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September 11, 2013

2013 Tiger Mailbag: 17th Edition

The Tiger Mailbag is sponsored each week by Duke's on Grand. To find out more about a loyal Mizzou bar in Kansas City, click on the logo above.

Each Wednesday, 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 powermizzou@gmail.com. On to this week's inquiries:

mexicojoe asks: We have yet to throw a screen pass, swing pass to a running back, or target the TE in the passing game. Why not?

GD: First of all, I'm not sure that's true on the running backs. It may be, I can't remember every play. But I know it's not true on the tight ends. Waters has been targeted at least once in each game (I think Culkin was in the first game once, but I'm not positive). On the running backs, it is a little bit surprising because we've seen that play be successful for years against Missouri so you would think the Tigers might try to implement it themselves. I'm flat out shocked about the tight ends. After hearing how versatile they were and how much a part of the offense they were going to be, they've honestly been used more or less as blockers in the first two games. I expect that to change, but we'll see.

All that said, let me offer a reason: The Tigers have run the ball 92 times and have been in a position in both games where they really didn't throw the ball for at least the last ten minutes. In addition, they've got a group of wide receivers that goes seven or eight deep. I've seen people asking why Hansbrough hasn't gotten more carries, why DGB isn't targeted more often (more on that in a second). There are only so many plays in a game. It's not realistic to throw to the tight ends ten times, the backs five times, every receiver five times and run the ball 40 times. That would come out to about 100 plays a game. Missouri hasn't run that many plays yet.

coltseavers asks: Do you expect the coaches to begin making a more concerted effort to involve DGB in the offense? To date, he's been a 5 star decoy.

GD: All due respect, you're just wrong. He was targeted six times in the first game and caught four in just a little more than a half. He sat the second half against Murray State and Mizzou targeted his replacement, Jaleel Clark, five times. In the second game, he caught five passes. That tied for the team lead. He has more receptions for more yards than any other player on the roster and is one of four receivers with a touchdown catch. In other words, he's the most often-used receiver on the roster. If that's a decoy, I guess the entire passing game is a decoy.

Honestly, I don't think there's a way for Missouri to use Green-Beckham enough to satisfy fans unless they literally throw to him on every pass play. Going forward, as the competition becomes a little bit more, well, competitive, I think the goal should be to get the ball to him ten to 12 times a game. In the first two weeks, there's really been little need to feed him any more than they have.

mestizo asks: Is it just me or was the pace slow on the first series last game? I expected to see Oklahoma 2010 fast this year the way Henson was talking.

GD: I don't specifically remember thinking that about the first series, but you may be right. I think the pace was slowed a little bit last week by the heat. It was like 420 degrees on the field last week. I don't think you can ask your 300-pound linemen to run a play every 20 seconds in that heat. What I really liked about the pace last game was that when the Tigers got the ball in the final ten minutes up two scores, they slowed it down. When they got it with five minutes left, they never gave it back. That's been one of the most valid criticisms of this system for years: When the situation called for Missouri to slow it down, they either didn't do it well or didn't do it at all. They did on Saturday. I think that's a good sign.

Jay0864 asks: Is it just me or has the blitz callsfrom Coach Steckel been tremendously reduced? If so, do you think it is a matter of not showing your hand to SEC teams? Or is it more purely a game plan for Toledo since blitzing against a screen / swing pass offense could lead to big plays?

GD: I haven't broken it down or had a chance to ask the coaches, but I think it's probably fair to say Missouri didn't blitz much in the first two games. When you're playing a team that you can out-athlete and out-talent, I think the approach is to make them prove they can go 12 plays and 75 yards on you repeatedly before you blitz. Blitzing opens you up to the possibility of giving up a big play. The best way for a decided underdog to pull an upset is to get a big play or two and score easily. I think it's smart to make teams like Murray State and Toledo have to put together long, mistake-free drives rather than giving them a shot to get 50 yards on one snap. That said, if the Tigers think they'll have any shot against some of the quarterbacks they'll be facing once SEC play starts by sitting back and giving up short completions down after down, I would disagree. I think you'll see more creativity and blitzing on defense in the coming weeks.

mugamer asks: If Mizzou targets DGB 10 times a game,can you give your best prediction forhis total yards/TD's for the season. Also, how much of the offense do you think we've seen after the Toledo game?

GD: RIght now he is averaging 4.5 catches for 67 yards a game. If they target him ten times, I'll say he catches six or seven a week and averages 15 a catch, which would put him around 1,000 yards for the season. I'd think you'll see him used more and more in the red zone and he's got a chance to have double digit touchdowns.

As far as the offense, I think you've seen the basics. I don't think there are a ton of formations they haven't used. But there certainly are some wrinkles or tricks that there was no need to pull out against the Racers or the Rockets.

aarondyoung asks: If Mizzou keeps winning games, at what point would we enter the Top 25?

GD: Obviously it depends somewhat on what happens with teams in the bottom ten of the rankings. But I think it's going to take a 5-0 start. Missouri isn't even receiving votes right now (and I don't think that's wrong). With Indiana losing to Navy, any bump you would get out of that win probably goes away. Beating Arkansas State isn't going to make a big impression on anyone. If the Tigers sweep the non-con and then go to Nashville and get a win, I think you'd see them in the rankings or, at worst, just outside of them. Of course, Vandy faces South Carolina this week and is likely to enter that game 3-2 with the most impressive win over UAB. If you really want that game to be monstrous, you want the Commodores to upset the Gamecocks.

ZouFan27 asks: Can you explan the basketball scholarship situation? How many are available? Who ar we waiting for? Does someone get nudged out for higher prospect?

