Tag Archives: Missouri Tigers

Agree or Disagree With Tom Herman’s Sideline Mockery?

In case you missed it, Tom Herman created a bit of a stir at the end of the Longhorns’ 33-16 bowl game victory over Missouri. For this article to make sense, take a minute to watch this.

Now, to the casual college football fan, Herman looked completely immature and irresponsible as a head coach of a major university. I get that because he did.

I’m not going to make any excuses for Herman here because he’s got to be better in this situation. If you’re going to mock the opposing team in any way, do it behind closed doors so only your team can see it.

With that said, I have absolutely no problem with what Herman did. What the casual fan doesn’t know is that Missouri players had been mocking and trash talking to Texas players all week leading up to the game.

And then they committed the big no-no: flashing the horns down sign.

Here’s a video that surfaced to give the rest of this article even more context.

This is exactly why I have no problem with Herman’s mockery.

Opposing players, coaches and fans constantly mock Texas by throwing the horns down sign. Throwing the horns up sign signifies so much for the University of Texas, whether it’s celebrating after a big play, scoring a touchdown, singing the Eyes of Texas or anything else. When a person throws the horns down sign, they are mocking the player, coach, alumni and university as a whole.

And you know what? There’s never any outrage. In fact, I think I saw an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty thrown on an opposing team for the first time ever this year for doing it.

Why is it ok for other teams to throw their horns down with no backlash, but the Longhorns can’t mock an opposing player’s celebration? It’s complete crap is what it is.

Another reason why I’m ok with Herman’s mockery is that it shows he takes the horns down sign personally. Mack Brown did, but he handled the issue behind closed doors (like it should be). Charlie Strong didn’t respect the sign much and didn’t care if it was disrespected, in my opinion.

For the first time in a long time, I saw a coach and players get as upset and pissed off as I do when I see the horns down sign. Especially when it’s directed at me specifically. It takes quite a bit to make me mad, but there’s something about seeing the horns down sign that boils my blood every single time.

So when I saw the video of the Missouri players doing the horns down sign so freely and confidently, I was proud to see Herman and the Texas players on the sideline doing what they did. Probably the thing I’m most proud of after seeing the video is that the Texas players on the stage with those Missouri players didn’t light them up right there on the stage. If it were me, I would have had a hard time not going all-out Bobby Boucher on them as they were prancing around proudly with their horns down.

Unfortunately for Herman, he’s going to have to live with the social media backlash for a while. It will be talked about for a couple days and will definitely resurface throughout future football seasons, but it is what it is. But if he won over the locker room by doing it, then mission accomplished. And according to Breckyn Hager, he did:

Now if Herman makes this type of behavior the norm, then I’ll have a problem with it. But for a fragile program that has no self-pride in several years, I’m ok with it just this time.

My final point is for the people who say the team should act like they’ve been there before, in regards to winning. My rebuttal is this team has not been there before. They don’t know what winning feels like. Maybe this will give them a taste of winning, maybe it won’t. But for Herman, it’s a small price to pay to potentially elevate his program.

To recap:

Should Herman have done what he did? Probably not.

Is it the end of the world? Definitely not.

Should he make those antics a habit? Absolutely not.

Should Texas fans be embarrassed? Depends on your opinion, but embarrassment is not something that describes my feelings, obviously.

Do the Longhorns have a coach who genuinely takes pride in the University? You better believe it, and it was proven at the Texas Bowl.

And for the record, the Missouri quarterback whom Herman mocked understands the situation and has no problem with it:

Once Texas returns to their winning ways again, this will never be an issue with Herman or his players. I feel confident in saying that. The program just has to get to that point first.

Hook’em \m/

Photo: Wikimedia

E-mail Chase at chase.holik@campuspressbox.com and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Missouri Tiger Marcell Frazier Is Speaking To The Media Again

After a 1-5 start to the season, the Missouri Tigers were fortunate to be in the Texas Bowl. That good fortune was created in large part to an offense that found its top-gear during the second-half of the season. Bowl games are fickle beasts though. So when Texas beat Missouri 33-16, it wasn’t a complete surprise. The attention that players give these non-championship level bowl games is always questionable and, at times, the focus of the coaching staff can be questioned. And that’s just what Missouri’s Marcell Frazier did. He questioned coaching loyalty.

