10/24 Texas
10/31 at Colorado
11/7 Baylor
11/14 at Kansas State
11/21 Iowa State
11/28 Kansas (in KC)

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record:

8/30 Illinois (St. L.)  W 52-42
9/6 SE Missouri State W 52-3
9/13 Nevada  W 69-17
9/20 Buffalo  W 42-21
10/4 at Nebraska  W 52-17
10/11 Oklahoma St L 28-23
10/18 at Texas L 56-31
10/25 Colorado  W 58-0
11/1 at Baylor W 31-28
11/8 Kansas St W 41-24
11/15 at Iowa St W 52-20
11/29 Kansas (KC) L 40-3
12/6 Big 12 Championship
Oklahoma L 62-21
Alamo Bowl
12/29 Nwestern W 30-23 OT
If you're Missouri, and you've been a perennial also-ran of a program, it shows how much things have changed when you go 10-4, win the Big 12 North, and come up with an Alamo Bowl win over a Big Ten team and it's all seen as a disappointment.

Within one game of playing for the national title two years ago, the Tigers came back loaded and with sky-high expectations to take another big step and get to a BCS game. The team played like it.

From Chase Daniel pressing a bit too much and throwing too many interceptions, to the struggles all year on defense, to the collapse against Kansas and the apparent lack of focus in the overtime win over Northwestern, 2008, the supposed year when it was all going to come together, was fine. That's it, and that's not a bad thing. It's a positive to be at a point where anything less than a BCS game is considered a downer, and it's a positive to think that the program can reload after losing a bulk of the talent that took the team to the top of the mountain.

Is it remotely possible to lose so many great players, welcome back just ten starters, and improve? Maybe not right away, but there might not be the slip back to mediocrity that many are going to predict. Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman, Jeff Wolfert, Jeremy Maclin, Stryker Sulak, Ziggy Hood, William Moore, Brock Christopher, and Tommy Saunders were just a few of the great players gone, and while it might seem like a problem after losing talent that includes a Heisman finalist, a Mackey Award winner, the most accurate kicker in college football history, and a slew of all-stars and NFL draft picks, things aren't all that bad. In fact, the team might be better ... eventually.

Head coach Gary Pinkel has recruited his tail off. Along with putting a fence around Missouri, for the most part, he has been able to pluck away some great talents from Texas, and elsewhere, to upgrade the overall speed and athleticism of the team to the point where this year's squad might have better skills, even if it's not going to be as good right away. For example, Daniel is now a Missouri legend after his great career, but new starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert is better. Yeah, and longtime backup to Daniel, Chase Patton, had the better NFL skills, too, but Gabbert will allow the offense to do things that it couldn't do with Daniel under center.

Coffman is one of the greatest receiving tight ends in college football history, but Andrew Jones and Michael Egnew were top recruits who have just as much talent. There's a ton of underclassmen who have been waiting their turn for a year or so and should be able to breakout now that they get the chance. Free safety Kenji Jackson should be great in place of More, Terrell Resonno is a serious defensive tackle prospect in place of Hood, Aldon Smith has all the makings of an All-Big 12 pass rusher in place of Sulak, and if Dan Hoch isn't the best right tackle in the Big 12 at some point over the next three years, he'll be No. 2. They're all sophomores, and they're just a few of the new stars about to emerge.

So don't hand the North over to Nebraska or Kansas just yet, and don't assume that this year's team can't play with the big boys on the schedule like Texas and Oklahoma State. While few will be paying attention early on, it's possible that the production isn't going to slip a lick.

What to look for on offense: Blaine Gabbert. While he's not going to be Daniel, Gabbert has an elite arm, NFL size, and the potential to make the passing game even more deadly. He wasn't fantastic this spring, just serviceable, but with a ton of deep speed in the receiving corps, a good line to work behind, and a great pair of running backs in Derrick Washington and De'Vion Moore, he'll be able to bomb away and there will be more deep plays than there have been in the last few years.

