July 29, 2010

2010 Tiger mailbag: 13th Edition

Each Thursday, PowerMizzou.com publisher Gabe DeArmond will answer questions from subscribers in our Tiger Mailbag. This feature will allow for longer, more in-depth answers than you may get on the message board on a daily basis. To have your question in next week's mailbag, send an email to Gabe at gabedea@powermizzou.com. On to this week's inquiries:

mizzouboy714 asks: How many freshman are expected to contribute this year? Ive heard only about Franklin and Lucas.

That's because I think those are the only two that are a near sure bet to contribute. Nick Demien and Lucas Vincent are good players, but those aren't positions you jump into and play right away very often. Plus, the Tigers have plenty of experience at offensive line and I don't see who Demien is going to unseat. Same with Kony Ealy at defensive end, who will be a player, but comes into the most loaded position on the roster. I think Eric Waters sees the field at tight end. I think Henry Josey or Marcus Murphy could contribute on special teams and in mop-up duty at tailback. And speaking of special teams, keep an eye on guys like Darvin Ruise, Tristen Holt, Xavier Smith and Daniel Easterly. At least one of those guys (and maybe more) could be like Sean Weatherspoon, Andrew Gachkar and Donovan Bonner-guys that play mostly on special teams as a freshman and work into the rotation on defense as sophomores.

jcsc4 asks: Is Gabbert becoming or ready to become the leader that Chase was? We've seen a lot of numbers comparisons, but one of the things that made Chase great was that he seemed to actually will the team down the field when they needed him to.

First of all, I think this is a little subjective. Sure, Daniel did it against Iowa State and he had some great drives in crunch time. But Gabbert had a 97-yarder against Nevada. He took the Tigers right down the field to erase a halftime deficit against Bowling Green. He led a big drive or two in the Kansas game. So I think it's unfair to say he hasn't led drives when Missouri needed them. The next step is for him to do it against a good opponent. Remember, coming out of Daniel's sophomore season, the one knock was that he hadn't really beaten a good team and didn't play great in Missouri's biggest games. As a junior, he lit up Nebraska and won the biggest game in school history at Arrowhead. Give Gabbert a chance this year and see what he can do.

rryan33862 asks: You probably cannot answer this without watching the full squad practice quite a bit, but does our defense look to be any better than last year? Specifically our pass defense was really non-existent against the better teams in the league last year. Our offense would not have to score every time they touched the ball if we could just make some stops on 3rd down from time to time.

You're right, I have no idea. It might be better. The foundation is there. Aldon Smith is one of the top three linemen in the league. Jacquies Smith is good on the other side. The linebacking corps ought to be the best in the North. The secondary has five players who have started games, plus last season's nickel back, all returning. Bottom line, yes, the defense has to improve. The pass defense wasn't just non-existent against the better teams. It wasn't even very good against the other teams. Illinois, Kansas, Baylor and Navy all threw the ball well against the Tigers. You're going to find out about the defense early on. Illinois doesn't have many weapons in the passing game and starts a redshirt freshman at quarterback. If he's putting up Juice Williams like numbers, it's going to be another busy year for the scoreboard operator at Faurot Field and there's going to be some serious heat on the coaches on the defensive side of the ball from a fanbase that would like to see fewer games played in the thirties.

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