The Missouri Tigers have problems. Reading those words should not create a shocked expression on your face. This team having problems shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but what should come as a surprise is just how many problems the team has on the field.
Having problems shouldn’t come as a surprise for several reasons. Those reasons include having been garbage last year and having a new coaching staff this year. Not only is the coaching staff new, but the team is led by Barry Odom, who has no previous head coaching experience at the college level. All of this adds up to a bad recipe. But even I didn’t think the recipe would be as bad as it’s been. My preseason prediction was just a little off.
[Seth Merenbloom: Barry Odom is the New Missouri Tigers Football Coach: Another True Son Comes Home]
You may be asking yourself where the problems start and I have an answer for you. The problems start with talent. This team doesn’t have nearly enough talent on the roster. Sure, Odom is playing primarily with Gary Pinkel’s recruits and Pinkel excelled at finding diamonds in the rough. But there are more cubic zirconia on this roster than diamonds.
There are some players that are legitimate SEC caliber players. I’m talking about guys like Josh Augusta, Terry Beckner Jr. and Aarion Penton. And there are others on the roster who have potential but are still young. Those are players like Drew Lock and Damarea Crockett. But players like this are few and far between at Mizzou.
This lack of talent also means that there is a severe lack of depth. And a lack of depth not only influences the ability for the backups to compete against other SEC rosters, but it also influences how those top tier guys play. I’m not saying that Mizzou’s legitimate SEC caliber players are lazy, but competition breeds results and these players aren’t being pushed in practice.
And that leads me to the most important position on the field: Quarterback.
I was excited when Lock committed to Mizzou. He has the physical tools to be a successful SEC quarterback. I can only hope that he has the mental tools to be a successful SEC quarterback. But what we’ve seen from him so far leads me to question what is going on between his ears. But I am willing to keep my faith in Lock for one reason. He’s still young.
Yes, Lock played last season as a true freshman, but that was due to the situation that now departed quarterback Maty Mauk created. Lock was thrown into the fire when he really wasn’t ready. So I consider this to be his freshman season. Based on that reasoning, this year shouldn’t tell us much about what he will become at Mizzou. My apologies to TJ Moe, but Lock has never been the best quarterback in the SEC. I don’t care how good he looked against Eastern Michigan or Delaware State.
Next year is the year that will tell me what I need to know about Lock. He’ll have been in Josh Heupel’s system for over a year and will be a Junior. If he isn’t able to do more than just throw a pretty ball against teams like Delaware State then Odom and Heupel need to move on from the Lock experiment. And that goes back to one of my original points. To move on from Lock requires there to be depth behind him. Right now that depth just isn’t there. Sure there are fans begging for Marvin Zanders to play significant snaps but i’d be shocked if he created a Mizzou pulse against SEC competition.
Ultimately this all falls on the coaching staff. No, the coaches don’t strap helmets on and play the game, but the coaches are the ones who recruit and put the roster together. The coaches are also responsible for the development of that talent.
The assistant coaching staff that Odom put together is impressive on paper. He hired guys who coached at Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU. But here’s the thing. Those teams had incredible talent so it was easy for those coaches to look like football wizards. So like I said, it starts with recruiting. Who on this staff is going to sign the talent that will make them all look like geniuses? Every Mizzou fan is waiting to find out.
E-mail Seth at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.