2013 Tiger Mailbag: 15th Edition

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Each Wednesday, 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:
ZouFan27 asks: With 2 scholarships in his pocket, who are Haith's realistic targets to fill the spots on the BB team? With the spring game having come and gone, do you have an opinion on whether Franklin will be leading this team at the start of the season?
GD: On the hoops side, there is a report that they're one of the schools that has contacted Eli Carter who is transferring some Rutgers. Thus far, we haven't tracked down anyone else, but that doesn't mean no one else is out there. At this point, I don't think Mizzou uses all three scholarships. In my opinion, two is the max.

On the quarterbacks, obviously Franklin had the best spring and will enter fall camp atop the depth chart. But I still think it will be a wide open competition come fall camp. Every offensive coach has made it very, very clear that is the truth. If the performances are the same in fall camp, Franklin will win the job. If Mauk can make up ground and be the better QB in August, he'll win it. Still don't think there is much chance it is anyone else.
cbwallace asks: 1.  Based on what you have seen so far, have our returning offensive and defensive linemen significantly improved their strength and quickness relative to last year? 2.  Which of our candidate starting quarterbacks has the quickest release, throwing velocity, and downfield accuracy?
GD: I try only to analyze the things that I feel comfortable analyzing. I'm not a scout or a football analyst. Things like strength (without looking at numbers) and quickest release, I just don't really feel comfortable saying because I don't feel I am qualified.

That said, let me try to answer your questions. I know that someone posted the weights and that the offensive linemen are bigger. Kony Ealy and Markus Golden look pretty large to me, in a good way. But I think we often try to analyze these things in a vacuum. If Missouri's guys have all gotten 5% better, it won't matter if the guys from South Carolina and Florida and Vanderbilt have all gotten 10% better. And ultimately, I think that is the problem with trying to take too much out of spring and fall camp. We are only looking at one team. But Missouri's season is not only determined by Missouri, but also by their opponents. Missouri has to get a little bit better to beat Vandy. It probably has to improve a bit to beat Ole Miss, because the Rebels were better last year. It has to get quite a bit better to beat Florida, South Carolina, A&M or Georgia. I guess this is a long way of saying, I don't know if it matters if Missouri's guys have improved a ton compared to what they were last year. I think it matters much, much more how big a stride they have made relative to their competition.
bandg4ver asks: Seems like Tight End is a position with very little depth.  I know that Henson has said he wants to utilize TE more in the offense this year.  After Waters and Culkin, who have we got on the roster that might see playing time?  If those two can't stay healthy, what is the back up plan for this position?
GD: I think only two HAVE to play, but that's assuming they stay healthy and neither Culkin nor Waters has a history of doing that. Clayton Eckard is the third-stringer right now, but honestly, I see no way possible that Jason Reese avoids a redshirt. It would be best for all parties if he was ready to play in early September.
eebtz3 asks: Alright Gabe, you're Gary Pinkel.  This spring you are faced with a decision at QB that very may well decide your coaching career.  What qualities are you specifically looking for in a starter?  Not only physical abilities but less tangible traits as well. 
GD: The tangible, physical things are simple. The guy who makes the most plays and gives me the best chance to win based on practices is my guy. It is that simple. Except for one thing. Just as important as the physical stuff is this: Who will the rest of my team follow? Who will my left tackle sacrifice his body for, laying out to knock a blitzer out of the way? Who will my wideouts jump one inch higher for, extend his fingertips just that much farther for? In other words, who will the rest of my team follow? You cannot be a good football team if the rest of your offense doesn't believe that your coach has put the best quarterback out there. So I'd watch the way the guys respond to each of them in practice. Honestly, with the season being so important, I'd bring guys like Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy and Evan Boehm and Justin Britt and Marcus Lucas in my office. I'd say, "This will never go anywhere else. NOBODY will know what you tell me in here. But I need your honest opinion: Which quarterback do YOU want to play for?" And if I got an overwhelming majority for one or the other, I'd go with that guy.
eebtz3 asks: The young red shirt freshman Sean Culkin is an intriguing young prospect at tight end.  I understand he has had some injury issues this spring ,but has he shown to have some of that play making ability that we saw last fall?
GD: Yes he has. I think he had as many catches as anyone in the first half of the scrimmage. He's got the ability. He just has to be able to stay on the field on a regular basis.
eebtz3 asks: The departure of Will Ebner and Zavier Gooden has created a question mark at two linebacker spots.  A lot of the attention this spring has been given to the quarterback battle as well as the offensive and defensive lines.  Zavier Gooden has been a three year starter and Will Ebner went out with a bang last year.  Are we overlooking this turnover at linebacker?  What are your thoughts on the linebackers this spring?
GD: I wrote a story about this earlier this spring. Donovan Bonner and Darvin Ruise are the starters right now. I've always thought Bonner had a ton of potential and I thought Ruise was great in the spring of 2012. But I think Kentrell Brothers has the ability to really make a push for one of those spots. Those are the top three. Michael Scherer will back up Andrew Wilson and play some as well. I think Donavin Newsom and Torey Boozer can be pretty good, but I think their time is most likely a season away.
doya asks: Gabe..You are Mike Alden. Mizzou goes 9-4 this year....recruiting stays stale.....Mizzou goes 9-4 in '14....recruiting stays near the bottom of the '15 DGB etc are gone...3 years of questionable recruiting....what do ya do ?
GD: 9-4 two years in a row? There is no decision to be made. I mean, I assume you're talking about the coach. Are you really considering relieving a guy of his duties who has an 18-8 record over two seasons in the best conference in the country? Sorry, but this isn't Alabama or LSU. That's a DAMN fine record. If Mizzou goes 9-4 each of the next two seasons, they're going to have played in at least one New Year's Day bowl and quite possibly two. There are only like five or six times in history Missouri has won more than nine games in a season and those pretty much all came in conferences that aren't as good as the SEC in 2013 and 2014. You're not going to fire a guy who put together two of them in a row. Eight wins or more this season means there is no question what will be done. Five wins or fewer means there is likely very little question what will be done. It's six or seven wins that puts you in that gray area where I don't think ANYONE knows exactly how Missouri would proceed.
drawnitsud asks: With so much turnover and roster-juggling, how should we judge Frank Haith so far and what is the amount of time that is fair to criticize or celebrate him? Going forward, what should we see from him to prove the hire was a success?