Frazier’s defensive squad played well enough to win this game. If anyone had room to call anyone out, it was a member of the Missouri defense. But Frazier was out of line when calling out now-departed offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, offensive line coach Glen Elarbee and, when we get right down to it, the entire offensive side of the ball under the leadership of interim offensive coordinator Joe Jon Finley.

Back in June, Frazier announced that he wouldn’t grant interviews to the local Missouri media this season over treatment that he perceived to be harsh and unfair. We not only heard nothing from Frazier via local beats but heard very little from him nationally. That all changed once Texas beat Frazier’s Tigers.

For Frazier to have placed a self-imposed gag order on himself over critical members of the media only to throw former coaches, current coaches, and teammates under the bus is classless. I know, in his own words, he’s just a teenage boy (but not really), but he positioned himself to be as mature, if not more mature than many of the adults in his life. Not so.

As a fan, I don’t like Heupel and Elarbee leaving the program when they did. But I get it. Just as Frazier said, college football is a business and coaches move around looking for new opportunities that will further their careers. We all know the nature of the business and that includes the players. Heupel and Elarbee left at the worst possible time. Get over it. The timing of their departures was no excuse for Frazier to lob his verbal grenades at Joe Jon Finley and the offense.

All year Missouri fans heard about the toxic locker room atmosphere that Barry Odom had inherited from Gary Pinkel. We heard about a few bad apples who didn’t have the best interests of the team at heart. When Odom kicked players off of the team or had players transfer out, Missouri fans were sold on the idea that the culture was being cleaned up. Maybe these guys were toxic, maybe they weren’t. But this is what we were sold on.

I’ll say this. As good as Frazier was on the field, his attitude should be called into question. If he was willing to publicly say what he said about everyone associated with Missouri’s offense, then I have to wonder what he was saying behind closed doors. Maybe we’d have a hint of Frazier’s attitude if he wouldn’t have been hiding from the media all year. That is until he was ready to attempt to publicly humiliate teammates and coaches.

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E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 

The Missouri Tigers Versus The Florida Gators Offers Intrigue

I like storylines. A good storyline elevates an already good game or adds intrigue to an otherwise out-of-sight/out-of-mind game.

Florida at Missouri is a game with an intriguing storyline.

Jim McElwain was relieved of his duties in Gainseville. McElwain’s Gators won two SEC championships as he picked up the pieces after the failed experiment with Will Muschamp. But it’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-today industry and, going into this game against Missouri, Florida is 3-4 with no hint of an offense.

As for Missouri, first-year head coach Barry Odom is nursing a 3-5 record. The Tigers are coming off of a would-be impressive road win against UConn. Drew Lock looked magical as he completed 83 percent of his passes while tossing five touchdowns. But please, let’s put that performance in perspective. It was against a bad UConn team.

So what’s intriguing about this matchup?

For Florida, it’s going to be about pride. Will the mid-season firing of their coach be considered a gut check opportunity for the Gators? This is a road game for Florida and those can always be dicey in the SEC even when the road team is traveling to the Siberian northern region of the conference.

Missouri needs to build on the recent wins against Idaho and UConn. As Dave Matter pointed out, a bowl game is still on the table for Missouri. It’s difficult to argue against math. Numbers don’t lie. But 6 or 7 wins are potential outcomes. As for the probability of being bowl eligible? Well, that depends on if you’re a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty type of fan.

What we do know is that Florida has set its course. McElwain is out and a new coach will be hired. Firing him was questionable to me. Doing it mid-season was downright BOLD. If Florida plans on hiring a current coach – like Dan Mullen – then the AD gained nothing by firing the coach midseason. If the Gators are going to go whale hunting – going for a Chip Kelly or Bob Stoops – then a midseason shakeup makes a bit more sense. Having said that, if the AD is playing Moby Dick, then that whale of a hire better be made. Otherwise, it’s going to be more like Mopy Dick at Florida.

