An opinion post
by MizzMatt - 4/17/11 on Twitter @mizzou_matt_j
The question was asked what I thought of this year's team. Well, here it goes. After what I saw yesterday, the defense will be the focal point once again, similar to what it was last year. EJ Gaines, Trey Hobson and most-improved safety Tavon Bolden were all over the field. Braylon Webb and returning stars Kip Edwards and Kenji Jackson were also a force in the secondary, which has been my main area of concern, since we've lost Carl Gettis, Kevin Rutland and Jerrell Harrison. Other guys that I thought were pretty good in the secondary were Daniel Easterly, Randy Ponder and Tyler Davis had a pretty big hit of his own.
The defensive line has returning starters in Jaquies Smith, Dominique Hamilton and Terrell Resonno, as well as Brad Madison and Michael Sam. Newcomer Kony Ealy spent so much time in the backfield disrupting the QBs that he should've put in a change of address form. Getting Hamilton back after his broken leg in the Oklahoma game last year will be the key to the veteran D-line, even though Madison and Sam both did outstanding jobs filling in for him and Aldon when they were out.
The linebacking corps is strong, with Andrew Wilson, Donovan Bonner, Will Ebner, Darvin Ruise and Zavier Gooden all returning. Denzel Martin, Jared Parham, Tony Randolph and Daniel Carpenter looked good as well in the spring game, laying some clean hits just as the ball was getting to the receivers and providing good pressure on the quarterbacks.
On the offensive side, we didn't get to see much of the returners from last year. TJ Moe caught one pass for 3 yards, that was knocked out for a fumble that Trey Hobson jumped on top of. TJ also had a 15 yard rush on a Jet Sweep. Tailback Marcus Murphy was the biggest receiving threat on the day, snaring 4 balls for 43 yards and a TD. Eric Waters, Gahn McGaffie, Jaleel Clark, Brandon Gerau and Marcus Lucas all hauled in three catches, with Gerau adding a TD of his own. Michael Egnew, L'Damian Washington, Andrew Jones, Kerwin Stricker, Kyle Peasel and Jared Culver all contributed 2 catches, while Wes Kemp, TJ Moe, Stephen Drain, Jerrell Jackson, Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt and Henry Josey all had one catch a piece.
The running back situation from last year remains, even though it's looking as though De'Vion Moore (last year's work horse with 417 yards on the season) will most likely be the go-to guy again. His 5 rushes for 57 yards was good enough to be the leading rusher in the game. Kendial Lawrence had 4 for 18 yards, while fellow returning tailback Marcus Murphy contributed 18 yards on 3 carries. The rushing and receiving games looked to be typical David Yost (offensive coordinator), as we'd run for 20 yards, just to get a gain of 3. There were no deep down field strikes into the secondary, only short, 5-10 yard passes. I don't know if it was because our receivers lack the ability for a down field pass, or if we were playing conservatively because it's only the spring game.
The quarterback competition is heating up. Tyler Gabbert won the award for "Most Improved Quarterback" at halftime, but he's struggled in the last couple weeks of spring. He went 8 for 22 for 48 yards with an interception in the Black & Gold game, while James Franklin used his experience to go 13/21 for 116 and 2 TD. Ashton Glaser came out of the gates and surprised a lot of people by completing his first four passes. Many in the crowd around me were asking "Who's number sixteen?" Ryan Howerton, the 'other quarterback' was also pretty impressive, going 4/6 for 24 yards, and both Howerton and Glaser gave us a taste of their scrambling abilities.
My overall take: Our defense will be top-10 again this year, while our offense needs improvement. The offensive weak link is the strength of the defense- the pass rush. Ealy, Madison, Resonno, Hamilton, Gooden and K. Jackson were all repeatedly in the backfield giving QBs Gabbert, Franklin, Glaser and Howerton troubles. The quarterback spot is still up for grabs, in my opinion, and I don't think there will be a clear starter until kickoff of the September 3rd game against Miami University (OH).
*I am not officially affiliated with the University of Missouri, nor am I a "real" journalist. I am a Mizzou fan that has a passion for writing journalistic-style and I started this blog for all other Mizzou fans to share in our glory, our tradition, our passion. What I say here isn't necessarily the 'truth' (as illustrated by the Anderson/Painter/Haith coaching situation). I pass on what I find from other sources, while giving my own personal insight into the matter. My picture above is linked to take you to my personal Facebook page. Feel free to add me as a friend, but please include a message stating that you found me here.