2010 Tiger Mailbag: Free 22nd edition

Each Thursday, 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 On to this week's inquiries:
Mizzou Adam asks: What's the latest on Marvin Foster? He looked good as a freshman before the injury. Is he back to 100% or does he still have a ways to go?
I'm not sure if he's 100%, but I did see him warming up in College Station. I've heard some whispers that he may get some more reps, especially in the final four weeks, but Resonno and Hamilton are really playing well right now. Plus, the return of Aldon Smith would mean the return of three or four defensive ends at times. So I wouldn't anticipate Foster being a major contributor this season, but he's still got three more after this one.
MUGRAD asks: I'm sure the coaches will take steps to keep the team really focused rather than getting caught up in the hype that involved, particularly on campus and with friends. Do you get any insights on how the coaches approach this week.
The feeling I get is that the coaches and players try to approach this week just like any other one…at least within reason. They understand the things going on, they know about the hype, but like Andrew Gachkar told me, "we can't throw any Game Day watch parties." The fact is, they've got a game to play. The only thing that changes this week for the team is that it's even more important to play the best game of the season. Because if the Tigers don't do that, nothing else matters. They won't have a chance to win without the best game of the year. So, like Pinkel has said a number of times, you go out and play your best game and whatever happens after that, happens.
mizzouboy714 asks: What areas of the team does the coaching staff need to focus on to win the OU game?
It has been said a lot, but I think it is true: This game is going to be won or lost on the line of scrimmage. In past games against the Sooners, Missouri hasn't run the ball well or done a very good job of protecting the quarterback. The Tigers' offensive line has to do those things against Jeremy Beal, Frank Alexander and company. If they don't, they cannot move the football. On defense, the Tigers might have an edge with their defensive line against OU's front five. The Tiger defensive front has been very good. But the Sooners are the best line they've faced, even if maybe it's not the star-studded group we're used to seeing come out of Norman. Number one for Missouri is containing Demarco Murray. He's as dangerous as anyone in the country. If Murray goes for over 100, I really don't see how the Tigers are going to win the game because that opens up the passing game for Jones, Broyles and the rest. I think the running game for both teams will be a big deal. Missouri doesn't have to have more yards, but the ground game does have to be effective, much like it was for the middle half of the game in College Station, to take some pressure off Gabbert. And, obviously, Missouri has to avoid the turnovers and mistakes that killed them both times they played the Sooners in 2007.
TnMizzou asks: Have we still been using the "Candy" formation or "scorpion" formation on D since Aldon Smith has been out? Who has been seeing snaps at DT other than T Res and Dom Ham?
I haven't seen it. With Smith back, if he's close to full health, you may see it again the next couple of weeks. At defensive tackle, Brendan Donaldson has been the third guy. Jimmy Burge returns this week and I think you go back to the three-man rotation we saw toward the end of non-conference play. Hamilton and Resonno have been very good and that's going to have to continue this week and next.
Harpo88 asks: The blocked extra point in the A&M was a result of a good push right up the middle and they almost blocked two more from the same spot. Who is on our field goal unit? Any correlation to the blocked kick and Mizzou's inability to gain tough rushing yards up the middle?
Beau Brinkley is the longsnapper on field goals. Tim Barnes is the center offensively. So, no, I don't think the two things are necessarily related. I didn't break down the block against A&M, but sometimes, the other guy just makes a good play and beats his man. That certainly could have happened on that play because it's not like blocks have been a problem for the Tigers (this year's two missed PAT's are the first since 2004).
mrtman4444 asks: The defense just seems so much better this year. A lot of the players are the same. What does Steckel think is the big difference. Are the schemes the same or is the mentality just different?
Steckel and the players insist it's simply good team defense. Everyone is doing his job and trusting the other ten guys to do theirs. And there is probably something to that. I mean, Missouri doesn't likely have a first-team all-Big XII defender (though you could make a case for Rutland, Harrison or Gachkar in my opinion) and yet they've got one of the Big 12's best defenses so far. In my opinion, it's the secondary. The Tigers were blitzing a ton against A&M and simply trusting the corners and safeties to take care of the coverage downfield (and at times, even the linebackers). Those guys got the job done. Two years ago-even last year-they didn't. I think Rutland, Gettis, Edwards, Harrison and Jackson deserve the most credit for this team getting better on defense. But the line also has a lot to do with it and the trio of Gachkar, Gooden and Lambert is probably Missouri's fastest overall linebacking corps.
wcowherd asks: What does a win on Saturday mean for Mizzou?
It would be, without a doubt, the biggest win of Gary Pinkel's career. It would mean the fans and the national pundits who doubt him and his program would have to shut up. Period. To beat the top team in America in a nationally televised game, well, you can't pay for that kind of publicity. It would mean Missouri remains in the driver's seat in the Big 12 North (and may be in complete control depending on what happens in Stillwater). It would mean the Tigers would be alive for a national championship through the season's first seven weeks. It would be, quite simply, the biggest win in this program's history…or at least in its last 40 seasons. There's simply no overstating how huge a win would be.
stevec2 asks: What does a loss on Saturday mean for Mizzou?
Honestly, all it means is that you're probably not winning a national title. I think the Tigers are playing with house money. The ONLY thing you lose if you lose this week is a shot at winning the whole thing. And considering that six days ago, there wasn't a single Missouri fan who had that as a realistic goal, that's not a ton to lose, in my opinion. It also means you have to win in Lincoln to win the North, regardless of what the Huskers do against Okie State. But guess what? We have all thought that was the case all along anyway. You can lose this game and still have an amazing season.
Now, let me amend that just a little bit. Missouri fans can handle a loss. But it can't be the type of loss they've had to OU and Texas too often in the last three years. The Tigers have to compete. This game can't be 35-7 at halftime. If it is, there is going to be an unbelievable amount of wind taken out of the sails. It is possible the hangover carries through to next week. If Missouri fights and loses a 27-20 game in the fourth quarter, I don't think fans will be all that angry. If they get the doors blown off them, we're going to hear the same things from the fans and the national media that we've heard for the last four years. Yeah, Missouri is a decent team. Yeah, they beat the teams they should beat. But they still can't compete with the big boys and there's still no reason for anyone outside the Big 12 North to pay them any attention.
Winning would be huge. But I think you can gain something out of the game even if you don't win. Bottom line, Missouri has to compete in this game. If the Tigers have a legitimate shot to win in the fourth quarter, you take that and deal with whatever may happen afterwards.
Due to the sheer volume of questions, we can't answer every one every week. If your question did not get answered, give it a shot again for next Thursday. The Mailbag will run every Thursday on the site.
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Thursday brings back the Tiger Mailbag. Though the Tigers are on a bye week, fans still have plenty on their minds about the 2010 season. What does the team do during the bye week? What does the future hold for the Missouri offense? Those answers and more in this edition of the 2010 Tiger Mailbag.
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