This game for Odom and Missouri is now more precarious. Florida doesn’t have a head coach and the performance of the team has been underwhelming to date. The storyline makes this a must-win game for Odom if he hopes to keep the morale of the fanbase as a glass-half-full proposition. This game is also important for recruiting. Odom had made head-way into the South and was hoping to do the same in-state. Verbal commitments have been lost and the in-state talent couldn’t care less about Missouri. A win against a struggling, but name brand SEC school like Florida will help Odom’s elevator pitch.

I’m not going to make a prediction about this game. There are too many unknowns with these teams and there has been far too much on-field inconsistency from each of these teams. What can be said is this – there’s intrigue with this game and it could make for one of those classic mid-season SEC games.

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E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com 

Photo: Airforce Global Strike Command

Pondering and Power Rating the SEC

It took me a few days to muster up my enthusiasm for college football after the brutal, inexcusable loss in Baton Rouge, and now I am actually now looking forward to the games this weekend. With that, here are my power ratings on the SEC.

  1. Alabama
  2. Georgia
  3. Texas A&M
  4. LSU
  5. Auburn
  6. Kentucky
  7. South Carolina
  8. Florida
  9. Miss State
  10. Ole Miss
  11. Arkansas
  12. Tennessee
  13. Vanderbilt
  14. Missouri

Auburn has a better football team than LSU, but LSU deserves to be rated ahead of AU by virtue of its win on Saturday. That could right itself by season’s end. The Bayou Bengals could have a big letdown this coming Saturday at Ole Miss, and the Rebels had to gain some confidence by whipping Vandy. The bottom 4 teams are utterly miserable, at this point, but Auburn better watch out for Arkansas. The Tigers are beat up and have to be a bit demoralized after the loss to LSU. We’ll see what they’re made of Saturday.

Bama continues to dominate, but Georgia is for real and both teams could be undefeated entering the SEC Championship game. The Bulldogs’ schedule certainly is not daunting although there are some potential pitfalls on there, especially Auburn at Auburn and Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

Texas A&M is a sleeper and has an opportunity to make some noise before it’s all said and done. Watch out for the Aggies.

“Butch Jones is probably coaching his last game as head man of the Vols.”

Kentucky? If it can get by Mississippi State, in Starkville, that could be a springboard to a very good season. The Wildcats could even make a New Year’s Day bowl game.

Conversely, if State beats Kentucky its record would be 5-2 and the Bulldogs might be poised for a run in its last 5 games. Games with Texas A&M and Alabama would loom large. The fact-of-the-matter is, State will not beat Alabama and it is doubtful to come home with a win in College Station. But win the others and that would put them at an impressive 8-4.

Cock-a-doodle-do! South Carolina is also sporting a 5-2 record and don’t forget that one of those wins came against a very good North Carolina State team. Georgia, Florida and Clemson are huge obstacles to a sterling season in Columbia.

Over in the other Columbia, the Missouri Tigers are truly stinking the woods up with a 1-5 record at its halfway point in 2017. There are a few potential wins left on the Tigers’ slate, most notably this Saturday versus Idaho and the following weekend at UConn. But Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas are winnable games for Mizzou.

Florida is a mediocre 4-3 and facing an almost certain loss to Georgia in that heated rivalry. Missouri, South Carolina, UAB, and Florida State conclude the Gators schedule and those games are all possible wins or losses. Don’t laugh at the possibility of a UAB victory in The Swamp. Bill Clark has the Blazers playing remarkably good football, especially when one considers that this team hadn’t played a game in two years before the 2017 campaign began.

We haven’t even mentioned Tennessee except by name. I don’t know if ‘dumpster fire’ is even an adequate description for what is taking place up on Rocky Top. But, historically, November has been the month when the Vols really tend to make hay. But Alabama might beat them mercilessly on this Third Saturday in October and that could complete the demoralization process in Knoxville. Butch Jones is probably coaching his last game as head man of the Vols.

After a 3-0 start the Vanderbilt Commodores have lost 4 straight games and are headed south with a bullet. The schedule is doable (South Carolina, Western Kentucky, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee) but it will have to pick up the pace to make a bowl game.

That’s my take on the Southeastern Conference here and today. A lot of football remains to be played and who knows what portends as we look down the stretch of the 2017 college football season. Good luck to you and your favorite teams!

