clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

This is the year Mizzou doesn't win the SEC East. Probably. Maybe.

The two-time defending SEC East champions are picked to finish in the division's middle. Not even Mizzou alum Bill Connelly, who's now previewed 122 teams, knows what to make of the Tigers.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. Okay ... now what?

Full disclosure: I've been wrong about Missouri for three straight seasons.

I run Rock M Nation, SB Nation's Tigers site. I was maintaining spreadsheets about Mizzou long before I dived into the rest of the country's rosters. I was a Mizzou blogger well before I was a college football writer. And I've been whiffing on the Tigers for a while.

I expected six or seven wins in 2012, and they went 5-7. I expected six or seven wins in 2013, and they went 12-2. I expected eight or nine wins in 2014, and they went 11-3.

I know all the right Missouri questions to ask, but I don't come close to the right answers. My solace: nobody else has either.

Missouri's three seasons in the SEC have seen one of Gary Pinkel's biggest failures and two of his greatest successes. After four top-25 Off. S&P+ finishes from 2007-11, his 2012 offense got wrecked by injury and fell to 65th. A top-20 defense couldn't save the Tigers from the hardest schedule in the country, and they missed a bowl for the first time in eight years.

Placed on the hot seat by every writer in the country, Pinkel responded. With no wholesale changes to personnel on either the staff or the two-deep, Mizzou improved to seventh on offense. Combined with another good defense, Mizzou won the SEC East and finished fourth in the polls and fifth in the F/+ rankings.

Last year was probably Pinkel's greatest in-season coaching job yet. Tasked with replacing the starting quarterback, running back, left tackle, and all three receivers, Mizzou suffered a couple of key injuries at receiver, forgot how to pass for a while, and ranked 47th in Off. S&P+. The defense dominated despite losing two top ends, and after a midseason lull, Mizzou leaned on the run, slowed the game down for the D, won six in a row, and took the East again.

This offseason, we've seen a funny trend of analysts trying to have it both ways. Any preview you read is almost assured of featuring two sentiments: (1.) "It's time we stop underestimating this program," and (2.) "I'm picking Mizzou third/fourth in the East behind Tennessee and possibly Florida." The comedy comes in the contradiction, as the Tigers are getting rated behind a Tennessee team that has again beaten them in recruiting but has yet to beat them on the field in three years.

But the thought isn't hard to understand. Mizzou has to again replace most of its receivers, its starting left tackle, and two more all-world defensive ends. Add the loss of defensive coordinator Dave Steckel (now Missouri State's head coach) and a potential all-SEC defensive tackle, Harold Brantley (injured in a summer car accident), and you've got a team that will be reliant on a load of freshmen and sophomores.

Let's put it this way: if Missouri wins the East this year, nobody has any excuse for picking them somewhere other than first in 2016 ... and maybe 2017, too.

Pinkel made a great coordinator hire by bringing Barry Odom up from Memphis, and the Tigers return plenty of exciting talent. But the distribution of said talent should make for a very different squad, one even more reliant on the run game and using its back seven to generate pressure. This should be a decent team, and the schedule does set up nicely: the Tigers play only four projected top-25 opponents, three in the final month, when the defensive line and receiving corps will have likely matured.

But ... surely Mizzou won't win again, right?

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 11-3 | Adj. Record: 12-2 | Final F/+ Rk: 20
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
30-Aug South Dakota State N/A 38-18 W 81% 20.1 99%
6-Sep at Toledo 59 49-24 W 93% 34.9 98%
13-Sep Central Florida 60 38-10 W 99% 50.7 100%
20-Sep Indiana 88 27-31 L 51% 0.4 39%
27-Sep at South Carolina 38 21-20 W 58% 4.5 41%
11-Oct Georgia 4 0-34 L 20% -19.9 0%
18-Oct at Florida 32 42-13 W 96% 40.0 98%
25-Oct Vanderbilt 115 24-14 W 64% 8.7 89%
1-Nov Kentucky 68 20-10 W 92% 32.2 99%
15-Nov at Texas A&M 42 34-27 W 73% 14.6 57%
22-Nov at Tennessee 24 29-21 W 85% 23.9 85%
28-Nov Arkansas 9 21-14 W 72% 13.4 39%
6-Dec vs. Alabama 2 13-42 L 31% -11.5 0%
1-Jan vs. Minnesota 37 33-17 W 86% 25.5 88%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 31.9 47 18.8 15
Points Per Game 27.8 73 21.1 19

2. Reinvention

The tailspin was quick. Through three non-conference games (two mid-major bowl teams and a South Dakota State that ranked next to Northwestern in the Sagarin ratings), Mizzou was answering every question. The offense thrived against SDSU and Toledo, and after allowing a 75-yard run on the first play of the season, the defense allowed just 4.6 yards per play. Maty Mauk's passer rating was well over 175 with his new receiving corps. The new defensive line looked even better than the last defensive line. It was all working.

