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2015 Fierce 40 Previews: #27 Missouri

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 7, 2015

#27 Missouri Tigers

2014 Recap

Just how did the Tigers wind up in the SEC title game again. For the second consecutive year the Tigers had a chance to win but came up short against Alabama after losing to Auburn the previous season. Missouri did win the Citrus Bowl 33-17 over Minnesota, giving the Tigers an 11-3 mark.

Coaching:

Hard to believe about five years ago Pinkel was on the proverbial hot seat, and the question wasn’t if he would go but rather when. 113-66 during his 14 wears at Missouri is impressive, and the Tigers are now being looked at as one of the elite in the SEC, the best college football conference in existence. Josh Henson is the offensive coordinator, a position he has held since 2009. Henson used to be the co-coordinator until taking over as the lone coach leading the offense in 2013. Barry Odom comes over from Memphis, where he served as the defensive coordinator to serve in the same role at Missouri. Memphis ranked 5th in scoring defense a season, an area where Missouri ranked 19th overall (21.1 PPG).

 

Offense Analysis

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

Maty Mauk heads into his junior season as one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the conference. The big problem with Mauk is who he will be throwing the ball to. The top four targets in terms of receptions from a season ago are all gone. Mauk isn’t going to win any 40-yard dash competitions, but he is a tough and gritty, undersized quarterback who uses his legs on many of his throws. Missouri uses a lot of designed roll outs and misdirection to their advantage in the passing game. Mauk is listed as being 6’0” and 200 pounds, although he looks more like 5’11” 185 to be honest.

Look for Missouri to play to their strength which will be running the football with Russell Hansbrough. Hansbrough picked up 1,084 yards on the ground last season and was a nice compliment to the departed Marcus Murphy. Will Hansbrough be as effective in 2015? Chase Abbington will be the compliment and change of pace back who is more of a receiving threat than Hansbrough and should add another dimension to the Tiger offense.

Best Draft Prospect: Russell Hansbrough RB UFA 2016.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

As we have already mentioned the big weapons in the passing game have all departed. Chase Abbington and his pass receiving skills should be on display early, and the Tigers could lean heavily on returning tight end Sean Culkin. Culkin looks to have skills for the next level but will need to add some weight to his frame and become a more consistent blocker along the edge. The three departing starters from a season ago leave behind 147-2063-23 as far as production, and that was without Dorial Green-Beckham who didn’t play a down last season. The three starters now with the team (Wesley Leftwich, Nate Brown and J’Mon Moore) last year totaled 10-115-0. That’s not so say Missouri won’t find success throwing the football, these are just unproven commodities at wideout. Culkin and his 20-174-1 becomes even more important.

Best Draft Prospect: Sean Culkin TE 6th Round 2017.

 

Offensive Line:

Missouri has taken great pride in the prospects their offensive line has churned out over the last few seasons. As individual status and success has been there, cohesion as a unit has been a struggle at times. Mitch Morse was a player they lost to the draft a season ago, and Missouri will likely lose a player or two to the NFL in 2015. Evan Boehm is the backbone of the offensive line, and he’s a center that should be drafted after being the most consistent component along the line over the last couple of seasons. Boehm is durable and has played through a few injuries. Conner McGovern has proven to be another dependable senior who has a shot at the next level. McGovern has some work to do in pass protection, but he is one of the most underrated interior blockers in the SEC. A few other positions along the line remain without a clear cut starter, and we could see positional rotations in place.

Best Draft Prospect: Evan Boehm C 6th Round 2016.

 

Defense Analysis

Defensive Line:

This is a season of turnover for the Tigers after having to replace a pair of defensive ends lost to the NFL for a second consecutive season. The story of Shane ray and his trouble off the football field were apparent before the last draft, and he still managed to be selected during the latter stages of the first round. Markus Golden is also gone from the other defensive end spot meaning a combined 143 tackles with 42.5 coming for loss and 24.5 sacks have moved on to greener pastures.

The news gets worse for Missouri, as defensive tackle/end Harold Brantley was slated to become the next breakout star in the trenches and it looks like he will miss the season after injuries sustained in an offseason car accident. Now the task will fall on some younger players that Missouri thought could wait in the wings but are now forced into more pressure packed roles. Defensive tackle Josh Augusta will look to improve upon his 23 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss from 2014. Incoming players like Terry Beckner will see considerable playing time. This should mean we will see more internal pressure than along the edge as we have in past seasons.

Best Draft Prospect: Harold Brantley DT 4th/5th Round 2017.

 

Linebackers:

Missouri is about as solid as they can be at the linebacker position with leading tackler and All-SEC linebacker Kentrell Brothers back. Brothers could decide to leave early for the NFL with another season of triple digit tackles after posting 122 last season. With Brothers it isn’t just about the numbers and statistics, it’s his play in the big games and big moments during the contests. Brothers has repeatedly risen to the occasion and became a vocal leader for the Tigers, a role that should carry into 2015. Brothers has some help in the form of Michael Scherer, a redshirt sophomore who finished second in tackles with 114 during 2014. We expect Scherer to become more active in pass coverage and covering backs and tight ends in pass defense. Donavin Newsom should man the third linebacker position after posting 24 tackles in a reserve role last year.

Best Draft Prospect: Kentrell Brothers LB 4th Round 2016.

 

Secondary:

The secondary has plenty of experience, but much like the defensive line, the biggest name or playmaker needs to be replaced. Safety Braylon Webb led the team with four interceptions and finished 4th in tackles with 70 last year. The player most likely to replace Webb will be Anthony Sherrils, and he will be paired with returning starter Ian Simon. Simon had one of the 12 interceptions notched by the Missouri secondary a season ago and is coming off a career high 10 stops in the Missouri bowl victory.

Kenya Dennis leads the cornerbacks, as he had a successful first year at Missouri in 2014 after transferring from NAIA Hinds Community College located in Mississippi. Aaron Penton will be the other starting cornerback. Penton has been a starter since he took over the spot during the middle of his freshman season in 2013. One thing Missouri does lack is size, as neither of the starting corners reach 6’0” in height. John Gibson is just a hair under 6’0” and he will be the third corner. Gibson contributed 32 tackles last year and even started five games, so experience is definitely abound at the cornerback position.

Best Draft Prospect: Kennya Dennis CB UFA 2016.

 

Special Teams

Marcus Murphy was second on the Tigers in rushing, and his receiving ability will be missed. Murphy may be missed more on special teams where he was in our estimation the most dangerous return man in America. There are a few players who are lobbying for the return roles on kickoffs and punts, and at this time no starters have been determined. Andrew Baggett is back as the kicker and he was 18-25. Baggett had a few kicks blocks and will need to work on elevation when trying to hit field goals from longer distances. The Tigers have a new punter in freshman Corey Fatony. Missouri has had a game or two swing their way in each of the last two seasons based on exceptional special teams play, hopefully this trend doesn’t stop.

Best Draft Prospect: Andy Phillips K 7th Round 2016.

 

2015 Schedule

September looks like a harmless month for the Tigers before going into the teeth of their SEC schedule. There is no Alabama or LSU on the schedule, and a mid-November SEC schedule breakup with BYU will prove to be interesting. Missouri needs to travel to Arkansas to close out the regular season. It’s a game that could decide who represents the SEC east in the SEC title game.

 

Draft Prospects & Outlook

The biggest question from a draft standpoint will be the status of Kentrell Brothers and whether the junior linebacker will make himself eligible. While Brothers currently carries a 4th round grade that is one we can see rising easily with another big season in Columbia. Missouri has a few offensive lineman we should see at the next level, and Russell Hansbrough remains a dark horse as a running back.