It's time to look past the Spring which continues to be late in its arrival anyway, and take stock of where our beloved Tigers will be on September 1st when they march back in to what's left of Memorial Stadium mid-renovation. The good news is ... that there is actually good news.
Drew Lock's decision to return to Mizzou for his senior season, continues to be the most important off-season development for this team. The veteran QB will contribute a vital level of consistency for what has been a very potent offense, and gives Barry Odom an additional year to find the next great arm the Tigers and all college football teams are in constant search of.
There has been some concern about who Lock will be throwing to this season, but early reports are that the receiving corps is looking sharp. There are 12 wide receivers on the Tigers' and four tight ends on the spring roster. Emmanuel Hall and Johnathan Johnson are experienced and ready to become leaders, and Albert O has already become one. Along with that, the Mizzou coaches' annual tradition of telling us how good Nate Brown is looking and then refusing to play him, has begun. We're reasonably confident that Lock will find targets in 2018.
On the ground, the Tigers look equally primed for success. Damarea Crockett and Larry Rountree III have been giving SEC defenses fits, and now that Ish Witter has completed his 16 seasons on the Mizzou roster, they'll have even more opportunities to bulldoze linebackers.
Defensively, we are so happy to see Terry Beckner Jr. return. We still have no idea why he didn't bolt for the NFL, but he'll be as needed now as he's ever been. Barry Odom has never quite gotten it right on defense, but having an NFL caliber lineman leading the squad is a great place to start. The big question is who else on this defense will make a star of himself? The secondary was just awful last season so we don't lament the departures of our seniors as much as some. We have a lot of warm bodies, but will any of them stand out? Who the hell knows. Anybody who tells you they do is full of it.
ESPN recently projected the Tigers to have seven wins this season, and honestly, that seems about right. We get to play Alabama in Tuscaloosa this year (whoopie) and Georgia looks to be as good as any Georgia team we've ever faced. We do get the opportunity to correct some unforced errors we made last season by taking on Purdue again, and hopefully by treating Kentucky like the doormat that they are, for once. But the Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee matchups are as much a crap shoot as they ever are.
One interesting matchup on the schedule is Barry Odom's old employer, Memphis. They were a bit of a steamroller last year going 10-3 and winning the AAC. We've lost to much worse non-conference foes, so this one scares me a bit. Outperforming the ESPN expectations might just hinge on Barry sticking it to his old team.
Until then, get yourself a warm parka and head up that big ass hill to Taylor Stadium to watch Steve Bieser's new and improved baseball team. They took two out of three from a very good Auburn team a week ago and if they can keep it rolling, may find themselves back in the post-season soon. God, let's hope so. September seems a long way away.