This whole "under the radar" thing is both kind of nice and disconcerting. Kentucky drew 50,000 for its spring game a week ago, but Mizzou will not draw anywhere close to that, and while I'd love 50K (and I'm fine with virtually every "spicing up the spring game" suggestion I've read in recent days), I'm fine with the thought of this game happening in a bit of a vacuum, and with Mizzou staying basically invisible for another few months. Spicing up the spring game might bring a few more fans to town; winning a lot of games in the fall will bring a lot more fans to town next time around.
All I ever hope to get out of a Black & Gold Game are a) some play-makers making plays, b) no injuries, and c) some sun. The weather is looking pretty encouraging, and there are certainly some candidates for the play-maker title. See you out there. I don't know where we'll be sitting, but feel free to drop me an e-mail if you're also heading to the
OFFENSIVE CHANGES: Before he was promoted to coordinator in late December, Henson had a vision for some changes he would like to see in Missouri's offense. Maybe the most important was a simpler method of calling plays and signaling them to players on the field.
"Everything is so much easier to think about," Mauk said.
The result, Henson hopes, is a faster pace to the no-huddle offense.
Other changes should be on display, too. Henson's offense didn't feature any empty-backfield formations in the two previous scrimmages. Tight ends are often attached to the line of scrimmage. Quarterbacks, now working under longtime receivers coach Andy Hill, are throwing more play-action passes.
Rick started with the basics, showing Josh simple plays using X's and O's. A few days later, everywhere Rick and Mary stepped, they found scraps of paper scribbled with Josh's handwritten plays.
"We had some end tables for a long time," Rick said, "and when it came time to replace them, I turned them over to throw them away, and there were plays drawn on the underside of the tables."
Lying on his back, little Josh had turned those tables into his version of the Sistine Chapel.
Nearly 30 years later, his plays will be on display again this fall — this time, for thousands to see.
After 12 years as a college position coach, Henson, 37, was named Missouri's offensive coordinator last Dec. 17. For the first time in his career, he's tasked with designing an offense. His staff will collaborate on decision-making, but he'll be the lead voice in calling plays. As the Tigers prepare for their second season in the Southeastern Conference — the offense bottomed out in last year's 5-7 SEC debut — Henson understands the challenge facing him and the program.
And he can't wait to prove he knows what he's doing.
"I'm really anxious for the season," he said earlier this spring. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity to prove what we are. And, so, that part of me, to tell you the truth, it's kind of got me pissed off. And I'm excited about that."
"I think there’s a fine line between talking too much and not talking enough, and I’m just trying to balance that line and say what needs to be said when it needs to be said," Wilson said. "It’s easy to lead when everything is going good, but when adversity hits, that’s when you’ve really got to lead."
To that end, cornerback coach Cornell Ford said Gaines will be charged with the same duty, just by nature of his talent — Ford sees Gaines as a future pro — and impressive practice habits, which Pinkel is fond of praising.
"He had a great year, one of the best years for a defensive back I’ve seen since I’ve been here," Ford said of Gaines’ 2012 season. "But if anything, he’ll have more on his plate this year. He’s a very competitive guy, but quiet. He’s always been a leader by example, but we need him to be a more vocal leader this year."
Gaines, who said he received a fourth-round grade from the NFL Draft advisory board, elected to come back to school to finish up his degree and work on some of the finer points of his game, such as zone coverage, ball skills and technique. But among his goals for 2013 — which include becoming a first-round pick and all-conference player — is rising to the challenge of being a vocal leader for a team that very much needs it.
8. Who comes from off the radar? Maybe nobody. But is there a guy we haven't done a lot of talking about that will have a big game on Saturday. To be honest, Saturday is one practice. It isn't any more important than the other 14. But it is the one fans see. And if there's a player that comes out and makes a huge statement, people will talk about him. If I had any idea who it was, he wouldn't be off the radar. But I'll be interested to see if there's anyone that can jump into the conversation that we've been ignoring.
9. Can Corbin Berkstresser make a charge? We'll revisit question number on here. It's clearly the most important question for the Tigers. If you're not set at QB, you don't have much chance to be good. And over Gary Pinkel's time at Mizzou, it's been pretty clear that if the Tigers aren't good at QB, they're not going to win many games. Most (myself included) have made this quarterback race a two-man competition. But are we premature in that? Berkstresser got some experience last year. Overall, it didn't go that well, but did the experience get him ready to be much better as a redshirt sophomore? Saturday might give us an idea. If he outplays Franklin and Mauk, what does that do to the QB question entering fall camp?