Five burning questions for Missouri
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Missouri is entering the upcoming season with unprecedented publicity after winning the North Division last season. And to a man, the Tigers have adopted the mantra that they won't be satisfied unless they win the Big 12 championship.
The Tigers claimed the Big 12 North title, marred only by losses to Oklahoma midway through the season and in the conference championship game that killed their national title hopes. But they rebounded for a 38-7 blowout victory over Arkansas -- their first bowl victory on Jan. 1 or later since 1966 -- that has sent expectations soaring heading into the season.
Despite the return of most of their offensive weapons and 10 defensive starters, several critical questions remain that will keep Gary Pinkel concerned as the Tigers prepare for Saturday's pivotal rivalry game in St. Louis against Illinois.
1. What happens if Chase Daniel is injured? The Tigers have two other graduates of the EA Sports Elite 11 Camp behind Daniel in senior Chase Patton and freshman Blaine Gabbert. But the two backups have combined to throw 13 passes during their college career, making their experience lacking. Patton has been hobbled by a sore hamstring during training camp and Gabbert is still learning his way with the Tigers' offense.
2. Can Derrick Washington replace Tony Temple? The 220-pound Washington is a more effective inside runner than Temple and Jimmy Jackson and De'Vion Moore both are capable of becoming strong breakaway threats. But will the rotation replace what Temple brought to the team, capped by his record-breaking 281-yard effort against Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl?
3. Will a retooled offensive line adequately protect Daniel? Pinkel is taking a gamble by starting redshirt freshman LT Elvis Fisher, who will start his first college game by protecting Daniel's blind side Saturday night against All-Big Ten defensive end Will Davis of Illinois. But Fisher has been the talk of camp, developing so quickly the Tigers felt comfortable enough to switch Kurtis Gregory back to RG. C Tim Barnes will be the other new starter.
4. How will the Tigers' defensive push remain strong without NT Lorenzo Williams? Junior Jaron Baston will replace Williams, an All-Big 12 performer who led the team in sacks last season. Even more important was Williams' leadership to the defense, which will be sorely missed.
5. How will the new punter work out? Jake Harry was expected to win the job last season after arriving from Palomar Junior College, but never seriously challenged Adam Crossett after a struggling start. He switched his training regime and says he's ready to play, but remains a huge unknown until he receives some game experience.