And then Mizzou lost to Indiana. Star end Markus Golden got hurt, Tevin Coleman went crazy in the second half, Mizzou mismanaged the final minute of the clock, and IU pulled a stunner.

Then, with two of three starting receivers hurt and opponents catching on to the "two reads, then scramble" routine, Mauk completed 27 of 73 passes with no touchdowns and five picks against South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

  • Average Percentile Performance (first 3 games): 91% (~top 12 | record: 3-0)
  • Average Percentile Performance (next 3 games): 43% (~top 75 | record: 1-2)

Following the Georgia game, with some reactionary Mizzou blogger saying the goals were down to "Get to a bowl. That's it," the Tigers reinvented themselves. The offense got a free pass against Florida, staying out of the way behind an incredible four return touchdowns (the superfecta: kick, punt, interception, fumble). Home games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky allowed coordinator Josh Henson to lean on a more efficiency-based offense and Mauk's shoulder, injured against Georgia, to heal up. Given new life following Florida's upset of Georgia, Mizzou won the East.

  • Average Percentile Performance (last 8 games): 75% (~top 30 | record: 7-1)

Mizzou rushed for 335 in a win over Texas A&M, averaged 5.9 yards per play against an excellent Tennessee defense, and put up 423 while controlling the second half against Arkansas. The Tigers closed games well and closed the regular season with aplomb. They still needed help to win the East, but they did what they needed to do.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.85 65 IsoPPP+ 106.2 52
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 40.7% 76 Succ. Rt. + 100.7 68
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 29.6 66 Def. FP+ 104.0 26
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.6 45 Redzone S&P+ 102.6 59
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 18.8 ACTUAL 16 -2.8
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 98 54 64 52
RUSHING 55 44 57 30
PASSING 101 62 68 58
Standard Downs 64 64 63
Passing Downs 38 54 34
Q1 Rk 79 1st Down Rk 58
Q2 Rk 63 2nd Down Rk 60
Q3 Rk 68 3rd Down Rk 72
Q4 Rk 28

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Maty Mauk 6'0, 195 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8964 221 414 2648 25 13 53.4% 23 5.3% 5.7
Eddie Printz 6'3, 205 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8609
Corbin Berkstresser 6'3, 220 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8600
Marvin Zanders 6'1, 185 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8169
Drew Lock 6'4, 205 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9535

3. You are what you are

Mauk is a closer. He made huge throws in the late wins over Tennessee and Arkansas, and he was strangely brilliant in the fourth quarter of games last season.

  • Mauk (first 3 quarters): 52% completion rate, 11.3 yards per completion, 5% TD rate, 4% INT rate
  • Mauk (fourth quarter): 58% completion rate, 14.4 yards per completion, 11% TD rate, 0% INT rate

When you've got what Mizzou had, you can win with that. Mauk was inefficient, and he was a slow starter; more than half of his 13 INTs came in the opening frame. But the Tigers had Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy (combined: 2,008 rushing yards) and a defense that could define the game. Make the game winnable heading into the fourth quarter, wear the opponent down, then throw over the top to win.

By the time you're a junior, you are what you are. You can improve, but your DNA is firmly in place. Mauk isn't going to become a 70 percent passer, a world-class game manager, or a first-team all-conference selection. He is a Kenny Stabler type*, a scrambler and a gambler, in an era of Marcus Mariotas. He's fun and maddening, but he showed he'll make the plays he needs to make.

The question is obvious: will his supporting cast give him that chance this time?

