Missouri’s 2017 season begins Saturday on Faurot Field as the Tigers wrap up spring practice with their annual Black and Gold Game. If it seems like you completely forgot about it, we wouldn’t be surprised considering how Missouri’s basketball team has dominated the past month.
Let’s take an alphabetical look at what to watch for in Barry Odom’s second spring.
This time last year there was a lot of concern about the lack of depth on Missouri’s offensive line, so much so that I wrote they shouldn’t even play. That’s kind of how it feels with regards to the entire defense this year.
Defensive end Marcell Frazier broke his arm last Saturday but should be back by this fall. Defensive tackles Terry Beckner and Markell Utsey likely won’t play. Receiver Nate Brown had shoulder surgery and missed the last few weeks, but he too should be ready to go for the season. Coinciding with the departures of stalwart defensive talents Charles Harris, Aarion Penton, Michael Scherer, Josh Augusta and Rick Hatley, it’s no wonder Missouri’s defense is the biggest source of concern for fans.
That means Barry Odom’s defense is going to need a lot of young players to stay healthy in the coming months. Keep an eye on young guys like defensive ends Nate Howard, Tre Williams, JUCO defensive tackle Rashad Brandon plus linebackers Brandon Lee and Terez Hall.
David Morrison, and others, has gone in-depth several times about the issues facing Josh Heupel’s explosive offensive scheme from last year. For the Tigers’ offense to take the next step it must pair efficiency with explosiveness.
We’ve heard positive things about redshirt sophomore receiver Johnathan Johnson, particularly about his hands. It remains to be seen if the same is true about the rest of the receiving corps. Can J’Mon Moore drop the perceptions about his ceiling, can Dimetrious Mason, Emanuel Hall or someone else become a reliable option?
We like Ish Witter settling into the role as a third down back, but it wouldn’t hurt if running back Damarea Crockett added some pass catching yards in his sophomore season. Nate Strong was re-instituted to the team after an undisclosed suspension held him the first two weeks of spring practices. Finally, watch out for early-enrollee Isaiah Miller out of Jacksonville, Florida—kid is a dynamic athlete.
Gone are Aarion Penton and John Gibson at cornerback, but Christian Holmes and DeMarkus Acy seem primed to step into starting roles with Logan Cheadle providing experience. How they adjust to bigger roles and handle changing schemes will determine how high the Tigers’ defense is.
“Who starts at safety?” is a looming question since Anthony Sherrils battled with Cam Hilton, Thomas Wilson and Ronnell Perkins last year, plus Kansas State transfer Kaleb Prewett is now in the fold.
With Missouri’s entire secondary now being coached by Ryan Walters, the hope is safeties and corners get on the same page both in coverage and in tackling. Many of the issues with last season’s defense were due to surprisingly poor tackling and an inability to get turnovers.
The Black and Gold game could be a high-scoring affair for the Tigers’ first team offense, if only because the first team defense is missing so many starters. Drawing too many conclusions from either side would probably be a mistake, but individual performances, especially from backups given an opportunity to shine in one on one matchups.
As mentioned at the top, Missouri’s defensive line on Saturday will barely resemble the one that starts against Missouri State this fall. JUCO defensive tackles Malik Young and Walter Palmore (pictured far left and far right below), haven’t even made it to campus but promise to contend for playing time.
Missouri will be hosting a few recruits for next year, including Top 10 St. Louis targets linebacker Ayodele Adeoye and receiver Kamryn Babb, as well three star all-purpose back Jalen Knox from Arlington, Texas.
Could Missouri be on commitment watch for both football and basketball this weekend?