The Missouri Tigers signed 25 players in the Class of 2004. One of those was a junior college player and three were freshmen that never made it to the season opener a year ago. Of the 21 on the roster by that point, five are no longer there. That leaves 16 players who came into the Missouri program as true freshmen in 2004. Those 16 should be the nucleus of the team over the next handful of seasons.
PowerMizzou.com took a look at the class and found out that nine of those 16 players are on the two-deep this fall as either redshirt freshmen or sophomores. A number of others could move to that position by the end of fall camp.
William Franklin should be a starter this season. Tony Temple could join him. Van Alexander and Steve Redmond are running second-team at linebacker and should both get plenty of playing time. Ryan Madison is the backup center and should see some snaps. Stryker Sulak is second-string at defensive end and could be a starter at times; William Moore is in the same position at safety. Domonique Johnson is running with the second team at cornerback and will play for sure; same goes for wideout Jerrill Humphrey.
Of the other seven members of the class, all stand a very good shot at seeing playing time in the 2005 season. Brian Barmann should make a push for the No. 2 tight end spot. Chase Patton is battling to be the bcakup quarterback. Jimmy Jackson and Earl Goldsmith will fight for the third tailback job and both could contribute in the return game along with Trenile Washington. While Mack Breed doesn't seem likely to crack the deep rotation at safety, he will contribute on special teams.
While sitting out may not have been fun for all involved, it appears it will pay early dividends for the Class of 2004.
"It wasn't hard at all," said Moore of the redshirt season. "Just learning the system, learning the plays, it was just motivation for me to get out there this year."
"You really don't want to redshirt," said Sulak. "But when it's out of the way and you know everything, you gain weight, whatever, it's a big improvement."
The class really leaned on one another throughout its season of inactivity.
"We're a tight class," said Moore. "We've been that since we came in. We're always on each other's backs."
"Me and Van got pretty close," said Redmond. "We did a lot of work together, talked to each other a lot, make sure we know what's going on with each other. If we don't know, we'll ask each other if we're out there at the same time. You've got to be close out there."
Now, with an opportunity to showcase its skills, the Class of 2005 is ready to go.
"I just want to get on the field and show I can make plays," Humphrey said. "Because I know I can."
Even the members of the class that didn't redshirt have something to prove. Franklin lost his redshirt, but played sparingly and caught only six passes. Temple, ironically enough, had six carries at Nebraska before going on the shelf with an injury. We asked the former prep phenom if people may have forgotten how good he was before health problems cut short his last two seasons.
"Maybe," he admitted. "To be honest with you, I don't care. I'm going to go out there and perform. I'm always going to do it. I only know one style of play and that's to go hard and perform. I feel like I took care of my body this offseason and took care of nutrition and I feel like I should be able to perform."
The second-year Tigers may have one more source of motivation. While every player and coach on the team felt the loss of Aaron O'Neal, it was this class that knew him best. O'Neal signed out of Parkway North High School with the Class of 2004.
"When something like that happens to a guy your age, it hits close to home," said Redmond. "I'll always remember AO. He was one of my good friends. I'll never forget him. I think about him in the back of my mind every day."
"Aaron was one of my best friends," Temple said. "Knowing that we worked hard every day, me and him going out there, I feel like I want to carry that on for him because I know how bad he wanted it."
PowerMizzou.com will be your most complete source for news throughout fall camp. We will be at every practice and update you on the day's happenings live. Stay tuned for a photo gallery and interviews from each day of camp. To talk about it with other Tiger fans, visit our premium forum, The Tigers' Lair.