GD: It is a great question. In general, I think we have a pretty good idea what a coach is after two seasons. But honestly, I'm not sure we know what Haith is at this point. He deserves an immense amount of credit for his first season. Yes, they were Mike Anderson's players. But they never played that well for Mike Anderson. At the same time, Haith didn't recruit any of those guys, so there is some skepticism. In year two, he deserves a ton of credit for making Missouri not only an NCAA Tournament team, but a team which was viewed as a disappointment after winning 23 games and making the dance. Also worth remembering is that Haith was supposed to have Mike Dixon on that team. He found out in late December he would not. How does a coach overcome that? Everything this team lacked, Mike Dixon had. But it was viewed as a disappointment and a team whose performance did not match the talent on the floor. So there are both huge positives and glaring question marks about each of the first two seasons.
If Haith can make this year's Missouri team a tournament team, I think we have to give him some credit and assume he's a pretty good coach, particularly if his incoming recruiting class plays a major role. If he doesn't make the tournament, I'm not ready to write him off by any means. He lost Phil Pressey a season earlier than he was supposed to. He's also won 53 games in two years and if he takes a step backwards, that's allowed. The long way to a short answer is that I think we will have a pretty good idea what Frank Haith is as a coach after the 2014-15 season. That doesn't necessarily mean you will be ready to fire him or sign him to a lifetime contract after that season, but I think we'll have a good idea then.
mexicojoe asks: What chance if any, will we see two of three tailbacks on the field at the same time as part of our O?
GD: It won't be the base offense. I think you will see two of them on the field at the same time from time to time. I also think you'll see some formations with a bigger back or an H-back on the field along with one of the top three tailbacks. But I don't think it will be a staple or anything. More of a situational deal.
coltseavers asks: During certain times of the year, my employer forces me to work. This makes it challenging to keep up with PM news. Any plans to re-institute the chamber? The one stop shop approach with context provided is helpful, at least to me.
GD: We have tried to compile all the daily blasts on Saturday morning for people to be able to catch up. We will continue to try to do that. But the simple fact is, if you're not on here every day, there are going to be some things that slip by and that you probably miss. Hopefully this solution has helped some people out who have asked for the return of the Chamber. It seems to be the best way we can put the news out every day and try to give everyone a recap at the end of the week.
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