* Stabler did complete 59 percent of his passes in college. That is a mark Mauk can dream of hitting.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Russell Hansbrough TB 5'9, 195 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8721 205 1084 10 5.3 6.7 36.1% 1 0
Marcus Murphy TB
177 924 4 5.2 4.8 40.7% 2 0
Maty Mauk QB 6'0, 195 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8964 85 546 2 6.4 4.7 55.3% 3 1
Ish Witter TB 5'10, 190 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8463 27 101 1 3.7 2.6 40.7% 0 0
Trevon Walters TB 5'10, 200 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8540
Chase Abbington TB 6'2, 215 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8903
Marquise Doherty TB 6'1, 205 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8786
Ryan Williams TB 6'0, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8578







4. Prepare for a heavy load

In the first seven games, Hansbrough and Murphy combined to average 23.9 carries per game and 5.1 yards per carry. In the last seven, they averaged 30.7 and 5.3. The offensive line was in flux and ineffective early, but it began to gel, and Mizzou crafted a run-heavy identity.

Mauk's legs played a role. Though scrambling often gets him into trouble, he's got speed when turning upfield. While a new receiving corps breaks in, don't be surprised to see him run.

The line returns five seniors with starting experience (97 career starts), including three-year starter Evan Boehm and utility guy Connor McGovern, the strongest player on the team, who will likely move to left tackle after time at both right guard and right tackle. In Murphy's absence, Hansbrough will likely be given as large a load as he can handle.

Mizzou's offense was far too inefficient, and that went beyond Mauk's 53 percent completion rate. Hansbrough could get caught dancing in the backfield. Among the 45 FBS running backs with at least 200 carries, he ranked 13th in highlight yards per opportunity (explosiveness), but he was 33rd in opportunity rate (percentage of carries gaining at least five yards). And one iffy carry would beget another one. In 14 games last season, he averaged 4.3 or fewer yards per carry five times and 6.3 or more four times.

Mizzou's line stats told a tale. The Tigers ranked 15th in power success rate and 107th in stuff rate. They got a push when they needed to but sprang leaks. That can't happen as much in 2015.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Bud Sasser WR
124 77 997 62.1% 31.8% 65.3% 8.0 60 8.3 121.4
Jimmie Hunt WR
67 40 698 59.7% 17.2% 44.8% 10.4 207 9.9 85.0
Darius White WR
49 30 372 61.2% 12.6% 67.3% 7.6 6 7.9 45.3
Sean Culkin TE 6'6, 245 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8641 45 20 174 44.4% 11.5% 60.0% 3.9 -88 3.9 21.2
Marcus Murphy TB/WR
43 28 212 65.1% 11.0% 53.5% 4.9 -126 5.0 25.8
Russell Hansbrough TB 5'9, 195 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8721 20 11 58 55.0% 5.1% 40.0% 2.9 -79 4.1 7.1
Wesley Leftwich WR 6'1, 205 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8307 10 3 36 30.0% 2.6% 60.0% 3.6 -8 3.5 4.4
Lawrence Lee WR
9 2 13 22.2% 2.3% 44.4% 1.4 -20 1.4 1.6
Nate Brown WR 6'3, 205 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8922 7 5 45 71.4% 1.8% 100.0% 6.4 -14 N/A 5.5
J'Mon Moore WR 6'3, 190 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8653 6 2 33 33.3% 1.5% 50.0% 5.5 5 5.5 4.0
Jason Reese TE 6'5, 250 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8376 3 1 12 33.3% 0.8% 66.7% 4.0 -2 3.5 1.5
Clayton Echard TE 6'4, 255 Sr. NR NR
Eric Laurent WR 6'3, 215 Jr. NR NR
Raymond Wingo WR 5'11, 175 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8733
Desean Blair WR 6'3, 190 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8582
Kendall Blanton TE 6'6, 250 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8389
Thomas Richard WR 6'1, 190 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8372
Keyon Dilosa WR 6'3, 200 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8141
Johnathon Johnson WR 5'10, 175 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8615








Emanuel Hall WR 6'3, 200 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8498

5. A blank slate of a receiving corps

Consistency in the run game -- from Hansbrough, Mauk, and an intriguing set of backups -- will be vital, as you don't know what you might get from the pass. Never mind Mauk's inconsistencies. He's going to be throwing to freshmen and sophomores.

You're almost never going to see a receiving corps less experienced. Mizzou has double-dipped in the rebuild, losing all three starters after 2013 and again after 2014, and now Nate Brown is the Tigers' career catches leader at wideout, with five.

Brown was a four-star recruit and has impressive upside. Other options, like J'Mon Moore, Ray Wingo (a converted cornerback), and Desean Blair, have major speed and got reps in the spring. Plus, tight end might be intriguing for a school that used to field dominant tight ends. Athletic sophomore Jason Reese's reps increased late, and redshirt freshman Kendall Blanton could become a red zone target soon.