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E-mail Bird at bird.lecroy@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

Image via Flickr/getmahesh

Mizzou Is In The SEC For Better Or For Worse

Everyone likes taking shots at the Missouri football program. I get it. There’s no denying that Missouri football is horrible in its current state of affairs. But Missouri is not the only bad team in the SEC.

Missouri has become the seemingly trademarked product of all that is bad with SEC football. This anti-Missouri bias was on display when Gary Danielson referred to Tennessee as “Missouri” while the Volunteers were being drubbed 41-0 by Georgia. And Danielson didn’t call Tennessee “Missouri” once. He did it twice and this was after Brad Nessler corrected him.

Danielson’s jab at Tennessee at the hands of Missouri was met with some snarky defense.

Ha, ha, ha! We get it, Holly. As bad as Tennessee played, it’s an insult to the Volunteers to refer to them as Missouri. Just remember that Missouri doesn’t REALLY belong in the SEC. And when it comes right down to it, Missouri should really be kicked out of the Alabama-And-The-13-Dwarfs conference.

Former Missouri beat reporter for the Kansas City Star, Tod Palmer, jumped to the defense of Missouri. All that got in response from Anderson was the classic “snowflake” jab.

Danielson was making the same statement on air that Anderson was making on Twitter. That statement was that Missouri is bad and doesn’t belong in the SEC. It’s just a tired, whiney argument at this point. I can’t say this loud enough – Missouri is in the SEC and Danielson, Anderson, Saturday Down South and everyone else needs to come to terms with this!

[Merenbloom: Why Does Saturday Down South Hate Missouri And Barry Odom]

Part of coming to terms with this is expecting people like Palmer and myself jumping to the defense of Missouri when the jabs are thrown. We’re not “snowflakes” when we bring up the recent success that Missouri has had in the SEC. When Anderson asked Palmer how Missouri’s two SEC East titles went for the Tigers, she and others like her continue to question Missouri’s place in the conference. No, Missouri didn’t win the SEC Championship during either visit to Atlanta, but Butch Jones would gladly trade his collection of 2nd, 4th, and 6th place SEC East finishes for just one of Missouri’s conference championship game appearances.

Here’s the reality of the situation.

Missouri is in the SEC and the Tigers have had some success in their new conference. Times are tough right now for Missouri as the on-field product is hot garbage. And if you need to know, hot garbage is indeed worse than a dumpster fire.

Tennessee hasn’t won the SEC East since 2007. Times are tough in Knoxville, but for different reasons than Missouri’s tough times. The Volunteers aren’t a dumpster fire let alone hot garbage. Jones is merely the captain of a dysfunctional ship.

Here’s a little more reality.

Danielson was out-of-line for using Missouri as the butt of his joke. But at this point, Missouri fans are used to this kind treatment from Danielson. He didn’t like Missouri being in the SEC when the Tigers were good in 2013 or 2014 and he doesn’t like Missouri’s membership in the SEC when the team is hot garbage.

As for Anderson, she made her comment on Twitter and I had no problem with using that forum for the jab. Having said that, calling Palmer a “snowflake” for defending the program showed who had the thin skin.

And I’ll offer a touch more reality…

There’s a fine line between hot garbage, a dumpster fire, and a dysfunctional ship. Both Missouri and Tennessee need new coaches.

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E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 

Barry Odom Inherited A Mess From Gary Pinkel

Saturday, September 16 was a horrible, no good, very bad day if you’re a Missouri Tigers football fan. There’s not much else that can be said about losing at home to Purdue by a score of 35-3.

Can it get better? I hope so. Will it get better this season? I have my doubts.

My doubts extend all the way back to when Barry Odom was hired. I wasn’t the only one who voiced concern about a successful assistant coach with no college head coaching experience being tapped to lead an SEC program but I was certainly in the minority.

After drubbing its sacrificial FCS opponent, Missouri followed that performance up with a questionable loss to South Carolina and an absolute abomination against Purdue. Those putrid performances against Power 5 teams coupled with the questionable firing of defensive coordinator Demontie Cross have pushed even the staunchest Odom supporters to the brink.

