As a new college football season approaches, the Missouri Tigers find themselves amidst national championship talks. Head coach Gary Pinkel has been doing his best to keep his team's focus on improving from last season.
Pinkel has stated in numerous interviews that the team's primary focus is to first win the Big XII North championship before setting sight on a conference or national title. Pinkel reasoned that neither championship is possible without first winning the division.
The Tigers offense loses some of its weapons in Tony Temple, Will Franklin, and All American Martin Rucker to the NFL, but will be able to reload. Will Franklin was one of many receiving options, and the most likely candidate to take his spot is prep school transfer Rolandis Woodland. Filling Rucker's shoes will be 6'6'' Chase Coffman, already Mizzou's all time leader in touchdown receptions.
The most intriguing battle will be at the running back position. Senior Jimmy Jackson and sophomore Derrick Washington were the two backs expected to contend for the spot heading into spring ball. Not a lot was solved, as Jimmy Jackson missed nearly half of spring practices due to conflicts with his class schedule. DeVion Moore was a pleasant surprise, as he made it a three horse race for the running back spot. Many people think all three could see a good amount of playing time because of the different assets each back possesses. Jackson is more of a between the tackles, hard runner, Washington is more of a burner who can catch the ball out of the backfield, and Moore is a slasher who can make defenders miss.
Mizzou will also field one of the most underrated defensive units in the country, returning 10 starters. The lone loss was DT Lorenzo Williams, who will be replaced by Jaron Baston. Last year, Mizzou fielded the defense that statistically was the best in the Big XII conference a year ago. The leaders of the defense are All-American safety William Moore and All Conference linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. Corner was a position of concern for much of 2007, as much of the talent was young, raw, and inexperienced. Castine Bridges and Carl Gettis will look to shutdown the Big XII's best receivers.
As the new season looms just over 3 months away, Mizzou and all its fans are preparing for what they hope will be a season even more magical than 2007.