Mizzou Links, 6-16-08

Lots of good links today...

First of all...Ben Askren: Olympian.

"I work harder than a lot of people. A lot of senior level (wrestlers) don’t want to work. They don’t want to be the best," Askren said. "I leave my mind open. I’m watching the Russians, the world champs. I’m picking everything up. I’m more prepared."

Askren, who grew up in Hartland, Wis., lived up to his high school freshman year prediction that he would make the Olympic wrestling team, and now must carry out his prediction of winning a gold medal in China. That could be difficult, given the opposition could be two-time Olympic gold medalist Buvaisar Saitiev, an eight-time world-level gold medalist and one of the greatest wrestlers in history.

"I’m going to win a gold medal," Askren said. "I may have Saitiev in the finals — next to John Smith, he’s my favorite wrestler of all time to watch — and him and me will put a lot of points on the board. And I think there’s a good chance the outcome turns in my end."

The KC Star has more, as does NBColympics.com.

Dr. Rick McGuire has coached an insane number of All-Americans in his years as Mizzou Track coach, but on Friday Brian Hancock became McGuire's first Pole Vault All-American. Hancock is a sophomore, meaning all three of this year's AAs--Hancock and decathlon studs Nick Adcock (sophomore) and Lars Rise (freshman)--will return for the next couple of seasons.

Wondering about next year's basketball newcomers? So was Steve Walentik...so he took copious notes at a series of recent scrimmages. Pretty good stuff. He makes sure not to reach any major conclusions--he was watching unsupervised scrimmages, after all--but there's still a strong amount of detail here. All I want to hear for 2008-09 is that a) Kimmie English is going to be really good (he was quite inconclusive on KE) and b) either Marcus Denmon or Miguel Paul will be sturdy at PG (he seems optimistic about the two of them, but he's not ready to predict future all-conference honors), so we'll see what happens.

Well, it finally happened--an out-of-stater committed. If you had Southlake Carroll DE Brayden Burnett in your pool, you're the big winner. Burnett visited Mizzou, visited Colorado...canceled all other visits and committed to Mizzou.

"I had kind of narrowed it down to the four schools, but I had kind of made my mind up a few weeks ago that I wanted to play in the Big 12," said Burnett. "I had a good time at Colorado, but I fell in love at Missouri and I knew I was home. The Missouri coaching staff is full of good people and the team are a bunch of great guys. The program was the perfect fit for me and is exactly what I'm looking for. I love the campus and it's just everything I could have hoped for."

Burnett's got quite a few offers--to the point where I wouldn't be surprised if he crept up to 4 stars at some point--so this is an impressive get for Pinkel, Steckel, and crew. And I'm sure that having a Southlake Carroll God as our starting QB and Heisman candidate sure didn't hurt, huh? Probably put us over the top against the likes of Colorado, Arizona State, California, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, etc. Oh, and he's on Youtube (though there are a few extra "not sure why these plays were in here" clips...it's like a real 'submitted to coaches' film rather than a highlight video).

Dave Matter's got a nice look at who's got the biggest shoes to fill for the upcoming Big 12 season, including...

8. Jared Perry, WR, Missouri: Perry’s role figured to expand this fall with the loss of productive senior Will Franklin, but Danario Alexander’s recent setback from ACL surgery made it imperative that Perry return to 2006 form when he caught 37 passes and averaged almost 12 yards per reception. The Tigers need a reliable outside threat to complement slot receiver Jeremy Maclin and tight end Chase Coffman. For now, Perry looks like MU’s best - and healthiest - option.

9. Jaron Baston, NT, Missouri: The Tigers return 10 defensive starters from the Cotton Bowl, all but all-conference nose tackle Lorenzo Williams, the unit’s leader on and off the field. Baston essentially split snaps evenly with Williams last season, but MU needs consistent production from the burly junior. One of the program’s strongest players, Baston replaces a durable lineman who played both the run and pass well. Williams led all Big 12 interior linemen with 6½ sacks last season.

Honestly, I'm pretty optimistic about Baston. I worry that a little too much pressure will be put on Perry--now he has to replace both Franklin Alexander to start the year--but hopefully Chase Coffman and an incoming frosh WR or two can alleviate that pressure.

Finally, I'm not going to lie. I thought it was quite unfair for people to expect Tiger Woods to compete with any consistency this weekend at Torrey Pines. I realize he's won at the course as much as anybody's won at any course, ever, but...dude had knee surgery like two days ago. I was wrong. Very wrong. That was some exciting prime time golf last night.

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