By: Mike Bauer, KCOU Sports
The 2014 college football season is officially over, and the Missouri Tigers emerged from the chaos with 11 wins, including a Citrus Bowl victory over Minnesota, and a second SEC East title.
With National Signing Day looming, we will soon get an idea of how the Tigers’ 2015 roster will shake out. In the meantime, let’s take an early look at each position group as preparation for 2015 begins.
Quarterback: Barring injury or something crazy, Maty Mauk will be Missouri’s starting quarterback next season. His 25 passing touchdowns were the most by a Tigers quarterback since 2008. Nevertheless, expect incoming freshman and heralded high school quarterback Drew Lock to draw plenty of intrigue during spring ball and training camp.
Running Back: The running back by committee approach worked well for Missouri this past season, but with Marcus Murphy leaving, expect Russell Hansbrough to shoulder more of the workload in the backfield. The Tigers currently have three four-star running backs (per Rivals) in the current recruiting class: Chase Abbington, Nate Strong and Marquise Doherty.
Wide Receiver: If one position is at question for MU heading into 2015, it’s this one. The Tigers’ top three returning starters (Sean Culkin, Nate Brown and Wesley Leftwich) combined for 28 catches and one touchdown this past season. Brown will likely start on the outside, while any of six current WR commits could see expanded playing time as well in this young group.
Offensive Line: Mitch Morse is the only departing starter from the offensive line. The group will feature four seniors, including center Evan Boehm, who could be a contender for all-conference honors after a strong junior season.
Defensive Line: If we’ve learned anything about the Tigers over the past two seasons, it’s that they don’t rebuild along the d-line, they reload. Markus Golden and Shane Ray are gone to the NFL, with Marcus Loud and Charles Harris set to slide into their starting spots on the edge. Still with little experience from either of those players, the Tigers will need lots of production from the interior, which shouldn’t be hard to come by with Josh Augusta and Harold Brantley both returning. The addition of blue chip recruit Terry Beckner, Jr. from East St. Louis is also a strong possibility.
Linebacker: Kentrell Brothers and Michael Scherer each registered over 100 tackles last season, and both will return in 2015. Perhaps the most interesting development from this group will be whether or not new devensive coordinator and former MU linebacker Barry Odom wants to make the transition to a 3-4 defense.
Defensive Backs: Aside from the loss of longtime starting safety Braylon Webb, MU’s secondary will remain mostly in tact. Newcomer Kenya Dennis played very well at cornerback opposite Aarion Penton, while Ian Simon returns as the starting free safety. It won’t be easy replacing Webb’s experience, but Tavon Ross was plenty exciting when he played safety in high school. He could be the guy to take over the starting gig.
Special Teams: Under Gary Pinkel, the Tigers’ coaching staff typically doesn’t offer athletic scholarships to high school kickers, but they did with Franklin, Tennessee kicker Corey Fatony. He might be tasked with replacing consistent punter Christian Brinser, as Andrew Baggett will be back for his fourth straight year as MU’s kicker. The Tigers will also be tasked with replacing Marcus Murphy’s dynamic return abilities, but they have several options to choose from, such as Morgan Steward, Raymond Wingo, or Chase Abbington.