Mizzou Football's Five Keys to Success in 2010
After finishing 8-5 including their Texas Bowl loss to Navy last year, the Missouri Tigers return a lot of key starters in 2010 and are looking to surprise some critics.
Blaine Gabbert returns fully healthy, and he could bolt for the NFL after this season if he shows that he can lead a team with his rocket right arm.
What should we expect from the Missouri Tigers this season?
Which Recievers Will Step Up?
Danario Alexander was a man among children in the Big 12 last season, amassing 113 receptions, 1,781 yards, and 14 touchdowns (how is that not an All-American?) in the 13 games that he played.
Now that he has graduated and gone off to bigger and better things, the Tigers have a huge hole to fill at the number one receiver spot.
This year, the receiving corps looks like it could be a very deep one instead of one topped off by an amazing talent like Alexander.
Look for players like Wes Kemp, Jerrell Jackson, Rolandis Woodland, T.J Moe, or even freshmen like Jimmie Hunt, Bud Sasser, and Marcus Lucas to step up and give Blaine Gabbert a lot of potential targets in 2010.
Can Derrick Washington Return to Form?
After rushing for over 1,000 yards on nearly six yards per carry in 2008, Derrick Washington took a step back in 2009, rushing for only 865 yards on five yards per carry.
Whether it was because of the offense adjusting without Chase Daniel or some other factor, we will never know.
All that Washington should be focused on in 2010 is leading this offensive attack behind an experienced offensive line.
He has the talent to be one of the top backs in the Big 12. If he lives up to expectations, the Tigers could have one of the best overall offenses in the Big 12.
The first five games for Missouri this year should be pretty easy to handle (Illinois, McNeese State, San Diego State, Miami (OH), and Colorado), but after that it gets pretty tricky.
The four-game stretch in October and early November will be the defining time for this year's team.
It starts out with a road game against Texas A&M, a much improved team and dominant offense, on Oct. 16.
Then, the Tigers return home to face the loaded Sooners on Oct. 23, the 99th anniversary of the first homecoming held at Mizzou.
After that, Missouri plays two more tough road games at Nebraska and at Texas Tech, wrapping up a stretch of four games in four weeks against teams that will all be bowling in 2010.
If the Tigers can navigate through that stretch at 2-2 or even 3-1, 2010 will be a successful season for this team.
Blaine Gabbert's Development
After a pretty nice year in his first year starting (3,600 yards, 24 TD, and 9 INT), Blaine Gabbert is going to be leaned heavily upon to be the emotional and physical leader of the Tigers' offense this season.
Gabbert was recruited as a five-star player out of high school, so he definitely has the talent to hang with the best QBs in the Big 12; but can he put it all together?
It will be interesting to see how Gabbert performs in 2010 without his security blanket, Danario Alexander.
Another thing to watch for is how many deep balls Gabbert is allowed to throw this season. The junior QB has one of the strongest arms in the country and needs to show it off to put pressure on opposing safeties.
Can the Secondary Improve?
Missouri's defense has been much maligned during it's time in the national spotlight, but this year has a chance to be different.
All Mizzou fans should know that the team is probably trotting out it's best front seven in recent memory, with the likes of Aldon Smith, Will Ebner, Zaviar Gooden, and Jacquies Smith putting fear into opposing offensive lines.
The question still remains in the secondary.
Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland, both seniors, will probably be the starters at cornerback, but they are both nothing too special.
Gettis takes too many risks in coverage and Rutland isn't fast enough to keep up with the Big 12's best, so maybe Gary Pinkel and Co. need to look in another direction (Kip Edwards or Munir Prince).
At saftey, the Tigers aren't sure who is going to start, but they should be servicable at least.
Kenji Jackson had a great freshman year, but kind of disappeared in 2009. If he can return to 2008 form, that would be a huge boost for this secondary.
Jasper Simmons had some troubles coming over from junior college last year, but if he can take that next step at safety, the Tigers could have a nice tandem on their last line of defense.