It's beginning to feel a lot like football season again - maybe because I'm waking up with it 38 degrees in Columbia in LATE-FREAKIN'-APRIL (the Texas boy in me talking, again) or because it's time for another Big 12 Football Roundtable, courtesy of our colleagues at Crimson and Cream Machine. Make sure to voice any objections, agreements, death threats, etc. in the comments below. And since I've pushed it down the page, make sure to help us seed our Mizzou 25: Coaches Edition tournament.
1. Who are some of the new faces that emerged in the spring who could be serious playmakers for your team this fall?
RMN: Several names came up big this spring, with Jared Perry the first springing to my mind. I was driving the Jared Perry bandwagon heading into last season after watching him torch a future NFL first round pick against Kansas in 2006, only to have him fall off the face of the planet in 2007. He looks like he might become a serious weapon, especially if Jeremy Maclin gets the attention we all expect. At tailback, DeVion Moore had himself a hell of a spring and adds yet another reason why I continue to cautiously think that the trio of tailbacks will be more effective than an erratic Tony Temple. Defensively, the improvement of Jaron Baston and the development of depth at the corners make me extremely confident that the Mizzou D should be one of the conference's best.
2. What is your biggest concern following the spring?
RMN: My biggest concerns remain at punter and on the offensive line. Outside of a few decent punts, the majority of Spring Game punts (with no rush, no less) were rather average and the rest were painfully awful. The offensive line might have been one of the most overlooked facets of Mizzou's success last season, and only time will tell how much the loss of Spieker and Luellen hurts that unit. Throw in the questionable young depth behind the starters at O-Line, and that will be concern No. 1 for me heading into the fall.
3. Any major changes (philosophy, coaching or personnel) that you are concerned or worried about?
RMN: No major changes that I have any concern about, just how this team responds to being the hunted rather than the hunter. Mizzou fed off of the "No Respect" card in 2007, and had their most costly loss of the season last year once their opponent could do the same. Last year's team was driven, focused and hungry, thanks primarily to the senior leadership of guys like Martin Rucker, Lorenzo Williams, and Pig Brown. Can guys like Daniel and Weatherspoon keep the intensity, drive and focus in the program? Whether or not they can will go a long way in determining if Mizzou stays nationally relevant into the future.
4. Looking over the 2008 which home and away game will be the most difficult?
RMN: It's hard to decide which home game will be the toughest, because I think Mizzou's toughest two "home" games are actually being played at neutral sites. The Tigers "host" Illinois in St. Louis and "host" Kansas in Kansas City. Given the home slate of SEMO, Nevada, Buffalo, Oklahoma State, Colorado, and K-State, I'll take Colorado as the toughest. As for the road game, I've have Oct. 18 circled for the last year for Mizzou's trip to Austin. A severely outmanned Mizzou team put one hell of a scare into the Vince Young-led Longhorns the last time they were in Austin. Mizzou will also need to overcome some demons in Lincoln against the Huskers in the conference opener.
5. Time for your way too early predictions (Yes, you can change them in August). Rank how you see your division finishing up next season.
RMN: Projected North Division standings:
- Kansas State
- Iowa State