[Merenbloom: Barry Odom And The Missouri Tigers Shouldn’t Be Locked Into Drew Lock]

Over at RockMNation, Bill Connelly brings up a number of relevant points for discussion when he stated that Missouri’s winning culture has vanished; it’s not all Barry Odom’s fault, but it’s on him to fix it. Or else.

Connelly stopped just short of stating who some people consider to be the real problem when he made this passive aggressive statement:

That’s not really this coaching staff’s fault — it inherited what it inherited. Obviously better coaching could lead to more success, which would in turn provide the evidence needed for good player leadership. But this is what happens when a winning culture stops winning. It becomes very difficult for even an experienced coaching staff to get that ship turned back around.

“It inherited what it inherited.” Connelly doesn’t come right out and say it but that’s an indictment of Gary Pinkel. It’s often times said that the mentality of the players is a direct reflection of their coach. So when observing the apparent lack of leadership on this team, we are to some degree being met with the image of Pinkel. And I have to say that this isn’t the first time that I’ve heard Pinkel’s leadership and dare I say character called into question.

Pinkel may be the real problem at Missouri but Connelly is correct about it being on Odom to fix. We see this sort of thing in corporate America all of the time. A CEO retires, moves on to their next opportunity, or is fired and their replacement has the responsibility of making the culture their own. Seasoned leaders have the confidence and experience to be successful in this often times difficult transition. Odom may have the confidence but he’s lacking the experience required for an undertaking like the one at Missouri.

A person doesn’t hire themselves and former AD Mack Rhoades signed off on Odom. And part of the reason that Odom was Rhoades’ choice was that Odom was Pinkel approved. There are times when being the preferred candidate of the retiring coach is a smart choice. This wasn’t one of those times. Rhoades would have wanted a brand new culture if he knew how Pinkel was running his program. And that would have required hiring someone who had no ties to Pinkel. Or, possibly, Rhoades didn’t care. He did high-tail it out of Columbia not long after selecting Odom.

The triumvirate of Odom, Pinkel, and Rhoades is exactly why I believe Jim Sterk will pull the plug on Odom’s tenure as head coach. He won’t clean house in-season because that would be foolish. Sterk gave former Missouri basketball coach Kim Anderson one last season and he’ll do the same for Odom. This will also give Sterk time to identify and fully vet his candidates before making his selection. Sterk played the long-game with Cuonzo Martin’s hiring process and I have no doubt that he’s taking the same approach with Odom’s successor.

There are skeletons in the Odom-Pinkel-Rhoades closet. I’m not the one to out them but I’m confident that Sterk will clean it all up.

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E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Barry Odom And The Missouri Tigers Shouldn’t Be Locked Into Drew Lock

Barry Odom’s first 14 games as head coach of the Missouri Tigers have been turbulent. His team went 4-8 in 2016 and he’s off to a 1-1 start in 2017. When a team goes 5-9, I could create a hypothesis for any number of reasons for the abysmal results. I’m choosing to focus on two.

Leadership and quarterback play.

Odom’s leadership ability should be questioned based on how he has handled the defensive deficiencies of this team. Few people took issue with the Odom’s hiring of Demontie Cross as defensive coordinator. Cross is the dreaded True Son, but he was a highly qualified True Son. The glaring defensive issues of the past two years were due in large part to a change in scheme. Odom allowed Cross to change the style of play from the attacking style that had been recruited for to a read-and-react style. It didn’t work during the first half of the 2016 season and Odom mandated a midseason change. Not only that, but Odom assumed defensive play-calling responsibilities.

These changes gave us all reason for hope in 2017. Missouri fans thought we had seen the last of the failed read-and-react scheme, but rumor has it that it was on full display during the first half of the game against Missouri State. You remember that game. It’s the one where the Tigers game up 43 points, and 492 yards. The silver lining in that game was that the second half looked significantly better than the first half. Word on the street is that the defense went back to its attacking style in the second half.

Defensively the team looked better against South Carolina. There were still issues in the back-seven, but the lineman were creating pressure. The reason Missouri lost to South Carolina was not the fault of the defense. But that didn’t seem to matter to Odom as he fired Cross on Sunday afternoon.

