Fall camp starts for Missouri on August 5th. There are plenty of storylines to follow. But PowerMizzou.com has identified ten players whose performances will be key to Missouri's success during the 2010 season.
No. 4: Jasper Simmons became a starter and a reliable player for Missouri in 2009. He was named the team's safety of the year and honorable mention all-Big 12.
Why he's on the list: Simmons was solid as a junior, but needs to be a star as a senior. We've touched on the Tiger pass defense. Simmons struggled in the game against Kansas, though he was good most of the year. In addition to his defensive duties, he may be the Tigers' kickoff return man. That unit struggled last year after losing Jeremy Maclin and needs to rebound in 2010.
No. 5: Junior receiver Jerrell Jackson is Missouri's leading returning pass-catcher. He had 37 grabs for 458 yards last year, both of which ranked third on the team.
Why he's on the list: With Danario Alexander and Jared Perry gone, Missouri loses the bulk of its production at receiver. For the first time in recent memory, the Tigers enter the season without a truly proven wideout. Jackson is the closest thing they have and should be Blaine Gabbert's top target. Jackson may not match the numbers put up by Alexander or Jeremy Maclin in recent years, but a 1,000-yard season should surely be a goal.
No. 6: Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland are on our list as a pair. The two are likely to be Missouri's starting corners, but it's tough to identify who will be the No. 1 corner. Therefore, we put them both on the countdown.
Why they're on the list: Missouri's pass defense has been poor to awful over the last few seasons. That has to change for Mizzou to make another push at the league title game. Gettis and Rutland both had good springs. They both played well at times during the 2009 season, but simply weren't consistent enough. Missouri will need them to be good week in and week out to go where it wants to go this year.
No. 7: Will Ebner enters fall camp as the starter at middle linebacker. Ebner is a junior who took over for an injured Luke Lambert mid-season and was third on the team in tackles with 78. He was named honorable mention all-Big 12.
Why he's on the list: First, he may have more competition for his job than any player in the top ten. Lambert is healthy and will push to be the starter. Either way, Ebner will play a lot. The Tigers lose Sean Weatherspoon from a season ago and the job of filling his shoes will be a corps-wide task. Ebner is the biggest hitter in the group, but will have to be consistent from snap to snap, especially in pass coverage.
No. 8: Elvis Fisher is slated to enter his third season as Missouri's starting left tackle. Fisher missed all of spring with an injury, but was a freshman all-American in 2008 and an honorable mention all-Big 12 selection in 2009.
Why he's on the list: You could make the argument a left tackle should never be quite so low on such a list. But the fact is, Fisher is a fairly known commodity. He has been solid at the position for two years. Missouri needs him to be at least as good this year. It was seen how the Tigers struggled when Blaine Gabbert was hurt a season ago. They need him healthy this year.
No. 9: Austin Wuebbels enters fall camp as a projected starter at left guard. Wuebbels will be a redshirt junior. He started all 13 games a year ago at left guard. However, he was plagued by too-common penalty flags last season and missed much of spring ball with a back injury.
Why he's on the list: With three other starters returning on the offensive line, a good season from Wuebbels could really help a Tiger offense that has plenty of experience. However, Wuebbels figures to get a decent push from the likes of Jayson Palmgren and Justin Britt for the starting interior spots on the line.
No. 10: Starting our list is punter Matt Grabner. Grabner enters his second season with the Tigers, but his first as a projected starter. Last year, he had one punt of 38 yards, which landed inside the 20-yard line against Illinois.
Why he's on the list: Last season, Grabner backed up Jake Harry. Harry had the Tigers atop the Big 12 statistical rankings in net punting a season ago (thanks in large part to Mizzou allowing less than one yard per punt return). He averaged 42.8 yards on 61 punts and had only two touchbacks all season long. Punters often go unnoticed until they make an error, but Harry was solid for Missouri a season ago.
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