But Mauk, who waited to see an open receiver before throwing, as opposed to throwing them open, is going to be looking for open guys while those guys are going through growing pains. If the run isn't working, it's hard to see Mizzou winning. There is enough potential in the run game for optimism, but ... no pressure, guys.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 113 2.95 3.45 41.5% 76.4% 22.3% 111.6 4.6% 6.0%
Rank 24 62 46 35 15 107 51 65 40
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Evan Boehm C 6'3, 320 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9532 40
Mitch Morse LT
39
Connor McGovern LT 6'4, 300 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8222 28
Brad McNulty LG 6'4, 305 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) NR 15
Taylor Chappell RT 6'5, 305 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8543 10
Anthony Gatti LG
6
Mitch Hall LG 6'5, 310 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8535 4
Jordan Williams LT
0
Alec Abeln C 6'3, 290 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8117 0
Clay Rhodes RT 6'5, 280 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8720 0
Nate Crawford RT 6'5, 290 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8225 0
Andy Bauer LG 6'3, 310 RSFr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9290
Paul Adams LT 6'6, 290 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8494
Sam Bailey C 6'4, 265 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8019
Kevin Pendleton RG 6'4, 315 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8335
Malik Cuellar OL 6'5, 300 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8648
A.J. Harris OL 6'4, 285 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8894

SIGN UP FOR OUR COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWSLETTER

Get all kinds of college football stories, rumors, game coverage, and Jim Harbaugh oddity in your inbox every day.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.75 18 IsoPPP+ 127.3 11
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 38.4% 26 Succ. Rt. + 116.5 21
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 29.4 85 Off. FP+ 101.0 51
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.1 37 Redzone S&P+ 101.9 54
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 29.2 ACTUAL 25.0 -4.2
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 23 15 21 11
RUSHING 26 9 15 12
PASSING 40 25 44 15
Standard Downs 26 29 26
Passing Downs 8 11 5
Q1 Rk 15 1st Down Rk 15
Q2 Rk 17 2nd Down Rk 15
Q3 Rk 20 3rd Down Rk 26
Q4 Rk 42

6. A Barry Odom defense

Three years ago, Odom left Pinkel to ply his trade as a coordinator. He joined Justin Fuente's staff at Memphis and set about attempting to rebuild one of the worst defenses in the country. Memphis had ranked 116th and 117th in Def. S&P+ in 2010-11.

In the three years that followed, Odom proved one of the more tactically agile coordinators in the country. Catering to the talent, he figured out ways to attack. Memphis surged to 61st in Def. S&P+ in 2012, then 40th in 2013, then 23rd (only eight spots behind Missouri).

It might not be the worst time for a creative influence on the Missouri defense. As successful as Dave Steckel was -- he ranked between 15th and 31st in Def. S&P+ in each of the last five seasons -- a lot of his success was built around a disruptive front four, a unit that allowed him to combine pressure and disruption with bend-don't-break principles.

Steckel's Tiger defense managed a unique combination, 21st in Havoc Rate but still in the 65th percentile in the Bend Don't Break measure above. Memphis was 28th in Havoc but only in the 31st percentile in bendability. Odom's defense was flexible against the pass but attacked the run, utilizing an athletic set of linebackers and remaining unpredictable. Hugh Freeze, whose Ole Miss offense faced Memphis last year, said Odom was alongside TCU's Gary Patterson in play-calling prowess.