This was a firing of convenience. Cross hasn’t been solely responsible for the defense since the beginning of the 2016 season. Odom forced a scheme change and, more importantly, took control of the in-game play calling responsibilities. Why Odom would have agreed to a scheme change when he was promoted to head coach is a real head scratcher since Missouri had won two SEC East titles on the back of attacking defenses. But it was a decision that was made. The wrong coach was fired when Cross was let go but Odom wasn’t going to fire himself. Cross became the sacrificial lamb being offered to the fans.

Now that you’ve read all of that, I’ll tell you what the real issue is. The quarterback play of Drew Lock.

Like Odom and Cross, Lock is also a True Son. He’s the son of former Tiger linebacker Andy Lock and coming out of high school, he was considered to be the kid with the golden arm. The problem being that he doesn’t have much going for him once you get past all of that arm talent.

There are times that the hype surrounding Lock is believable. The problem is that he looks Heisman caliber when he’s playing the likes of Delaware State and Missouri State. Against Power 5 opponents, Lock has averaged 188 yards per game, completed 49% of his passes, and has thrown 13 touchdowns to go along with 18 interceptions.

Not. Good. Enough.

Just look at how he played against South Carolina. He went 14-32 for 245 yards. Lock also threw one touchdown and two interceptions. A 43% completion percentage is atrocious. Even if we give him credit for the four blatant drops by the receivers, he still only completed 56% of his passes. And don’t forget that Missouri was up 10-0. Then the special teams kicked off to Deebo Samuel. Bad move. That momentum swing was capped off with a Lock interception.

Not. Good. Enough.

I considered Lock to be the real question mark going into this season. Was he going to be more Landry Jones in Josh Heupel’s offense? Or was he going to be more Blake Bell? If he was more Jones, his completion percentage would be in the 60s. If he was more Bell, it would be in the 50s. Completing 60% of his passes is where he needs to be in this offense. But Lock is a 50% passer who dips into the 40% range.

Again…Not. Good. Enough.

Both the defensive and quarterback issues are on Odom. He took responsibility for the defense but fired Cross anyway. Making that change two games into the season means that it should have been done in the off-season.

As for Lock? Odom seems to be content with the True Son as I’ve yet to hear about the backup quarterback warming up. What’s that going to take? A 30% completion percentage?

The defense is now squarely on Odom’s shoulders as he no longer has Cross around to take the criticism from the fans. He gets more leniency from the fans when it comes to Lock since many of the fans love the kid-with-the-golden-arm-who-can’t-hit-the-broadside-of-a-barn. The problem for Odom is that Jim Sterk isn’t afraid to fire a True Son.

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E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 

Cuonzo Martin’s Missouri Basketball Team Gives Tiger Fans Reason To Be Excited

They say that the Earth was created in six days. Not too shabby. Missouri’s Cuonzo Martin may have that beat if we’re to believe both the experts and Missouri fans.

When Jim Sterk hired Martin to rebuild the Missouri basketball program, I’m not sure even Sterk envisioned Martin’s masterpiece being created in such short time. Martin hired Michael Porter Sr. to sit along side him on the bench and the rest was a domino effect. Porter Sr.’s blue chip recruit son, Michael Porter Jr., pledged his commitment to the Tigers, highly regarded point guard recruit Blake Harris jumped onboard Martin’s party bus, Jeremiah Tilmon was wooed away from Illinois, and, finally, Porter Jr.’s brother Jontay reclassified for the 2017 season and joined his father and oldest brother.

[Merenbloom: What Mizzou Assistant Michael Porter Sr. is All About – Family Values and Humility]
[Merenbloom: Missouri’s Jim Sterk Got His Man]

Martin inherited a team that went 8-24 in 2016. With only two players taller than 6’8”, the roster Kim Anderson left for Martin was short on height and talent. And now the 2017-18 team has multiple blue chip recruits to go along with six players who are taller than 6’8”. On paper, this is the most formidable roster Missouri has had since the late 1980s. Emphasis being placed upon ON PAPER.

