L'Damian Washington photo via Bill Carter.
With fall camp starting on Thursday, let's continue yesterday's What To Watch discussion.
While it's always fun to track how freshmen are performing in August, that only matters so much. No matter what, not many freshmen will be playing key roles in 2012. Certain position battles are more integral to Mizzou's immediate success, and while plenty of positions are pretty much locked down heading into August, there are still quite a few worth watching:
Wide Receiver / Tight End. Call me crazy, but it's probably safe to pencil in T.J. Moe as a starting wideout. Bold prediction, I know. And I'm going to go ahead and place Marcus Lucas in the starting lineup as well. But the other two slots (either a receiver and a tight end, or two WRs) are at least somewhat up for grabs. Of the following players, three will be starting for Missouri, and it is not immediately clear who might have an upper hand:
WRs: #2 L'Damian Washington (6'4, 195, Jr.), #15 Dorial Green-Beckham (6'6, 220, Fr.), #3 Gahn McGaffie (5'11, 190, Sr.), #88 Jimmie Hunt (6'0, 215, So.)
TEs: #81 Eric Waters (6'4, 240, Jr.)
If you wanted to, you could throw in a lot more names -- Wesley Leftwich, Rolandis Woodland, Levi Copelin, Sean Culkin, Bud Sasser -- but their odds are minimal. Of the five players above, two will start. We have to figure Washington is the leader for one of the two.
- Center / Left Guard. Really, the big battle here is Mitch Morse vs. Mitch Morse. If Morse (6'5, 295, So.) can continue his high level of center play from the spring, then the coaching staff can simultaneously label him the starter and solve another issue (guard depth) at the same time by permanently moving Travis Ruth (6'2, 295, Sr.) to left guard. If Ruth has to play center, however, then the battle for starting left guard is between, potentially, Mark Hill (6'6, 290, Jr.), Nick Demien (6'6, 295, So.), Connor McGovern (6'4, 295, RSFr.), Evan Boehm (6'3, 290, Fr.) and even others like current center Brad McNulty (6'4, 295, RSFr.) and tackles Anthony Gatti (6'6,2 95, So.), Taylor Chappell (6'5, 290, RSFr.) or Michael Boddie (6'5, 285, RSFr.). If Morse is strong, the line is settled. If he isn't, then it brings a pretty big question mark to the table.
- Defensive End. We heard so much in the spring about the leap Kony Ealy (6'5, 260, So.) was close to taking. But his down-to-down consistency was perhaps still a bit lacking, and at the end of the spring, Michael Sam (6'3, 260, Jr.) was named starter opposite Brad Madison. Ealy's upside is quite high, and if he were to take a step forward in August, Mizzou's defensive upside would also get raised a bit. (That's not meant as a slight to Sam, by the way. He will be a key piece of this defense no matter what.)
- Defensive Tackle. This one is well-documented. We have long assumed that Lucas Vincent (6'2, 295, So.) would be the opening-day starter opposite Sheldon Richardson. But Matt Hoch (6'5, 290, So.) moved to tackle, promptly put on a ridiculous amount of weight, and zipped past Vincent on the depth chart. Vincent is sidelined for a few weeks with an injury, so this might not be much of a battle until late in August. But it is still vital.
- Safety. Both Kenronte Walker and Braylon Webb looked pretty good in the spring, but they only looked so good. Walker (6'0, 210, Sr.) had a steady spring followed by an awful spring game performance, but he is still the likely starting strong safety. Free safety? Right now, Webb (6'0, 210, So.) is the man, but he could still be vulnerable if someone else has a particularly good August. Among the candidates: Daniel Easterly (6'4, 195, So.), Matt White (6'0, 195, Jr.), Ian Simon (5'11, 190, RSFr.), Cortland Browning (6'1, 210, RSFr.) and Ka'Ra Stewart (5'10, 190, Fr.).
So here are today's questions:
1. What battle is the most important for Missouri in 2012?
2. Which one is the most interesting to you?
3. What's your prediction on who wins the battle(s) you just named above?