We have officially reached "Wednesday of bye week" status, where all of the regular outlets take a couple of days off from writing about Mizzou football. Luckily basketball fills the void.
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KC Star: After a brutal start in SEC, Missouri gets break to heal
"Different guys are not getting the job done on different plays," receiver T.J. Moe said, "and that kind of screws up the whole offense."
Some of this has to do with injuries. Quarterback James Franklin has been banged up all season because of a variety of ailments, and several offensive linemen have suffered knee injuries, limiting their effectiveness.
But after Saturday’s loss, Pinkel was insistent that it was time to stop blaming bad luck.
"It’s not going to matter, OK?" Pinkel said. "We’ve got to win with our players, and there’s no excuses."
That said, Missouri’s schedule has been brutal. Three of the Tigers’ losses have come to top-10 ranked teams and their last three opponents have all had an extra week to prepare for Missouri because of bye weeks.
"We’ve had a rugged schedule," Pinkel said, "most of them have been night games, most have been long trips (and we) couldn’t catch a break."
Well, the Tigers finally have one. And the hope is that several players will get a chance to heal, especially Franklin, who showed signs of returning to his old, hard-running self before he injured his knee in the first quarter of Missouri’s disappointing 19-15 home loss to Vanderbilt on Oct. 6.
Problem is, it remains unclear if Franklin, who has also battled shoulder ailments and was wearing a brace on his knee against Alabama, will be ready for the next game. Pinkel said he was unsure if Franklin would play, but Moe said he expects Franklin to be ready against Kentucky.
Al.com: As good as No. 1 Alabama is, there is still room for improvement
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The Season Approaches
The Trib (Steve Walentik): Tigers meet the media
● Haith repeated his belief that the Tigers can be "an outstanding defensive team" after adding depth and size with the addition of players such as center Alex Oriakhi and big guards Keion Bell and Earnest Ross.
"Hopefully, those numbers improve — what we did last year defensively," Haith said. "On the flip side, I don’t know that we’ll be the same type of offensive team that we were last year. It’s kind of a little bit of a give and take. I do think that we will have a better presence on the defensive end, protecting the paint and guarding the ball and with our length knocking a lot more balls loose."
● Playing time will be harder to come by with 12 available scholarship players this season -- five more than the Tigers had for the majority of last season. It will also make for some more difficult decisions than Haith had last season.
"It wasn’t like it was easy last year because Mike Dixon had to come off the bench, and that sucker didn’t want to do that, No. 1," Haith said. "And Kim English, he thinks he’s a two-guard, and he had to play the four, so it wasn’t quite that easy last year. I want to remind you guys. ...
"But you’ve got more bodies and more guys have to buy in. But with that said, there’s competition. I think the motivating factor is that if you want to play, you’ll do it or we’ve got somebody else to play."
During his press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Haith said he is looking for one newcomer in particular to make a difference on defense.
"I hope that Keion Bell accepts the role of being the guy that can be a lockdown defender, to be the guy who always guards the other team’s best guy. He’s capable of being that guy and being unbelievable at it," Haith said.
Bell, a senior transfer from Pepperdine, made his presence known at Mizzou Madness last Friday with a highlight reel dunk. The 6-foot-4 guard also possesses the type of athleticism that can make him the backbone of what could be a stout Tiger defense.
"I believe that I can be a shut down defender here. I’ll definitely do my best," Bell said. "With my athleticism and recovery speed, that is something I can do. Our main focus in practice right now is keeping up the defensive intensity and keeping our defensive rotations intact."
Joining Bell as athletic transfers with length are 6-foot-5 junior guard Earnest Ross (Auburn) and Jabari Brown, a 6-foot-5 sophomore from Oregon who will become eligible to compete in January.
"Our length is going to give us the ability to knock a lot more balls loose," Haith said of a defense that led the Big 12 in steals last year. "We will just have a better defensive presence on the defensive end than last year and will do a great job of protecting the paint."
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