Odom has built an impressive pedigree. At Mizzou, he inherits plenty of athleticism, but it's distributed differently than what we've seen. Missouri might have its best secondary yet under Pinkel and boasts two steady linebackers in Kentrell Brothers and Michael Scherer, the SEC's two leading returning tacklers, but attrition has decimated the line.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 120.3 2.56 3.01 36.7% 67.6% 21.3% 129.2 5.6% 10.6%
Rank 11 21 38 35 66 38 21 45 18
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Markus Golden DE
13 57.0 7.1% 20.0 10.0 0 2 3 1
Shane Ray DE
14 56.0 7.0% 22.5 13.0 0 1 3 0
Harold Brantley DT 6'3, 290 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8220 14 39.0 4.9% 7.0 5.0 0 3 0 0
Lucas Vincent NG
14 29.0 3.6% 8.0 3.5 0 0 0 0
Matt Hoch DT
13 25.0 3.1% 9.0 3.0 0 2 0 0
Charles Harris DE 6'3, 255 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 14 16.0 2.0% 4.0 2.0 0 2 1 0
Josh Augusta DT 6'4, 345 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9079 14 15.5 1.9% 3.5 1.0 1 0 1 0
Marcus Loud DE
14 11.0 1.4% 1.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Rickey Hatley NG 6'4, 285 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8413 14 9.0 1.1% 1.0 1.0 0 0 1 0
Justin Grava DE 6'3, 250 Jr. NR NR
A.J. Logan DT 6'2, 300 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8210
Rocel McWilliams DE 6'2, 240 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8363
Spencer Williams DE 6'3, 245 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8241
Walter Brady DE 6'3, 255 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7859
Marcell Frazier DE 6'5, 265 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8744
Terry Beckner Jr. DT 6'4, 300 Fr. 4 stars (6.0) 0.9918
Nate Howard DE 6'4, 230 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8603
Josh Moore DL 6'5, 260 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8550

7. Nothing but questions up front

Your expectations of Missouri in 2015 are based on your expectations of Craig Kuligowski, Missouri's line coach, who was named the best in the country by Football Scoop and remained after considering the Illinois coordinator job.

If you assume a Kuligowski line has a high floor, that he could milk production out of walk-ons and high school sophomores, then the experience in Mizzou's back seven could lead to another impressive season.

But holy smokes, does Kul have his work cut out for him. Thanks to the season-ending injuries Brantley suffered in an offseason car accident, Mizzou must replace each of its five leading tacklers on the line. His leading defensive end, Charles Harris, has 16 career tackles, and the rest of the end rotation will feature redshirt freshmen, true freshmen, and a single JUCO transfer (Marcell Frazier).

He still has mountainous Josh Augusta and Rickey Hatley at tackle, and both showed upside. Plus, he's got blue-chipper Terry Beckner Jr. to mold. But this unit is almost as young as the receiving corps. And while Odom should be able to figure out ways to attack with Harris, Beckner, and the linebackers, Mizzou has quite a bit to prove in run defense.

By the way, this is the most Pinkel of lines. Mizzou could start two former two-star recruits, Harris and Walter Brady, sandwiching a former blue-chipper in Beckner. Diamonds in the rough supplementing a few star recruits: it's the Pinkel Way.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Kentrell Brothers WLB 6'1, 235 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8568 14 93.0 11.6% 5.0 1.0 0 4 3 0
Michael Scherer MLB 6'3, 230 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8753 14 83.5 10.4% 3.5 0.5 0 1 1 0
Darvin Ruise WLB
14 21.0 2.6% 0.0 0.0 1 1 0 0
Donavin Newsom SLB 6'2, 230 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9008 14 18.5 2.3% 3.5 0.0 0 1 2 0
Clarence Green SLB 6'0, 225 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8332 14 13.5 1.7% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Eric Beisel MLB 6'3, 235 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8672 13 11.5 1.4% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Joey Burkett WLB 6'2, 210 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8385
Brandon Lee MLB 6'2, 220 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8962
Grant Jones SLB 6'3, 225 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8454
Roderick Winters WLB 5'11, 225 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8096
Terez Hall LB 6'2, 215 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8637








Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Kenya Dennis CB 6'0, 200 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8479 14 55.0 6.9% 4.5 0.5 1 9 1 0
Braylon Webb SS
14 54.5 6.8% 2.5 0 4 3 0 0
Ian Simon FS 6'0, 195 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8256 14 44.0 5.5% 1 0.5 1 3 1 0
Duron Singleton NB
14 40.5 5.1% 2.5 1 1 0 0 1
Aarion Penton CB 5'10, 185 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8423 13 29.0 3.6% 2 0 3 10 1 0
John Gibson CB 6'0, 185 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8423 14 24.0 3.0% 1 0 0 4 0 0
Thomas Wilson FS 5'11, 185 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8568 13 13.0 1.6% 1 0 0 1 0 0
Anthony Sherrils SS 6'0, 190 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8591 14 10.5 1.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
David Johnson CB
7 5.0 0.6% 1 0 0 0 1 0
Chaston Ward S
14 4.0 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Cortland Browning SS 6'1, 205 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8572 11 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Logan Cheadle CB 5'10, 180 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8381
Tavon Ross FS 6'0, 200 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8436
Finis Stribling IV CB 5'11, 175 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8029
Cam Hilton DB 6'0, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8569








Ronnell Perkins DB 6'0, 185 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8566








8. Almost no questions in the back

Mizzou games could be determined by who runs well, because it's possible neither Mizzou nor its opponent will be able to pass.

