2015 Missouri Tigers Football Preview

Mauk will look to improve his individual numbers in 2015, while attempting to guide the Tigers to a third straight SEC East title.
Quarterback Maty Mauk
In the 2013 preseason, the media voted the Missouri Tigers to finish in sixth place in the SEC East. They won the division, finishing 12-2 with a 7-1 conference record. In the 2014 preseason, the media voted the Tigers to finish in fourth place in the SEC East. Again, Missouri made it to Atlanta, finishing 11-3 while again going 7-1 in the SEC. A few weeks ago, the media again came together to vote in their preseason poll at the 2015 SEC media days. Missouri was picked to finish third in the East. Fool me once, fool me twice, you know how it goes. But fool me three times? The Tigers will try to make the media answer that pick by again playing in the first weekend of December. And while it may not seem likely in July, there’s a chance they can do just that. They’ve got the most experienced quarterback in the division. Maty Mauk will need to be more consistent (he threw for less than 150 yards five times in 2014) and tone down on the interceptions (13 last year) if these Tigers are going contend in the East after losing ten starters from last season. But there’s something to be said about having the most battle tested man at the most important position on the field. If Mauk can make those improvements, he could end up being the best quarterback in the East. Mauk’s situation is something head coach Gary Pinkel is aware of. “Maty Mauk, I think, is 14-4 as a starter,” Pinkel said at SEC media days. “He’s remarkably good under pressure. [But] we need more consistency from him. He knows that.” Awareness and self reflection are key at any level of football. Pinkel and Mauk aren’t kidding themselves or taking the easy way out in saying that Mauk has done enough in just winning games. That mindset of fine tuning could be a huge plus for Mizzou if it carries over to the field. Another reason why the Tigers could win the East again is that they can play the most dangerous card in football: disrespect. Any group of 18-22 year olds is going to use being passed over to win the division in the preseason polls as motivation after taking it two straight years. Pinkel all but admitted as such when asked if he felt disrespected. “I think it probably bothers my players a little bit more than me. I don’t ever talk about that. I don’t really go there.” So sure, the head coach wasn’t willing to go out and say he felt disrespected, to the surprise of no one who’s listened to a coach talk to the media in the last twenty years. But he outright says that his players do. Again, there’s nothing more dangerous or unpredictable than a football team that has a chip on its shoulder larger than its opponents’. The biggest issue for the Tigers will be replacing lost starters. Outside of Tennessee (who return an absurd 19 starters), inexperience will hurt each team in the league this season. It’s always unknown how players seeing the field for the first time, at least in major minutes, will contribute. Missouri’s season could really sink or swim based on the performance of those guys. Defensive end Charles Harris doesn’t have to be Shane Ray, but he needs to produce while filling the

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void left by last season’s SEC Player of the Year. Wide Receiver Wesley Leftwich doesn’t need to match the 1003 yards and 77 receptions that Bud Sasser put up last season, but he has to present some sort of threat to keep defenses honest with Sasser departing. You’ll have an idea early on in the season as to what this Missouri team is. Issues like consistency and inexperience can rear their ugly head early if they’re going to persist. They may not result in losses out of conference, when the Tigers play Southeast Missouri State, Arkansas State (though the Red Wolves have been no slouch in recent seasons), and UCONN. But Mizzou opens up their SEC schedule with Kentucky, South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia. By mid-October, the Tigers could be leaders in the East or out of the race entirely. They return to practice to gear up for next season August 5th. Fall camp is often a time to establish identities for the season. Mauk is aware of that and will have the Tigers ready. “I’m trying to help our guys and help them grow as players,” Mauk said. “And then you know when we get out there August 5th, it’s time to go, you know. We’ll put the foot on the pedal.” As Missouri heads full throttle into the season, they could finish first, stall out early, or anything in between. As a team of inexperienced talents that have something to prove, led by a veteran gunslinger, the ride should be fun to watch.   Click below to listen to audio from the story:  

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