When the Missouri Tigers joined the SEC in 2012, they entered with the public perception that the step up in competition from the Big XII would be so drastic that being successful could take multiple seasons. Although the 5-7 campaign two years ago was true to projected form, the Tigers clawed their way to the top of the SEC East in 2013.
In the continually changing landscape of college football, consistency is key. While the Tigers only return four starters on both sides of the ball from last year’s squad, Maty Mauk is back for his first full season at quarterback. The brother of former Cincinnati quarterback Ben Mauk, the sophomore signal caller threw for 1071 yards in 13 games with four starts.
From 2002-2010, Missouri had just three starting quarterbacks, and head coach Gary Pinkel hopes that Mauk can bring further stability over the next three years as a team leader.
“I think he’s just a very natural leader. I knew that when he was in high school,” Pinkel said. “He was one of those guys that loves to play football, loves to compete—I think he’s a dual threat guy. He can run and he’s got very good speed.”
The presence of Mauk injects experience into an otherwise youthful, inexperienced team. Included on the list of departed starters is first team All-American defensive end Michael Sam, who leaves big shoes to fill up front.
“You always want to be able to [replace guys]. It’s got to happen. We’re going to find out,” said Pinkel on the challenge of coping with Sam’s departure. “When you lose good people, which happens in college football all the time, it’s not a surprise losing people. That’s what recruiting and player development is all about.”
Experienced linemen Markus Golden and Shane Ray will aim to step up and fill the void on opening day against South Dakota State. The line is anchored by familiar faces, but in the secondary, the Tigers lose cornerbacks EJ Gaines and Randy Ponder and safety Matt White.
Although Sam left the team on good terms, former wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham did not. Arrested and suspended his freshman year for drug possession, the disturbances piled up after his sophomore year and Green-Beckham was dismissed from the Tigers on April 11.
The 6’6” 227 pound junior was highly touted coming out of high school and was a fixture of the Missouri offense, leading the team with 59 receptions and 12 touchdowns.
“That’s where we had to start filling guys in and filling that spot. We moved Bud [Sasser] outside because he’s now one of our tallest receivers and have him run the same spot that Dorial had been running,” center Evan Boehm said. “He has done a great job of accommodating to that kind of stuff and going out there and working.”
The Tigers’ top three receivers depart the team for 2014, but senior Bud Sasser led the way for the best of the rest with 26 receptions, 361 yards and one touchdown in 2013.
A trio of matchups highlight Missouri’s SEC slate, with all three scheduled on the road. The Tigers take on South Carolina in the other Columbia in the SEC on September 27. The Tigers travel to Florida on October 18 then collide with Texas A&M in College Station on November 15.
After two losing seasons to start off in Columbia, 14th year head coaching veteran Gary Pinkel has been to nine bowls in the last 11 years. Coming off a victory over Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl, the perennial expectations at Mizzou have now risen higher than ever before.
To hear more from Gary Pinkel and Evan Boehm, click below.