COLUMBIA MO - NOVEMBER 13: Wes Kemp #8 of the Missouri Tigers congratulates T.J.Moe #28 in the end zone after Moe scored a touchdown during the game against the Kansas State Wildcats on November 13 2010 at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium in Columbia Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Head Coach | Gary Pinkel
2010 Record | 10-3, 6-2 Big 12
Returning Starters | The Tigers return a whooping nine starters on offense and six starters on defense, although several "new" starters on MU's D have already seen significant game action.
Key Additions | JUCO DT Sheldon Richardson could be a nice boost to what will already be a dangerous defensive line. QB Corbin Berkstresser could be the Tigers QB of the future. LB Kentrell Brothers and DE Shane Ray will provide some solid depth at defense, and the Tigers added four offensive lineman via recruiting.
Impact Offensive Player | James Franklin - The sophomore out of Texas will try to keep the MU QB tradition alive, and he has the talent to be a big time player. Blessed with NFL size and athleticism, Franklin can make plays with his arm or his leg. He finds himself surrounded by a lot of talent, which should make his transition even easier.
Impact Defensive Player | Zaviar Gooden - The junior linebacker had a big season last year, and has been named to the Nagurski and Bednarik watch lists. Gooden is poised to have a monster season, and Mizzou will need him to as they try to replace several big losses on defense.
Missouri is returning almost its entire offense a year ago apart from QB Blaine Gabbert, who took his talents to the NFL. Mizzou's offense is now led by sophomore James Franklin, who finds himself surrounded by a lot of talent. Franklin is very dangerous with his legs, which could open up the Tiger's playbook even more. His scrambling ability may be needed more than MU fans originally thought, as star tackle Elvis Fisher was recently lost for the season to a knee injury. Losing Fisher is a monumental blow, as he is certainly one of the best offensive lineman in the conference.
Franklin has three reliable targets to throw to in WRs T.J. Moe, Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp. TE Michael Egnew is also a dangerous weapon, and the Tigers have a bevy of talented running backs led by De'Vion Moore. Also, keep your eye on WR Marcus Lucas, who could be poised to have breakout season.
Simply put, this offense will go as far as Franklin takes it. He has all the tools and talent around him to succeed, and a good year from Franklin will result in the Tigers having one of the most feared offenses in the Big 12 (-2).
While Missouri has had one of the better offenses in the league for the past several seasons, its defense continued to disappoint. Last year, this unit finally made some huge strides, decreasing their points allowed per game average from 25 in 2009 to a league best 16 in 2010. Unfortunately, many players who helped the Tigers achieve this are gone, including feared pass rusher Aldon Smith and OLB Andrew Gachkar. The Tigers also lost several contributors in the secondary and return only 6 players from a very solid defense a year ago.
DE Brad Madison will try to pick up where Smith left off, and could be poised for a big year. Madison was responsible for 7.5 sacks last year, but it will be interesting to see how well he plays now that opposing offenses aren't keying on Smith. Jacquies Smith, who notched 5.5 sacks last year, will man the other end position. Also keep your eye on freshman Kony Ealy, who has the potential to be a breakout star. LB Zaviar Gooden racked up 84 tackles and two interceptions last year, and he will pair with senior safety Kenji Jackson to anchor the Tiger's defense in 2011.
The biggest question mark comes in the defensive backfield, where the Tigers will have to replace both starting cornerbacks from a year ago. Junior Kip Edwards and sophomore E.J. Gaines appear to be the likely starters at CB, and both have seen plenty of game action in the past. While Jackson will man one safety spot, a replacement still hasn't been named for Jarrell Harrison. Tavon Bolden may have the inside track to starting next to Jackson.
Still plenty of talent on defense, but it remains to be seen how the Tigers will perform with the loss of several key contributors from last season.