The Missouri Tigers are always looking to take the next step as a football program.
For many years Mizzou football was synonymous with mediocrity, but under the Gary Pinkel regime, the Tigers have flourished and established a winning attitude in Columbia.
Mizzou fans are salivating at this year's squad. The team returns 18 starters from a 10-win 2010 team and expectations are sky-high. They will be a preseason top-25 team and a dark horse to contend for a Big 12 championship.
It's every fan's right to dream, and I am no different. With the exception of winning a national championship, here are 10 dream scenarios for Missouri football in 2011.
Missouri has the luxury of continuity in the receiving corps next season.
Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson are returning three-year starters and well-versed in the David Yost offense. However, it was the unexpected rise and production from wide receiver T.J. Moe and tight end Michael Egnew that fueled the Tigers passing game in 2010.
With a new starting quarterback in sophomore James Franklin, it's paramount that the offense rally around the young signal caller. If every starting receiver puts up better numbers in 2011 than the previous season, it's hard to imagine how teams are going to stop the Tigers.
Keep in mind, Missouri only threw 17 passing touchdowns last season. More than 1,045 yards and eight touchdowns from T.J. Moe? Another All-American season from Michael Egnew? That would certainly be a dream for Mizzou.
Missouri has had plenty of 1,000 yard rushers in a season before. So why would having one in 2011 be considered a dream scenario?
The Tigers are using a four-back rotation in the running game. De'vion Moore is the official starter and short yardage back. Kendial Lawrence sees the field as often as Moore and may be the most complete back on the team.
Youngsters Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy were brought in a lot for the passing game and provided explosive plays for the offense in spurts. But there's only one football, and the Tigers are clearly a pass-first team.
If one of these backs emerges for over 1,000 rushing yards in 2011, that would open up the already loaded passing game and solidify Mizzou as one of the nation's most versatile offenses.
Mizzou has never been to a BCS Bowl game, but they've been pumping out as many first round picks as SEC teams in the past few drafts.
Michael Egnew is already considered one of the top tight end prospects for the 2012 NFL Draft. He needs to prove he can block, but another great season in Columbia could warrant Egnew a first-round draft selection.
This would be phenomenal news for the Tigers. Egnew, a 2-star wide receiver prospect in high school, serves as yet another example of Mizzou's ability to develop underrated and overlooked players. He has some of the best hands in college football and shouldered a big portion of the team's passing game in 2010.
Egnew would continue Missouri's recent presence in the first-round of the NFL Draft and show wide receiver and tight end recruits that Mizzou can develop high caliber NFL talent at the position.
Missouri's complete turnaround on defense was the main reason the team was so successful in 2010. They led the conference in sacks and in average points against.
One thing Missouri would love to do in 2011 would be to lead the conference in turnovers on defense. There's almost always a direct correlation to turnovers margin and wins in all levels of football.
Missouri was third in turnovers last season with 29. The teams that finished ahead of them? Conference champ Oklahoma and third place Oklahoma St.
By having more turnovers than anyone in the Big 12, the Tigers would be in the dream scenario of controlling their own destiny in the conference. It's a feat that's rarely been accomplished in Missouri's rather pathetic defensive history.
But no one thought they'd be good on defense last season either.
James Franklin is in a very good position to succeed during his sophomore campaign. The team has high expectations and no one is expecting him to come flying out of the gate.
But can you imagine if he did? Franklin, a 4-star recruit from Texas, is a great athlete and a tough kid with a lot of potential in a Tiger uniform. Missouri is not new to quiet, unassuming running quarterbacks who come out of nowhere a la Brad Smith.
If James Franklin has a Brad Smith-like impact in his first starting season, the sky is the limit for the Tigers in 2011 and beyond.
As underwhelming as Missouri's 2011 recruiting class appears, the 2012 class is just as overwhelming. The Tigers have a legitimate chance at an unprecedented amount of strong recruits at every position.
For starters, the team already has 4-star commitments at running back and offensive line. They also have several 3-star commitments on the defensive side of the ball already lined up and it's only June.
But the prizes of this class are yet to be won. Gunner Kiel, the top-rated quarterback for 2012, is strongly considering Mizzou. Ohio-bred quarterback Maty Mauk has put up gaudy statistics as a four-year starter and has Mizzou on his short list.
If Mizzou lands all of the top players that they've offered, it will certainly land them a top-10 recruiting class and solidify the Tigers as a perennial top-20 football program.
But that all could hinge on the signing of one of 2012's giants...
No.1 ranked overall prospect Dorial Green-Beckham is far and away the best player in the 2012 class.
Described by some as "a taller Andre Johnson", Green-Beckham's a mammoth 6'6", 230 lb. wide receiver from Missouri who's recorded a whopping 4,102 receiving yards and 51 touchdowns in three high school seasons. He's regarded as one of the best prospects in the last ten seasons and you probably couldn't draw up a better receiver on paper.
Missouri is in the mix, but are clearly an underdog to land Green-Beckham's enormous talents. But if he were to sign with Mizzou, it would be a program-altering moment for the Tigers.
He would start right away and likely shatter records in a Tiger uniform, fueling national championship talks in Columbia. Missouri signing the No.1 overall prospect would be a complete dream come true for Gary Pinkel and company.
Missouri's toughest games this coming season will be on the road against highly touted Oklahoma and Texas A&M.
The Tigers went into College Station and beat the Aggies last season. But that was a Jerrod Johnson-led Texas A&M and following that loss the Aggies became the hottest team in the country all the way to a Cotton Bowl bid.
Despite clearly being the conference favorite, Oklahoma will be looking for some serious retribution in 2011. Missouri landed College Gameday for their meeting last year in Columbia and shocked the No.1 ranked Sooners with a compelling 36-27 win.
Missouri would love to prove that 2010 wasn't just luck. By going into Norman and College Station next season and coming out with wins, they would send a strong message to the rest of the country that the Tigers are here to stay.
Every college team dreams of winning their conference, but it would really be a special accomplishment for Missouri win the Big 12 in 2011.
Despite reaching the now-extinct conference championship game twice from 2007-2008, they've never won the Big 12 conference. In fact, they haven't won their football conference since 1969 when the Big 12 was the Big 8.
A conference championship would be the talk of Missouri lore for years to come. It would place Missouri in the conversation of BCS bowls for the foreseeable future and give them a huge spike in recruiting against powerhouse programs like Oklahoma, Texas, and others.
I think it goes without saying that winning a BCS bowl game would be the best possible scenario for the Tigers in 2011.
If they won their conference they would likely play in the Fiesta Bowl, one of the more entertaining bowls games in recent history. This would give Missouri a long-overdue shot on the nation's big stage.
The team has not done well in big games historically, so a win in a BCS bowl would be the benchmark of a culture change for the Tigers.
Obviously, winning the national championship would be a complete dream come true for Mizzou. I doubt it will happen, but that's why fans like me can dream. 2011 has the potential to be a great season and, who knows, some of these dreams may turn into realities.