Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Missouri.
Spring Practice Starts: March 6
Spring Game: April 14
Returning starters: 5 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 specialists
Three Things To Look For:
1. What practical impact, if any, will the SEC move have on spring camp? Gary Pinkel has gone on record as saying the Tigers won't be changing their coaching philosophy or schemes to adjust to their new conference home, but that doesn't mean it has to be business as usual during spring camp. With the carrot of making a splash in the (mostly) open SEC East hanging in front of them, the Tigers could (or should) have the kind of focus and drive throughout spring practice that could (or should) give them that extra edge in preparation come the fall. But with depth a major concern at multiple positions (see below), Pinkel can't crank up the intensity too high--lest he lose a major contributor in the offseason for a second straight season.
2. Can the Tigers find enough bodies on the defensive line? One number to illustrate Missouri's current lack of depth on the defensive line: zero, as in the number of players who started for the Tigers in 2011 that will be taking part in spring drills, thanks to three graduations and shoulder surgery for end Brad Madison. A second is four, as in the total number of scholarship tackles who'll be participating in spring practice thanks to offseason surgeries for Sheldon Richardson and Marvin Foster (the former the Tigers' expected best DT). The bad news is that with so much inexperience and limited numbers, the Tigers will come out of spring still unsure about what they'll really have to work with come the fall--and in a league where line play is often even more critical than in other (less ground-oriented) leagues. The good news? Players like tackle Lucas Vincent and end Michael Sam will have a golden opportunity to prove themselves ready for a starring role, and maybe even some extra coaching attention to help make that opportunity pay off.
3. Can Kendial Lawrence be the answer at running back? As CBSSports.com Missouri RapidReporter Dave Matter has written, the Tigers are in decided need of some new playmakers at both wide receiver and tight end. But those won't do much good if the Tiger running game can't keep opposing defenses honest, and after 2011's brutal knee injury, it remains to be seen what -- if any -- contribution Henry Josey can make. That puts the onus on rising senior Lawrence, who saw plenty of carries last season but also saw his role reduced as Josey exploded onto the scene; for the season, Josey averaged more than three yards more per-carry than Lawrence. If Lawrence can show some improved explosiveness this spring, that'll be one less worry -- and a key one at that -- for a Tiger offense that will have its work cut out for it in 2012.
To check in on the rest of the SEC and other BCS conferences, check out the Spring Practice Schedule.
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