Maty Mauk’s Fourth Quarter Heroics
Mauk can be painfully erratic at times, and has garnered a reputation as a gunslinger and a guy who plays “sandbox” football. Yet, Mauk has the special ability to make you forget those first three quarters of pull-your-hair-out decisions by making some incredible plays. Mauk threw two fourth quarter touchdowns against Tennessee to clinch the win, drove down the field twice against South Carolina to set up two rushing scores in a 21-20 win, and threw a game-tying touchdown and two point conversion against Arkansas. The guy lives for crunch time.
The Emergence of Russell Hansbrough
2015 will be Hansbrough’s time to shine. In 2013, he was behind Henry Josey, and last season he split carries with Marcus Murphy. Murphy is now gone, and Hansbrough could be looking at another 40-50 added carries this season. Hansbrough had 1,084 rushing yards while averaging 5.3 yards per carry last year, and offers a nice blend of being able to run between the tackles while also being able to bounce to the outside. Provided he stays healthy, 1,100+ rushing yards this season doesn’t seem out of the question.
This unit will arguably be Gary Pinkel’s best he’s had during his tenure in Columbia. Senior Kenya Dennis returns, who had nine pass-deflections and an interception. Starting opposite him is Aarion Penton, who picked off three passes as a sophomore last season. Penciled in at strong safety is redshirt sophomore Anthony Sherrils, who coaches are excited about after a strong spring. Pinkel is a coach who values experience over anything else, so for Sherrils to be listed as No. 1 on the depth chart speaks volumes. Finally, the leader of the pack will be free safety Ian Simon, who goes into his second season as a starter and third season of regular playing time. With the Tigers losing Shane Ray and Markus Golden to the NFL, and Harold Brantley still recovering from a car wreck, a lot will be called upon the secondary this year. It should be interesting to see how they hold up.
How Soon (And If) Terry Beckner Jr. Will Play
As I just mentioned, Pinkel values experience and rarely deviates from that. However, if there were ever a guy who could be an impact freshman player, it’s Beckner. Beckner comes into Columbia as the most heralded recruit since Dorial Green-Beckham, and was a consensus top ten player by any recruiting service. Beckner has the versatility to lineup as a tackle or end, and is listed as 6-foot-4, 300-pounds as a true freshman. Beckner was left off the initial depth chart when camp started, but I’d expect that to change. There’s a lack of experience along the defensive line this season, and if one or two key rotation guys don’t perform or get injured, we might get to see Beckner in a bigger role this season.
Center Evan Boehm enters his senior season and will lead an offensive line that has some questions. Boehm has started 40 consecutive games since being inserted into the starting lineup as a true freshman. Mauk and Boehm have great chemistry together, and the two of them will set the tone for the offense. Boehm is already on NFL scouts radar, and a solid season could put him into Day Two of the draft.
With longtime Mizzou defensive coordinator Dave Steckel leaving to become the head coach at Missouri State, Gary Pinkel tabbed a former Mizzou player and coach Barry Odom to be Steckel’s successor. Odom will have big shoes to fill, as Steckel sported some great defenses in recent years, aided by a steady flow of NFL-caliber defensive linemen. Odom was the defensive coordinator at Memphis prior to his return to Mizzou, and last season his team ranked 10th nationally in scoring defense (19.5 points per game) and 12th in yards per play allowed (4.74). The biggest difference for the Tigers will be learning Odom’s defense, as he toggles between multiple defensive sets. Odom will have Mizzou going between a 4-3 and 3-4 defense, depending on the situation, which could lead to some interesting results.
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