Missouri went from SEC doormat to being considered contenders to win the conference. Not only that, but Missouri is one of the preseason favorites to win the national championship. Everyone needs to pump the brakes on Martin’s party bus.

Let’s at least see this team play before anointing them as a dream team. Martin’s team will certainly be talented, but it’s going to be a talented and young team. No matter how talented youth is, it’s still youth. A learning curve should be anticipated as these kids transition from high school and AAU ball to major college play.

The Tigers start the season at home against Iowa State. While the Cyclones aren’t considered to be an elite team this year, they should still be considered to be a tough test for a team as young as Missouri is. We’ll learn a lot about Martin’s team in this game but we shouldn’t base the entire season on this one game.

I expect this team to be good, but I also expect this team to have growing pains. Being able to score shouldn’t be a problem for this team. It’s on the defensive side of the court that I anticipate this team showing the most growth as the season progresses. Defense has a lot to do with being disciplined and knowing your opponent. Players coming right out of high school are used to being the biggest players on the court. This also means that these players are used to physically dominating their opponents. That won’t be the case most nights in the SEC.

Missouri fans should be excited about this team but the fans should also expect to see some frustrating moments. When those moments happen, just remember how the last three seasons went. It may take a few months for this team to mature and hit its stride, but once it does, it could really make some noise in the NCAA tournament. Be excited, but a trip to the Final Four shouldn’t be considered a foregone conclusion. But it sure is nice to be a Missouri basketball fan with legitimate anticipation and hope for an upcoming season. It’s been too long.

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E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

SEC Champions? Oh Lord, Won’t You Take Me to Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Rejoice! Kickoff is one week from tomorrow! Actually, the Arkansas Razorbacks will tee it up on Thursday. Their “competition?” The mighty Rattlers of Florida A&M. And then on Saturday, some of the other SEC related games include Missouri playing Missouri State, Georgia hosting Appalachian State,  Charleston Southern will play at Mississippi State… ad nauseum.

But! There are some big games on the slate for opening weekend with the monster clash between Alabama and Florida State headlining them all.

Now it’s time for me to summon my crystal ball and look into the future. I hope gazing at the eclipse didn’t blur my powers of prognostication.

Onward!

SEC EAST 

Florida (8-4, 6-2) I like the Gators’ big uglies, their defense, and their skill position players. But, just like everybody else, the quarterback position is the key. They will plug in someone who is more than capable to put them at the top of the East.

Tennessee (9-3, 5-3) The Vols will have more total wins than anyone else in the division but they will also have more conference losses than the Gators. That head to head matchup will decide which team makes the trek to Atlanta.

Georgia (8-4, 5-3) You gotta love the Dawgs’ running backs and their overall talent, but it will be their inconsistent play at quarterback and in the trenches that will cause the East title to elude them.

Kentucky (8-4, 5-3) I like the Cats as the sleeper to win this division. There is talent in Lexington but probably not enough SEC quality depth to carry them to Hotlanta. I’d love to see it though!

South Carolina (6-6, 3-5) Will Muschamp’s second year in Columbia will find an improved team, but the record will not reflect that. They’re in good shape at quarterback with Jake Bentley.

Vanderbilt (3-9, 1-7) Derek Mason has the Commodores playing pretty well. I like Kyle Shurmur as their signal-caller. But do not expect Vandy to rise any higher than sixth in the division.

Missouri (4-8, 0-8) The upside is the offensive potential, and QB Drew Lock, in Columbia. Overall, though, Barry Odom’s second year might not turn out any better than his first.

SEC West

Auburn (11-1, 7-1) Talent, depth, experience, and coaching will combine to make this one of those highly memorable seasons down on the Plains. Jarrett Stidham will, indeed, turn out to be the straw that stirs the drink. And the home finale with Alabama will finally go Auburn’s way again.

Alabama (10-2, 7-1)  Loaded. Every year. But the season will begin and end with losses which will keep the Crimson Tide from their fourth straight College Football Playoff appearance.

Texas A&M (9-3, 6-2) Kevin Sumlin steps down off the hot seat with a very good season in College Station. And the Aggies pick up some big wins on the way to a solid 9-3 campaign.

