Missouri football offers fans a lot of excitement this year. With 10 players returning on offense and five on defense, Mizzou looks to reclaim the SEC East.
With so much returning experience and talent, Missouri’s offense is showing greater upside than it did in 2016. This year, the Tigers will have one of the best quarterbacks in the conference in Drew Lock, one of the best backfields in Damarea Crockett and Ish Witter, and so many weapons at receiver.
The greater unknown will be the Tigers’ defense. While it returns a number of talented players, there are some question marks with newcomers and those who struggled last year, but improved toward the end of the season.
With all the criticisms that have been hurled at Missouri throughout the offseason, it will give the Tigers a chance to put opposing defenses on notice.
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What the Tigers have in Lock is a man who carries himself with humility and is a student of the game. This is a trait portrayed by successful quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers have done.
Lock also knows that he’s only as good as his last game, which means he has put in the work to become a better quarterback throughout the offseason.
Even though his 3,399 passing yards were padded against some non-conference opponents, Lock also showed his confidence and poise against some SEC opponents, as well. If anything, this year will be the year Lock breaks out as a top quarterback in the conference.
In a recent interview with Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Lock stated that numbers will come with wins; losing can’t be accepted.
"Numbers will come with wins. I need to win football games this year, and I will win football games this year. We will win football games this year. Losing can’t be accepted. That’s what we’ve talked about all summer."
As long as Lock is able to connect with his receivers, Missouri’s running game will be respected, also. Anyone who managed to miss that backs Damarea Crockett and Ish Witter flew under the radar last year, will be in for a major surprise this year.
Billed as one of the best backfields in the league, Missouri’s running backs are hungry to carry the offense when needed and punish any defense who dares to stop them.
Running back Damarea Crockett set school records as a freshman, and could break some of his own records in his second season. Ish Witter provided a steady option to Crockett throughout the season, and will likely fill that role again in 2017.
If there are any doubts about whether Crockett will run afoul of off-field problems, head coach Barry Odom, in a recent interview, has renewed faith in the running back’s maturity level.
"He’s a mature kid. He understands the importance of what we’re putting on that position. He knows he’s got the skills to go do it. So he’s got some confidence about the way he can play. … He handled the end of the year with an incident that happened the week of the Arkansas game, handled it very well, very mature, and has learned lessons as our team has on some of the situations that went down with that."
Finally, Missouri has a coaching staff coming in with a better handle on what it’s looking for going into the season. Odom, who will start his second season as Missouri’s head coach, has spent the offseason working on himself as a coach, and has more confidence in his ability, as his players do, also.
In an interview with Tod Palmer of The Kansas City Star, Odom stated, “I did a little too much last year, or tried to. When you win four games, believe me, it hurts your soul.”
This year, Odom’s focus for Missouri will go more toward attention to coaching on the field and better game management, and less emphasis on preseason workouts. Mentally, the Tigers are in the best place they can be: Working on themselves, and not worrying about what everyone else is doing.