GD: As of right now, Missouri is technically at the limit of 13 scholarships for the 2014-15 season. The Tigers have 11 scholarship non-seniors who are slated to be back for that season, plus they have Chris Sandifer and Jakeenan Gant committed. But I PROMISE you Mizzou has at least one scholarship left to give because there's absolutely no way they'd turn Devin Booker away. Sources also indicate to me they'd take Sam Cassell, Jr., if he wants to come. I'm not as sure on Ahmed Hill. But as we say all the time, the real answer to the question of "How many scholarships do they have left?" is "As many as they need." It will work out. There is consideration that Jabari Brown and/or Jordan Clarkson could go pro. Somebody might transfer. Somebody might not qualify. The Tigers are willing to add at least two more players. The rest will sort itself out. It always does.

cfudgeman asks: Missouri has a bye week and this gives the coaches two weeksto fix what needs work. The question is which 3 areas do you think will be/should be addressed themost?

GD: I'm not sold on the defensive line. I think moving Harold Brantley in to the starting lineup helps in the middle, but even defensive end, which is Missouri's deepest position, hasn't been dominant by any means in the first two weeks. The Tigers aren't getting much pressure on opposing quarterbacks and that will have to change.

I think special teams has to be a major area of focus. Kickoffs and returns are fine, but I'm not sold on the placekicking and the punting last week wasn't very good at all. You can expect at least one game to be won or lost on special teams this year, so I think that has to be a major area of focus.

I also think it's important that by the time they travel to Vanderbilt, the Tigers have at least two or three backup offensive linemen they feel good about playing. Max Copeland has already gotten banged up (a source told me he was probably more injured than we all realized in the Toledo game but simply refused to come out). It's unrealistic to think you're not going to have any injuries on the line. I think Mizzou feels fine about its first five, but you really need to have a bare minimum of seven or eight guys you feel you can win with. I'm not positive Missouri has that as of right now.

brosept asks: With Mauk getting a series in each of the first 2 games and the staff expressing that they want continue doing so...are Mauk's plays scripted or called from the booth?

GD: I would assume they're called from the booth. I don't know how you could script plays for the second quarter before you have any idea how the first quarter goes. Pinkel said they would like to continue to get him a series in the second quarter but that it would be decided on Thursday on a week by week basis. I've stated that I don't love the idea personally, but it's not my decision to make. I think you have to see how the game is going. If Franklin is playing well, why pull him?

Jrodey121 asks: Mizzou only has 3 sacks on the season against two of the worst teams we will play. I know both the QB's we faced were dual-threat, but it seems like our D-Line didn't make many impact plays and weren't able to contain them. Why do you think there haven't been many sacks? I feel like our D-Line has talent (especially against RBs so far) so it doesn't add up for me. I'm worried we won't even touch the QB against SEC O-lines. It the lack of sacks a fluke or a major concern in your opinion?

GD: It's definitely a concern. It's far too early for me to know whether I should classify it as a "major" concern, but it's something to keep an eye on and Pinkel acknowledged that after the last game. Part of it is that they're not blitzing much, but as you said, I think you ought to be able to put pressure on Murray State and Toledo without blitzing. Not every snap, but more than Mizzou has. Part of it also has to do with the offensive game plans of the opposition. They're throwing a lot of quick, short passes, designed to get the ball out quickly. Of course, I think other teams will do that too. I don't look at the sacks as much as I do just the idea of, are they putting pressure on the QB and making him throw before he's ready? So far, they aren't doing enough of that.

FlightAttendant asks: Is Cassell Jr still alive?

GD: We assume so. He's not responding to our calls and texts and until he does, there's not much we can do about it.

MichaelGaio asks: What's your favorite football stadium you've been to as a journalist... Taking into consideration things like hospitality, sight lines, food, location, atmosphere, etc. ?

GD: I loved the Horseshoe in Columbus simply because it's one of the icons of college football. But it was loud and I was a bit, um, dehydrated, so not my best day. I like the press box and the view in Norman. The food at Kansas State was always top notch. You can tell what Tennessee would be when it's full and the fans are into it. As an overall stadium and atmosphere, I'd say South Carolina has been my favorite. That place was just going nuts and it was a good view from the press box to watch the game.

ABaumli asks: We have heard that "Pinkel likes this team". Can you elaborate on this statement? or is it just annual coach speak?

GD: I don't think it's just coach speak. I mentioned on the board that Pinkel must have said six or seven times in his post-game how all the pieces are in place and he thinks Mizzou has a chance to have a good team if the Tigers continue to improve throughout the season. I've also had discussions with people who talk to the coaches and tend to get far more straightforward answers than the media does and most of them tell me the coaches think this team can be pretty darn good. Obviously, the health has to hold up and Missouri has to continue to improve throughout the season, but I think they feel they've got a chance to be better than most of us (myself included) have predicted.

ABaumlin asks: What do you think Mizzou should/could do to increase excitement/exposure for their midnight madness for basketball?

GD: They have to win big and win in March. And that's really it. I think Missouri has good fans in both sports. But I don't think they have the rabid, show up no matter what because this is my team type of fans that you see for football programs like Nebraska or Michigan or basketball programs like Kansas or Indiana. It's just not the culture of the fanbase. I think every fanbase is more vocal and visible when the team is winning. But some will continue to be pretty good even if the team isn't great. Missouri hasn't been that way. I think Tiger fans have always needed to see success before they buy in. The spring game, midnight madness, things like that simply aren't appointment viewing for Tiger fans. And it takes a LONG time to change that.

Cards1968 asks: When do you think the Miami investigation will conclude, and is Haith's job still in jeopardy?

GD: I hate to put a time period on it because with the NCAA, who ever knows? If I had to guess, I'd say it's done some time in September or October. It's really hard for me to see a scenario where Haith has to worry about his job anymore based on the investigation.

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