2016 SEC East Football Preview: Missouri Tigers

Should Missouri fans be worried for the first year under new Tiger head coach Barry Odom?

Missouri players, photo courtesy of Flickr, obtained using creativecommons.org

After a successful first two seasons in the SEC, the Missouri Tigers struggled to a 5-7 record in what would be the final season for head coach Gary Pinkel. Missouri started off last season strong, defeating Southeast Missouri 34-3 and followed that with narrow victories over Arkansas State and Connecticut.

However, their season then began to fall apart.

Beginning with a loss at Kentucky, the Tigers would only win two more games. At times, the defense for Missouri showed flashes of brilliance and kept them alive in close situations. However, the offense was never able to get things going. New head coach Barry Odom has a lot to do in order to build this program into a powerhouse.

Strengths

For a team that went 5-7 last year, the Tigers had one of the best overall defenses in the nation. They finished the season at 6th in the nation in total defense, allowing an average of 4.32 yards per play and 302 yards per game. Even though the defense is losing its best player in Kentrell Brothers, they return the next five leading tacklers. Leading the front seven will be Charles Harris and Walter Brady, two of the top pass rushers in the nation last season. Brady had seven sacks in his first season last year and the front seven only allowed an average of 133 yards per game. The pass defense finished 5th in the nation last year and will be just as good with Anthony Sherrils and Aarion Penton holding down the secondary. Although, for this defense to exceed their high expectations, they need to create more turnovers than last year.

Weaknesses

The most obvious weakness for the Tigers is their offense. They finished last season ranked 124th in total offense out of 128. The good news is that they return a lot players on that side of the ball, but there are still questions to be asked. Sophomore quarterback Drew Lock is the clear cut leader of this offense, but he needs to step up from last season in order for this team to be successful. New offensive coordinator Josh Heupel will build an up-tempo offense for Lock, but he needs great playmakers. In order for this offense to be successful, they need to develop a strong running game to go with Drew Lock and the passing game.

Players to watch:

QB Drew Lock, Soph.Lock struggled a lot last year. Some say it was because he was a freshman and needed to learn the system. However, he showed flashes of greatness and is a “lock” as the starting quarterback. Hopefully, with a year under his belt, he develops more and becomes one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC this season.

RB Alex Ross, Sr. — A former Oklahoma Sooner, Ross was pushed out of the rotation because of the emergence of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. He’s a big runner who should put up big numbers on the ground and as a kick returner.

DT Harold Brantley, Sr. — Brantley missed his entire senior season recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident last year. Since coming back, he’s taken a lot of reps and has impressed the coaches in practice. He should be an anchor for this stout defense.

Games to watch:

Sept. 17 vs Georgia

Last season, Mizzou lost a close game to Georgia by a score of 9-6. With this being their SEC opener, it should set the tone for the rest of the season. With their next two SEC games being at LSU and Florida, the Tigers could be 2-4 by the end of that stretch. A win against Georgia would benefit them if they want to become bowl eligible this season.

Oct. 29 vs Kentucky/ Nov. 12 vs Vanderbilt

Both of these games last season were heartbreakers. In the Tigers’ SEC opener last season, Missouri lost in Lexington by a score of 21-13. A couple of weeks later, they traveled to Nashville and lost 10-3. In order for this team to bounce back and become bowl eligible, these are must win games.

Season prediction:

5-7

Losses: @ West Virginia, vs Georgia, at LSU, at Florida, at South Carolina, at Tennessee, vs Arkansas

Edited by Jordan Dajani

Featured image by eagle102.net

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Sports writer for the Tennessee journalist and sophomore Business Analytics Major at UTK. Somehow finds time to balance writing for TNJN and being in the Pride of the Southland Marching Band. Follow him on Twitter @bwoody_72