I-A College Football
 
 
           === Dorm Report: Mizzou's encore is no easy task ===
 
 By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Football Editor
 
 Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - It didn't take long for the Missouri
 Tigers to make a name for themselves in the SEC.
 
 After Missouri went just 5-7 in 2012 in its first season in the conference
 after switching over from the Big 12, it made an incredible turnaround in 2013
 with a 12-2 mark (7-1 in conference play) while coming within a shootout loss
 to Auburn in the SEC Championship Game (59-42) from earning a bid in the BCS
 National Championship Game.
 
 The team temporarily erased the pains of the loss to Auburn with a stellar,
 41-31 victory over Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl to match its highest win
 total in school history. The outstanding campaign led to a generous contract
 extension for Gary Pinkel, the program's all-time winningest head coach who's
 led the squad to a 102-63 record since taking over in the 2001 season.
 
 Now the Tigers are out to prove they are not just a one-year wonder in the
 nation's most challenging conference.
 
 All great teams have to face the reality of player turnover each offseason,
 but Missouri heads into the 2014 campaign rather depleted, especially on the
 offensive side of the ball, where it ranked among the nation's best in points
 per game (39.1) and yards per game (490.7).
 
 The Tigers' three-year starter at quarterback, James Franklin (2,939 total
 yards and 23 touchdowns in 11 games in 2013), has graduated, and a large
 portion of his supporting cast, including running back Henry Josey (1,166
 yards, 16 TDs) and receivers Marcus Lucas (58 receptions, three TDs) and
 L'Damian Washington (50 receptions, 893 yards, 10 TDs), also will try their
 luck at the NFL.
 
 On the defensive side of things, the team will also need to find suitable
 replacements for Andrew Wilson (113 tackles), E.J. Gaines (75 tackles, five
 interceptions) and Michael Sam (19 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks).
 
 Pinkel has faced this dilemma before, but he and his team will be put under
 the microscope in 2014 more this time. After Missouri established itself as a
 legitimate power, failing to build upon last season's success will be viewed as
 a major step backward for the program. Heading into camp this spring and
 summer, Pinkel was very clear about how his team's nucleus will be constructed
 moving forward.
 
 "The foundation of our program is competition," Pinkel said. "It always has
 been and it always will be. There are no guaranteed positions on the team.
 Everyone has to go out there and earn their spots, earn their playing time. If
 a young guy beats a veteran out, they beat them out. It's good for the
 team.
 
 "There's a lot of examples over the years," the head coach continued, "but one
 I always point to is when Brad Smith won the quarterback job as a redshirt
 freshman. He beat out a senior who had been a starter for a couple of
 seasons."
 
 Pinkel made it clear early on in spring practice that no one has sewn up a
 starting spot just yet, leaving the competitions for the top of the depth
 chart fierce across the board.
 
 Despite Pinkel's open competition policy, it seems Maty Mauk has a definitive
 leg up in the starting quarterback race. Mauk filled in admirably last season
 when Franklin went down with a shoulder injury, throwing for 1,071 yards with
 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions in four starts while leading his team
 to a 3-1 record.
 
 Corbin Berkstresser, who was the primary replacement when Franklin was injured
 in 2012 (1,059 yards, five TDs, seven interceptions), also will be in the mix
 if something unforeseen happens with Mauk.
 
 Josey may have earned the majority of the carries a season ago, but the Tigers
 are still expected to have one of the nation's best rushing attacks yet again
 this season. Russell Hansbrough (685 yards, four TDs) and Marcus Murphy (601
 yards, nine TDs) both averaged at least six yards per carry and will assume an
 expanded role in 2014.
 
 "In the SEC, you have to be very deep at every position certainly, but tailback
 is crucial to have three or four guys who can get the job done," Pinkel said.
 "We were very deep last year there, and a guy like Morgan Steward (21 carries
 for 84 yards as a freshman) didn't get a ton of opportunities, but he's trying
 to show now that he can be someone to depend on."
 
 Defensively, the squad has some holes to fill, but tackles Matt Hoch and Lucas
 Vincent, linebacker Kentrell Brothers, and safeties Braylon Webb and Ian Simon
 all return to the starting lineup.
 
 "We had a really outstanding year defensively overall," Pinkel said. "We were
 really physical, really good with turnovers and that's one of the most
 important factors in winning, so we need that to continue."
 
 While the Tigers have plenty to be optimistic about for next season, their
 list of concerns is just as long.
 
 At receiver, the loss of Lucas and Washington makes arguably the team's biggest
 strength a huge question mark moving forward, but now Dorial Green-Beckham (59
 receptions, 883 yards, 12 TDs) has been suspended indefinitely following his
 alleged involvement criminal assault investigation, putting his future with the
 program in serious jeopardy. The five-star recruit also was arrested earlier
 this year on suspicion of drug activity in addition to being charged with
 marijuana possession in October 2012.
 
 "It's unfortunate, but it's the right thing to do for our football program,
 for the athletic department and also for Dorial," Pinkel said of his star
 receiver's suspension. "It's frustrating because we work very hard to instill
 responsibility and discipline in our young men so that our program represents
 Mizzou the right way. These actions aren't representative of those
 expectations, and we are addressing these issues head on."
 
 Without Green-Beckham, the inexperienced receiving corps will be anchored by
 Bud Sasser (26 receptions, 361 yards, TD) and Jimmie Hunt (22 receptions, 252
 yards, TD).
 
 It doesn't appear much immediate help will be coming through first-year
 players, either. Even following such an outstanding season, Missouri failed to
 make a splash on the recruiting trail. Seven SEC teams ranked among
 Rivals.com's top-10 recruiting classes, but the Tigers came in at just 34th as
 they failed to lock down a five-star recruit.
 
 At least the Tigers dodged a few bullets from the schedule makers. Sure,
 they'll have to play their regular SEC East foes South Carolina, Georgia and
 Florida, but they have avoided West Division powers Alabama, LSU and Auburn,
 instead drawing a rebuilding Texas A&M squad as well as the underachieving
 Arkansas Razorbacks.
 
 More than just about any other SEC team, Missouri's potential for success is
 in flux and nearly impossible to predict, but if the Tigers can come anywhere
 close to matching their production from 2013, it'll be a testament to just how
 great a program Pinkel has built in Columbia.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 04/11 05:31:09 ET

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