The Missouri Tigers have released their official depth chart for Saturday's season opener against Illinois. Here's a look inside and what it all means:
- The depth chart confirms what we all suspected the last few weeks: true freshman T.J. Moe will skip a redshirt season. Originally recruited as a defensive back, Moe, a converted high school quarterback, made a splash during preseason camp as a wide receiver, albeit slightly under the radar while he continued to rehab his surgically repaired right foot. Moe's invaluable versatility renders his role on the team as somewhat of a mystery. In addition to wideout, he's also seen reps with the punt return unit and could even get a chance to reprise his high school duties in the light of Blaine Dalton's dismissal from the program.
- A pair of fellow true freshmen appear likely to receive playing time. As expected, offensive linemen Jack Meiners and Justin Britt will forgo a redshirt season as they are currently listed as backups at right tackle and left tackle, respectively. Pinkel's delight over each's physical development notwithstanding, Meiners and Britt were in limbo as recently as a few weeks ago due to the demands of their respective positions. But an injury to starting right tackle Dan Hoch opened up an opportunity for both to increase their reps in practice over the last couple weeks of preseason camp. Meiners and Britt become the second and third true freshmen to play offensive line during Pinkel's tenure, joining Hoch, who last season was the first to do so.
- In the wake of Dalton's arrest for DWI over the weekend, sophomore Jimmy Costello is officially the backup quarterback. True freshman Ashton Glaser assumes the No. 3 spot. Although Pinkel's decision to dismiss Dalton put an abrupt end to what was becoming a tightly contested race for the right to back up Blaine Gabbert, the staff often hinted that Costello would emerge the winner over Dalton because of a more consistent camp.
- Sticking with the theme of true freshmen, Kendial Lawrence is listed as the No. 3 running back. The spot was previously reserved for sophomore converted safety Gilbert Moye, but that was before Lawrence's arrival on campus. With the top two spots locked down by starter Derrick Washington and backup De'Vion Moore, Lawrence stated his case with a bevy of impressive performances in camp. Meanwhile, Moye was stricken with problems holding onto the football, though some of those instances have been attributed to the spirited play of the defense.
- After receiving a demotion to the second-team offense due to a number of drops, senior receiver Jared Perry finds himself atop the depth chart once again. He is listed as the starting X-receiver.
- Sophomores Terrell Resonno and Dominique Hamilton are listed as one and two atop the depth chart at defensive tackle, a position left vacant by former Tiger Ziggy Hood. As of now, Resonno gets the nod as the starter alongside nose tackle Jaron Baston, but expect each to receive plenty of time as Pinkel and his defensive staff swap players in and out along the entire defensive line.
- Speaking of which, at defensive end, redshirt freshman Aldon Smith is technically listed behind starter Jacquies Smith, but this particular section of the depth chart may as well be filled out in pencil. The trio comprised of the Smiths and Brian Coulter, the other starter at end, has been one of the main story lines during camp, and each player brings his own facet to what should be a much improved pass rush off the edge this season.
- The impact of true freshmen is felt on defense as well. Donovan Bonner, a safety in high school, begins the 2009 season backing up one of the best linebackers in the country, All-American Sean Weatherspoon. Once merely an afterthought lost in the shuffle of MU's linebacker depth, Bonner came out of nowhere during camp and is starting to draw comparisons to Weatherspoon at this early stage of his career.
- In the secondary, there's no real surprises to speak of. Carl Gettis, now a third-year starter, joins the promising Kevin Rutland at corner, while sophomore free safety Kenji Jackson will be paired up with fifth-year senior Hardy Ricks, who has reportedly looked comfortably at home at the strong safety spot after spending past seasons at cornerback. If there's one tidbit worth noting regarding this group, it's the staff's decision to replace injured safety Jarrell Harrison with Munir Prince, the Notre Dame transfer who had previously been receiving reps at corner. Harrison, a juco transfer who was listed as a backup at strong safety, dislocated his right elbow during camp's final scrimmage on Thursday and is expected to miss at least three weeks.
- On special teams, a long and largely deadlocked battle for the right to succeed Jeff Wolfert has finally unfolded. Grant Ressel, a former walk-on, has been handed the duties on field goals, and Tanner Mills, the ex-letterman soccer standout at nearby Columbia College, will handle kickoffs. Rounding out the kicking trio will be punter Jake Harry IV, who averaged 40.7 yards per attempt while playing in 12 games last season. If you followed the Tigers through camp closely enough, you'd sense the uncertainty that Pinkel and his staff feel about those responsible for succeeding Wolfert, who ended his career as the most accurate kicker in NCAA history. Don't be surprised if personnel gets interchanged if one or the other shows a case of the yips early on.
- Like Wolfert, former great Jeremy Maclin left vacant a number of jobs that apparently won't be filled by just one person. During the three weeks of camp, an inordinate amount of players have gotten reps to succeed Maclin on kickoff and punt returns. Though I would suspect each of these two spots to be experimented with on a probationary basis, Gettis will get first crack on punt returns while the kickoff responsibilities will be passed on to backup free safety Jasper Simmons and Moore, who provides an interesting package of Maclin-esque straight-line speed and breakaway ability. Moe and fellow wide receiver Brandon Gerau may also get the chance to return punts.
- One other thing to point out: True freshman L'Damian Washington, thanks to an extremely strong camp, seemed destined to share Moe's fate of forgoing a redshirt season, but he was left off the first regular season depth chart. This is not to say that Washington won't be given a chance to contribute in 2009. Per NCAA guidelines, if Washington were to play even a single snap, he would be ineligible for a redshirt season. By the same token, however, since redshirts are not confirmed until after the season ends, assuming he spends time taking up space on the sideline, a decision on Washington could be delayed until any given point during the season.
- Courtesy of Power Mizzou, you can take a listen into Pinkel's Monday press conference with the media, wherein he discusses the team's latest injuries, Saturday's game against the Illini, his expectations for Blaine Gabbert, and the staff's gameplan to compensate for a group of inexperienced kickers, among other things.
Lead photo courtesy of Columbia Daily Tribune