Big 12: Jared Perry
Last year, Danario Alexander, who previously topped out at 417 yards in a season, made good on his potential and blew away Maclin’s production with over 1,700 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns, almost 300 yards more than any other receiver in college football. Only four receivers surpassed 1,000 yards last season, and Alexander did it after undergoing two knee surgeries before his junior season and another before his final year.
No serious knee injuries have forced this year’s crop of receivers out of spring practice, but there is certainly talent waiting to take hold of new opportunities.
“Somebody always steps up, and before the season, it always seems like, ‘Who’s next?’ We’ll always come up with a guy,” said receiver Wes Kemp. “Somebody will always step up.”
Kemp and fellow junior Jerrell Jackson look like the most likely candidates, entering the season with a 23 and 37 catches a season ago, respectively, playing behind seniors Jared Perry and Alexander.
“I just know our offense needs playmakers this year,” Jackson said. “Knowing I get to take this role is a big privilege to me.”
Less-experienced sophomore Rolandis Woodland is rumored to have Maclinesque speed, but he has just five career catches and no scores. This spring, sophomore T.J. Moe (Kemp insisted it be said that “T.J.” is short for Taylor Jacob) has emerged as a possible contributor as well, leading the team in receptions during spring scrimmages and grabbing 12 passes in Saturday’s spring game.
“He was a QB in high school, but now his hands look like some of the best out there and he runs really good, crisp routes,” Kemp said of Moe. “Being a quarterback really helps his understanding of the game, and I think he’s seen the most improvement out of all of us.”
Tight end Michael Egnew could also help carry on the recent Missouri tradition of outstanding play at the position, following NFL draft picks Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman.
Whoever emerges will do so because of those increased opportunities. Missouri threw the ball 467 times last season, a drop from four consecutive seasons in the top three in the conference in pass attempts.
Though Missouri has a solid set of running backs, that number could balloon back over 500 next season.
“Coming here gives you a lot of opportunity. We play in a spread offense and the ball goes multiple ways,” Jackson said.
Players like Alexander and Maclin proved they should get it more.
So, who’s next?
Here's a quick look at the Big 12's top performers in the combine events (more events follow today and Tuesday):
- Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State, third among quarterbacks (4.71 seconds)
- Colt McCoy, Texas, fifth among quarterbacks (4.79)
- Brandon Banks, Kansas State, fifth among wide receivers (4.43)
- Trent Williams, Oklahoma, second among offensive linemen (4.88)
- Keith Toston, Oklahoma State, tied for fourth among running backs (22 reps)
- Jordan Shipley, Texas, tied for eighth among wide receivers (16 reps)
- Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma, tied for eighth among tight ends (20 reps)
- Russell Okung, Oklahoma State, second among offensive linemen (38 reps)
- Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska, tied for sixth among defensive linemen (32 reps)
- Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri, second among linebackers (34 reps)
- Keenan Clayton, Oklahoma, tied for fifth among linebackers (27 reps)
- Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State, second among quarterbacks (35 inches)
- Chris Brown, Oklahoma, tied for 10th among running backs (36 inches)
- Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma, fifth among tight ends (35 inches)
- Trent Williams, Oklahoma, first among offensive linemen (34.5 inches)
- Colt McCoy, Texas, tied for third among quarterbacks (9 feet, 6 inches)
- Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State, tied for fifth among quarterbacks (9 feet, 2 inches)
- David Gettis, Baylor, third among wide receivers (10 feet, 4 inches)
- Jared Perry, Missouri, ninth among wide receivers (10 feet, 1 inch)
- Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma, tied for fifth among tight ends (9 feet, 5 inches)
- Trent Williams, Oklahoma, tied for second among offensive linemen (9 feet, 5 inches)
- Jared Perry, Missouri, fifth among wide receivers (6.75 seconds)
- Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma, fifth among tight ends (7.07 seconds)
- J.D. Walton, Baylor, tied for ninth among offensive linemen (7.60 seconds)
- Riar Geer, Colorado, second among tight ends (4.29 seconds)
- Trent Williams, Oklahoma, fifth among offensive linemen (4.63 seconds)
- J.D. Walton, Baylor, tied for 10th among offensive linemen (4.69 seconds)
- Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma, fourth among tight ends (11.88 seconds)
Antoine produced two tackles and an assist for the Texas team, which rolled to a 36-17 victory over the Nation at the Sun Bowl in El Paso.
