Time To Hand Out Some Grades: Mizzou Football Report Card
The college football season is already four weeks old, which constitutes as the one-third mark in the year. So far, the Missouri Tigers have had their share of ups and downs.
Mizzou checks in with a 2-2 record, which is disappointing to some. But hope remains. The Tigers two losses are to two top ten teams in Georgia and South Carolina. Still, many players have struggled so far and need to step it up in order to turn the Missouri season around.
Let’s grade how each position has done through this point in the season.
James Franklin is the starting quarterback for the Mizzou football team, but the Tigers have seen a lot of backup Corbin Berkstresser. The redshirt freshman started in the Tigers win over Arizona State when Franklin couldn’t go and saw a little bit of action in garbage time against Southeastern Louisiana State and South Carolina. Berkstresser has been quite impressive in his limited action, giving fans hope that he will one day be a quality starter. When Franklin has been in the game, he has struggled a little with accuracy, which can be credited to the shoulder injury he suffered in the offseason. Franklin is playing hurt and his play is being affected by it. Grade: B-
When it was announced that starting running back Henry Josey would miss the entire season due to his injury last season, many people were worried about the running back position for Missouri. His backups, however, have done a great job in relief. Kendial Lawrence has emerged as a quality running back, while Marcus Murphy has been a spark to a struggling offense. The Tiger running game has had limited chances to prove itself this season, but it has been a pleasant surprise. Grade: B+
Wide receiver is perhaps the deepest position on the Missouri team. There are as many as eight receivers that have caught a pass this season and on any given play a number of receivers can step up. The position’s stats are skewed lower than one would think due to the struggling quarterback play, but the pass catchers have done all they can to help out James Franklin and Corbin Berkstresser. TJ Moe has been reliable as always. Marcus Lucas has emerged as a top flight receiver, making plays all over the field. L’Damian Washington is the deep threat that every quarterback wants to have. Freshman superstar Dorial Green-Beckham hasn’t been as involved in the offense as fans would like, but that is because the position is very crowded. Grade: A
The Mizzou offensive line has greatly struggled this season. The group has been decimated with injuries every game, but it needs to step it up in order for Missouri to have a good season the rest of the way. Part of the reason quarterback James Franklin is struggling is because he is getting no time when he drops back to pass. There were preseason concerns with the TIgers’ undersized offensive line; concerns that have been justified. Missouri’s offensive line has been its worst position so far this year and is the key to a Tiger turnaround. Grade: D+
Missouri is historically known for outstanding play on the defensive line, and this year is no different. As much backlash as Sheldon RIchardson has gotten for his comments before the Georgia game, the man has been simply outstanding this season. Richardson struggled in the Georgia game, but he has stood out on the field in the Tigers’ other three games. Experts are touting Richardson as a pro prospect and he is living up to expectations. At defensive end, Brad Madison, Kony Ealy, and Michael Sam have all had flashes of excellent play, but none have been consistent. If all three can play well at the same time, Missouri’s defensive line will be a force throughout the rest of the year. Grade: A-
The linebacker postion has been another pleasant surprise for the Missouri Tigers this season. Everyone knew that Zavier Gooden, Will Ebner, and Andrew Wilson would play well this season, but the play of the backups has been a nice spark while Gooden and Ebner have gone through injury problems.
Donovan Bonner is the main backup at linebacker, but he might be playing the best football of the bunch. No one was worried when captains Gooden and Ebner went down because Bonner was there to carry the load for his injured teammates. In addition, backup Marcus Golden has been a force on special teams this season. Grade: B+
With the exception of last week’s South Carolina game, Mizzou’s secondary has played very well this season. Historically a weak point, the group has turned heads this season. When the group has struggled this season, it has been in the fourth quarter, and that is only because they were getting no rest due to a struggling offense.
E.J. Gaines is one of the top corners in the SEC and is the leader of the unit. Kenronte Walker has stepped up and emerged as a playmaker for a strong Tiger secondary. Missouri has a great chance of turning its season around if the defensive backs continue to play like they have so far. Grade: B
Special teams have struggled so far this season. Minus two Marcus Murphy punt returns against FCS-foe Southeastern Louisiana State, there have been no big plays on special teams for the Tigers. Kicker Andrew Baggett missed three field goals against Arizona State, which nearly cost the team the game. Trey Barrow has had a couple of bad kicks, but otherwise has done what he is supposed to do. The worst offenders on special teams, however, have been the tacklers. In the South Carolina game in particular, Missouri has missed many tackles on punts and kicks. Special teams should never cost a team a game, but it has so far for Missouri. Grade: D
Gary Pinkel has been a great coach through his tenure at Missouri, but he has struggled with some major decisions so far this season. The handling of the quarterback situation has been atrocious and Pinkel is the sole person to blame. He never should have played Franklin until he was completely healthy and shouldn’t have discussed his refusal to take a painkiller in front of the media. Offensive coordinator David Yost has always been questioned on some play calling decisions, and this year has been no different. Franklin has run way to much for a quarterback nursing an injury. He has also strayed away from the running game when it could help open up the passing game. Defensively, coordinator Dave Steckel has game-planned well and his unit has only struggled when it was fatigued. Grade: C