LSU (9-3, 5-3) Coach O won’t be able to bring home a ring in his first full season in Red Stick. I still have my doubts about the Tigers’ long term prospects, as well, in spite of their talent level.

Arkansas (7-5, 4-4) Bret Bielema and his Hawgs continue to battle the mediocrity that has beset them in Fayetteville. This year will bring no relief. Austin Allen provides great talent, tenacity, and leadership behind center, but the West is too strong to allow for a climb up the ladder.

And then… the Mississippis. The six and seven slots in the division are interchangeable.

Mississippi State (5-7, 1-7) I’ll go with State, Dan Mullen, and Nick Fitzgerald to keep the Bulldogs out of the cellar. And, they will probably notch more than the one conference win I have allowed them.

Ole Miss (4-8, 1-7) Two words. Dumpster fire.

So there you have it! According to my mighty powers of perception, note that I never use the term “reality” in my fearless forecast, the Auburn Tigers will meet the aforementioned Florida Gators in Atlanta, GA on December 2nd for the championship of the Southeastern Conference.

Who will win that contest? Yes, it will be my Tigers! And they will go on to make the College Football Playoff, along with the Florida State Seminoles, the Ohio State Buckeyes, and the Washington Huskies.

You may now wipe those tears away, whether they be tears of joy or of sadness. My guess is you might have sprayed your morning coffee or evening cocktail all over your phone or computer screen at the sheer hilarity of such humorous predictions! That’s ok.

For again I say, rejoice!

College football is upon us!

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E-mail Bird at bird.lecroy@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Best Missouri Tiger Athlete Of All-Time is an Easy Choice

When former Georgia offensive lineman Matt Stinchcomb was asked who he thought were the best athletes to have played football in the SEC, it sparked a conversation between Bird and myself.

Stinchcomb opted for former Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas and former Georgia running back Herschel Walker. Thomas and Walker were solid choices, but Bird and I disagreed. Take a listen to the podcast if you haven’t already.

This conversation sparked an internal conversation of my own. I’m a Missouri fan and I began wondering who the best athlete to play at Missouri was. This is all based on opinion. Nothing purely objective here. But here’s who that player is to me.

My choice is Phil Bradley.

Bradley played both baseball and football at Missouri. As the quarterback for Missouri, he was the Offensive Player of the Year three times and he held the record for total offense which stood for 10 years. Bradley was also half of a talented Missouri backfield that included James Wilder. That duo contributed to some great wins including victories against nationally ranked teams from Notre Dame and Nebraska. And as noted by others, just imagine what Bradley could have accomplished in the spread offenses of today.

I became a Phil Bradley fan long before I knew about the University of Missouri. Before I followed college football and discovered the Missouri Tigers, I was a rabid baseball fan. My favorite team was the Baltimore Orioles and Bradley played for my Orioles from 1989-1990. See? I guess I was destined to be a Missouri football fan.

As a professional baseball player, Bradley was a solid hitter and dependable fielder. Not spectacular but certainly good enough to have a seven-year career in the major leagues. 1985 was arguably his best season as a baseball player as he was selected to the All-Star team and hit a career-high 26 home runs.

In a different era of sports, Bradley easily could have played both professional baseball and football. But in the early 1980s, there just wasn’t a market for 6’0″, 180 lbs. quarterbacks. That was a time before dual-threat quarterbacks. And the early to mid-1980s was even a time before the run-and-shoot offense.

Part of what makes Bradley the best athlete of all-time at Missouri, is that he was truly ahead of his time. He excelled collegiately at both baseball and football. And he carved out a respectable professional baseball career.

The mark he made on the Missouri program was only strengthened after his playing days were over. During the 2009-10 softball season, Bradley served as a volunteer assistant on Ehren Earleywine’s softball team. That team was the one that put Missouri softball on the map as the team won the Big 12 Tournament and finished 7th at the Women’s College World Series.

Bradley had a significant impact on Missouri sports as a baseball player, football player, and as a coach. In fact, he excelled at all three levels.

Other former Tigers who could have made the cut for best Missouri athlete were Kellen Winslow, James Wilder, Harry Ice, and Paul Christman.

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E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Jimmy Emerson/Flickr