Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Missouri struggled last season, no question.
The team could not get over the injury bug, and the transition from the Big 12 to the SEC was just too much to handle for the Tigers, who finished 5-7 and missed a bowl game for the first time since 2004.
But 2013 will be better, even if the Tigers don't compete for an SEC title. E.J. Gaines is one of the players who will make it happen.
At 5'11", 195 pounds, he plays bigger than he is, delivering punishment from his corner position with regularity.
He forced two fumbles last season, defended 11 passes, scored a defensive touchdown and posted seven tackles for loss as a cornerback.
If he can get his hands around a few of those defended passes and catch them instead of knocking them down, he will finish the season as one of the top cornerbacks in the SEC.
Games to Watch
Gaines is primed for a big season, but in order to get some national respect, he needs to add to his interception total. If he can do that in games against Georgia and Texas A&M facing Aaron Murray and Johnny Manziel, respectively, he will have taken a major step toward establishing himself.
Gaines will also have a great opportunity to raise his profile against Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace. Wallace threw 17 interceptions last season, tied for the most in the nation, and though he should be improved this year, he will still struggle with accuracy at times.