The Missouri Tigers were officially put back on the national college football map in 2007 when Chase Daniel led the Tigers to a magical season in which they were No. 1 in the nation for a week. The season did not end how they would have preferred it, as their arch-rival Kansas went to the Orange Bowl instead of them.
The next year was supposed to be the year where they stuck it to Kansas and made it to an even better BCS Bowl: the National Championship. But it was not to be, as the Tigers lost a few games, and finished a disappointing 10-4.
Fast forward to 2009. Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman, and William Moore, the best players for the Tigers in the last two years, are gone. Not to mention some other key pieces from the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
There is hope, however, as highly touted quarterback Blaine Gabbert takes over for Chase Daniel, and the horrid defense from 2008 is mostly gone. The expectations are not out of the roof like last year. No one expects the Tigers to win the Big 12 this year.
So could this be the year that they finally do it? What can the fans realistically expect from these young Tigers? Could Missouri win the Big 12 North once again, take the Big 12 Championship, and even a BCS Bowl bid? While the latter two may be a stretch, winning the Big 12 North for the third straight year is a distinct possibility.
The competition will be about the same as last year. Kansas returns a lot of talent, but there are questions on their defense. Nebraska hopes to get back to the glory days, but they have to replace their starting quarterback. Colorado has not shown signs of vast improvement.
Iowa State is rebuilding again with a new coach. Kansas State also has a new coach (kind of). Mizzou can certainly win this North Division if the offense can avoid a huge drop off, the defense can improve, and the special teams can replace some key losses.
The Missouri offense has been the key to their success in the past two years. Chase Daniel is gone now though, as is Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman, Tommy Saunders, Colin Brown, and a few other contributors, including offensive coordinator Dave Christensen who is now the head coach at Wyoming.
Dave Yost, the quarterbacks coach for many years, was promoted to the offensive coordinator position. The offense will stay about the same, but will probably have a few tweaks to Yost's preferences.
At quarterback, Blaine Gabbert takes over the reins. As long as he is mentally prepared, there should not be much of a problem, as he has better physical tools than Chase Daniel. He could end up being better than Daniel if he can become the leader of this team.
The backup is Jimmy Costello. Costello could actually challenge Gabbert for the starting job in camp, but ultimately will likely be the No. 2.
He has a cannon for an arm, and is a very capable backup for Gabbert. Coming in at three and four are freshmen Blaine Dalton and Ashton Glaser. They will both likely be redshirted for this year, unless there are some injuries atop the depth chart.
Running back should be a strength for this Tiger team. Derrick Washington had an injured knee for the majority of last season, and still rushed over 1000 yards in the Big 12 Conference. He should be better as he is fully recovered from his injury. His backup, DeVion Moore, is a faster back and a solid backup.
Past this is undecided at the moment, but freshman running back Kendial Lawrence has been raising some eyebrows of late. Expect him to rise up the depth chart and be No. 3 by the start of the year. Here's a link to some high school tape of him.
The receiving corps has lost All-American, all-purpose player Jeremy Maclin. His spot will likely be filled by sophomore Jerrell Jackson. He cannot be expected to be Maclin, but he can provide some excitement. Jared Perry is a veteran receiver that should get a lot more looks this year.
Danario Alexander's career has been hurt with many injuries over the past. He may not have as much explosion as he had pre-injury 2007, but the rumor is he looks like an All-Big 12 receiver so far. There are other receivers that could get some looks this year such as L'Damian Washington, T.J. Moe, and Rolandis Woodland.
Wes Kemp should provide another good target for Gabbert, and the tight ends may not have a Chase Coffman or Martin Rucker, but Andrew Jones and Michael Egnew should provide a most serviceable duo. Jones got some playing time last year and has looked impressive so far in practices.
The offensive line should be a strength for the Tigers this year. Although they lose two from last year's offensive line, the left tackle Elvis Fischer returns, as does Kurtis Gregory and center Tim Barnes. Dan Hoch will start at right tackle, and some say he has a good chance at a career beyond the college level.
The left guard will be Austin Wuebbels. Both newcomers got some experience last year. The line has some decent depth, although it is mostly young.
The defense was absolutely dismal last season. It was expected to be among the best in the Big 12, but thanks to a lack of communication, it tanked. They lose some starters, which is probably good, except for the loss of All-Big 12 safety William Moore. Overall, the defense can only go up...or so Tiger fans should hope.
The defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus is gone to the Cleveland Browns linebacking coach, and Mizzou linebacker coach Dave Steckel will move up and replace him. He is more about discipline, which is just what this defense needs.
The bulk of the blame last year was put on the secondary. This year looks better, with Kenji Jackson at one safety and Hardy Ricks at the other. The corners Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland, especially Rutland, have looked good in practices. I would not expect the top secondary in the Big 12, but I would expect an improved secondary.
The linebackers are led by All-American outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, arguably the best player on this team. In the middle is a talented junior in Luke Lambert, and on the other side is another junior, Andrew Gachkar.
A transfer from USC, Josh Tatum, is currently injured and may have to sit out the season and get a medical redshirt. The backups are very capable, but they are also very young, as the three backups have a combined two football letters.
The rest of the blame of last season's nightmare of a defense goes to the defensive line. It was not that they had little talent; it was that they were very inconsistent at getting to the quarterback. They lose a first round pick in Ziggy Hood at defensive tackle, and a speed rusher at end in Stryker Sulak.
The starting ends are undecided, but Jacquies Smith, Aldon Smith, Brian Coulter, and Brad Madison are all in the mix. Both Brian Coulter and Jacquies Smith showed signs of great pass rushing last year, but neither was as consistent as the coaching staff would like. At nose tackle, Jaron Baston returns, but will face a bigger challenge because Ziggy Hood will not be there to take on all those double teams.
The defensive tackle position is wide open, but the leaders in the clubhouse are Terrell Resonno, Chris Earnhardt, and Dominique Hamilton. The backups are very young, as there is not one upperclassmen that will be a second stringer.
At kicker, the Tigers lose the most accurate kicker in NCAA history in Jeff Wolfert. He will be replaced by senior Tanner Mills, who has looked good in practices, but not Wolfert caliber yet.
The punter returns in Jake Harry. Harry was a pretty good punter with his rugby style kicking last year for the Tigers.
The returner position is wide open. It could be Jerrell Jackson, Jared Perry, Kendial Lawrence, and DeVion Moore, among others. Whoever shows that they can field the ball cleanly and still help the team with good field position will take the job.
The long snapper will return with Beau Brinkley, and the holder will be Forrest Shock.
The Tigers schedule is challenging, but not ridiculous. Here is what I expect:
vs. Illinois (in St. Louis) L
vs. Bowling Green W
vs. Furman W
@ Nevada W
vs. Nebraska W
@ Oklahoma State L
vs. Texas L
@ Colorado W
vs. Baylor W
@ Kansas State W
vs. Iowa State W
vs. Kansas (in Kansas City) L
The Illinois game should be very close, but the experience of Juice Williams should help the Illini prevail. The next two games should be wins for the Tigers with Bowling Green and FCS team Furman. At Nevada will be a very challenging early road game for Mizzou, but they can prevail if the defense can slow down the Nevada offense.
They can beat Nebraska, as they are not back to the glory days yet, but at Oklahoma State will be too much. Texas is just too good for these Tigers, but they can break that two-game losing streak at Colorado. If they contain Robert Griffin of Baylor they can defeat the Bears and Bill Snyder won't have Kansas State up to his standards yet.
Iowa State is rebuilding so the Tigers take that one. The season finale should be another close one, but the Jayhawk offense might be a little too much for the Tiger defense.
An 8-4 record may win the Big 12 North, as Kansas has a tough schedule, and Nebraska has not proven much. If they make it to the Conference Championship Game, I don't see them winning against Oklahoma, Texas, or Oklahoma State. The Tigers should make a respectable bowl game.
Radical best case scenario: 11-1 with a loss to Texas, win the Big 12 championship, and make a BCS Bowl.
Radical worst case scenario: 4-8 with wins against Bowling Green, Furman, Baylor, and Iowa State. They fail to make a bowl game.
If you're an optimist you can expect: another Big 12 North title, a top three Big 12 offense, a winning record against rivals, a top half Big 12 defense, a competitive Big 12 Championship, and a very solid bowl game.
If you're a pessimist you can expect: a top four Big 12 North finish, a top half Big 12 offense, at least .500 record, not last place defense in the Big 12 North, and a bowl game.
The average fans can expect: You can expect an exciting offense, an improved defense, a good bowl game, competitive in most games, and a top three finish in the Big 12 North.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment and vote in the poll.