The Tigers have questions to answer at safety, where sophomores Anthony Sherrils and Thomas Wilson will likely have larger roles in replacing stalwart strong safety Braylon Webb. But this is the best set of cornerbacks Pinkel has had.

Kenya Dennis came on strong late in his first season post-JUCO, and Aarion Penton has been starting for most of his two years. The two combined for 6.5 tackles for loss and 23 passes defensed, and early signs are that Odom will be using these two pretty aggressively. And when he elects to go to a nickel look, either Wilson or veteran corner John Gibson should provide him attacking options.

With a less impressive pass rush and a sophomore as the last line of defense, it's possible that aggression on the edges could backfire. But pass defense is far less of a concern than the ground game.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Christian Brinser 75 41.1 1 28 25 70.7%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Andrew Baggett 6'1, 215 Sr. 75 60.8 40 1 53.3%
Nick Coffman 5'11, 170 Jr. 3 42.0 1 0 33.3%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Andrew Baggett 6'1, 215 Sr. 43-45 12-14 85.7% 6-11 54.5%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Marcus Murphy KR 17 29.6 2
Tyler Hunt KR 5'11, 215 Sr. 4 19.5 0
Marcus Murphy PR 27 10.4 1
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 35
Field Goal Efficiency 31
Punt Return Efficiency 40
Kick Return Efficiency 17
Punt Efficiency 59
Kickoff Efficiency 105
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 89

9. Replacing Marcus

Andrew Baggett is known mostly for hitting the upright in overtime against South Carolina in 2013, handing Missouri its only regular season loss. But he has shown a big leg, and he was consistent inside of 40 yards last season. His return is a boon for the Tigers, who have a question mark at punter and a huge one in the return game.

Murphy was a solid running back and four-year contributor, but he was a difference maker in the return game. His returns played a vital role in Mizzou coming close to a bowl in 2012, and he scored three touchdowns (two against Florida) in 2014. John Gibson and Aarion Penton will get the first crack at replacing him; they're speedy, but they have a high bar to clear.

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk
5-Sep SEMO NR
12-Sep at Arkansas State 71
19-Sep Connecticut 114
26-Sep at Kentucky 52
3-Oct South Carolina 31
10-Oct Florida 29
17-Oct at Georgia 3
24-Oct at Vanderbilt 83
5-Nov Mississippi State 21
14-Nov vs. BYU 45
21-Nov Tennessee 20
27-Nov at Arkansas 12
Five-Year F/+ Rk 30.9% (18)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 31 / 30
2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* 9 / 10.5
2014 TO Luck/Game -0.5
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 13 (7, 6)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 9.3 (1.7)

10. A top-20 team could win 10 games

Mizzou's F/+ progression has shown a series of three-year cycles: peak in 2007, drop in 2008-09. Surge in 2010, drop in 2011-12.

Mizzou hit a peak in 2013 before sliding in 2014. That suggests another drop in 2015 before a 2016 surge, and it isn't hard to see that. Mauk is only a junior, and two young units (receiving corps, defensive line) will be seasoned a year from now.

Still, the 2015 Tigers will have a shot at a nice season. Mizzou does return 13 starters and most of last year's second string. The holes are obvious, but this team does not lack for experience. And there is upside in the form of an explosive running back, a senior-laden offensive line, two excellent linebackers, and awesome cornerbacks.

The Football Outsiders Almanac 2015 (available now in PDF, soon in print) projects Mizzou 20th in the country -- second-best in the SEC East and sixth overall in the conference -- and if the Tigers hit that level, there are plenty of wins. Mizzou is given a 33 percent chance of finishing with 10 or more wins and a 45 percent chance of going 6-2 or better in league play. Georgia is the clear favorite in the East, but if the Dawgs slip up again, scheduling might make Mizzou a more dangerous threat than Tennessee.

This projection feels a little bit aggressive. I picture the Tigers more in the No. 30-35 range, which makes something like 7-5 or 8-4 a more distinct possibility. But that's what I end up thinking every year, and in one direction or the other, I tend to be wrong.