What to look for on defense: The secondary. An utter disaster last season despite having an all-star in William Moore and veteran speedsters all across the back four, the pass defense can't be much worse after finishing last in the Big 12 and 117th in the nation giving up 287 yards per game. The pass rush can't be blamed with the Mizzou defensive front doing a good job of pressuring quarterbacks. One starter returns, corner Carl Gettis, but junior Kevin Rutland, one of the team's best athletes, could be the star corner. The safety combination of Hardy Ricks and Kenji Jackson will have its share of inconsistencies, but the results can't be any worse.
This team will be a lot better if… the running backs get more work. It was was too easy for the offense to rely on Chase Daniel throwing the ball 40 times a game with the idea that the short passing game was just as effective as a running attack. It's not like the Tiger ground attack was ignored with 417 carries, but Derrick Washington and De'Vion Moore could stand to get more work. Washington never ran the ball 20 times and Moore ended up with just 231 yards on 41 carries. These two should be combining for 30 touches a game, at least, and new offensive coordinator David Yost is about to make it happen.

The Schedule:
Missouri will need to rebuild by having to deal with an improved Illinois to kick things off. While that might be a tough game, the trip to Nevada could be even tougher. After a week off, the Tigers kick off the Big 12 slate with the biggest game on the docket facing Nebraska. And then comes a harsh three-game stretch going to Oklahoma State and Colorado wrapped around a game against Texas. However, starting with the game against the Buffs, there's a four-game run against teams that didn't go to a bowl last year before closing out against Kansas in Kansas City. There aren't two games in a row away from Columbia, but there aren't two games in a row at home after late September.

Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Derrick Washington. While he's not a blazer, Washington can do a little of everything well with good hands as a receiver and tremendous running ability, especially around the goal line. He has to get past a knee injury that kept him out this spring, and he has to prove he can be more of a workhorse, but he's a lock for 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns if he can stay healthy. He'll be counted on far more this season until Gabbert gets comfortable.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Sean Weatherspoon. Is he the nation's best linebacker? He's among the most productive and has the best résumé after making 302 tackles, eight sacks, and 18.5 tackles for loss in the last three years. He also made three picks, all last season, improving his play against the pass. While he could've turned pro early and would've been a certain first day selection, and now he'll be the do-it-all leader for an athletic, promising defense.

Key player to a successful season: Gabbert. There are good talents behind the sophomore quarterback who need time and seasoning, but the program has to become Gabbert's over the next few years. Daniel was the offense over the last few seasons, and not always to the positive, making 528 throws and running it 69 times. Gabbert doesn't need to be a part of 600 plays, but he needs to be steady, keep the interceptions to a minimum, and keep the chains moving. If he stinks, then the coaching staff will have a big problem deciding between walk-on Jimmy Costello and true freshmen Blaine Dalton, Asthon Glaser, and Owen Lenander.

The season will be a success if ... the Tigers get back to the Big 12 Championship. This isn't a good enough team to beat Oklahoma, Texas, or the winner from the South unless everything breaks the right way, but with Nebraska coming to Columbia, and with enough speed and athleticism across the board to run with anyone in the conference, there's no reason to shoot for anything lower than a third straight trip to the title game.

Key game: Oct. 8 vs. Nebraska. The Tigers went to Lincoln in last year's Big 12 opener and wiped up the Huskers 52-17. That shook the long looking streak to Big Red on the road, and now it'll be vital to keep the momentum going at home with three straight wins in the series. While the North appears to be tougher, with Colorado and Kansas better, Missouri can be the lead dog in the pack again with a win in this year's conference opener.

2008 Fun Stats: 
- Penalties: Opponents 98 for 827 yards - Missouri 58 for 524 yards
- Sacks: Missouri 33 for 254 yards - Opponents 17 for 96 yards
- Passing yards per game: Missouri 330.4 - Opponents 286.6

- 2009 CFN Missouri Preview | 2009 Missouri Offense
2009 Missouri Defense | 2009 Missouri Depth Chart
2008 Missouri Preview | 2007 Missouri Preview | 2006 Missouri Preview