Several other former Big 12 players participated in the fourth annual February all-star game.
Here's a look at what the Big 12 players accomplished in the game. All of them played for the Texas team.
- Texas A&M FB Jamie McCoy: Rushed twice for 12 yards and produced one catch for 5 yards.
- Iowa State P Mike Brandtner: Two kicks for a 33.0 yard average. His longest was 43 yards and he had one pooch kick inside the 20.
- Baylor S Jordan Lake: Two assists, a shared tackle for a loss and one pass broken up.
- Missouri WR Jared Perry: One reception for 16 yards.
Several players who appeared on game rosters earlier in the week did not participate. Among those who were missing included Baylor wide receiver David Gettis, Oklahoma State guard Andrew Lewis, Texas A&M center Kevin Matthews, Texas Tech defensive end Brandon Sharpe and Texas Tech tackle Marlon Winn, according to the official statistical game book that was posted at the game's web site.
After the game, organizers told the El Paso Times that they were disappointed with an announced crowd of 26,041 for the game. That attendance was down significantly from last season's attendance of 42,000.
Game CEO Kenny Hansmire told the Times the game could be headed for San Antonio or Dallas because of the attendance decline.
The Big 12 will be represented by a group of players looking to make some pre-draft buzz.
Here's a look at the prospects representing the Big 12 schools, who will participate on the Texas team in the game.
WR David Gettis
S Jordan Lake
P Mike Brandtner
WR Jared Perry
S Lucien Antoine
G-C Andrew Lewis
FB-H-back Jamie McCoy
C Kevin Matthews
DE Brandon Sharpe
T Marlon Winn
Former Dallas Cowboys standout Bill Bates and Florida Atlantic University head coach Howard Schnellenberger will serve as the coaches at Saturday's game.
Total class: 23
ESPN 150: 0
By position: OT 3, WR 3, S 3, CB 3, RB 2, QB 2, ATH 2, DE 2, TE 1, DT 1, ILB 1.
By state: Texas 9, Missouri 6, Kansas 1, Michigan 1, Arkansas 1, Iowa 1, Oklahoma 1, Florida 1, Illinois 1, North Carolina 1.
Already enrolled in school: 4.
The big ones: Bookend OTs Nick Demien and Mitch Morse both could develop into standout pass-blockers with proper seasoning and development. Demien is a four-star recruit who is the No. 17 offensive tackle in the class. And Morse is the No. 19 tackle in the nation. DE Kony Ealy is a rangy, 6-foot-5, 230-pound pass-rusher who is ranked No. 49 among defensive ends and shows plenty of room for growth. He could blossom into a pass-rushing beast.
Sleeper: Darvin Ruise is a converted high school quarterback who likely will be a running back, receiver or a returner because of his athletic ability. Missouri coaches love his explosive speed and running ability with the ball.
Needs met: The Tigers added three receivers and a couple of athletes who could help bridge the loss of Danario Alexander and Jared Perry. Running back Greg White would appear to have a shot at eventually breaking into the logjam at the position. And Gary Pinkel appears to have addressed next season’s loss in the secondary with quantity as the Tigers attracted three safeties and three cornerbacks.
Analysis: This is the best recruiting class that Pinkel has attracted in his 10 seasons at Missouri. Surprisingly, he almost admitted it at his news conference on Wednesday. It’s a class of depth that answered almost every need for the Tigers, with heavy emphasis at wide receiver and the secondary. The Tigers had the best class in the North Division and should have the personnel to keep them in the mix for the Big 12 North title for the next few years.
What Gary Pinkel said: "I think the consistency of winning in our program and the great results we're having academically make Missouri a place a lot of kids look at now rather than five or six years ago. … “In our evaluation system, this is significantly a higher level of total recruits than we’ve had since we’ve been here. I don't know about anybody else's system, but that's the way ours reads, and we're excited about that."
Scouts Inc. grade/rankings: B-minus, fifth in Big 12.
The Big 12 is well represented on the list of invited players, with every team but Iowa State and Texas A&M having at least one representative.
Here's the final list. The late invitations, typically from underclassmen who declared for the draft, are listed in bold.
WR David Gettis
C J.D. Walton
TE Riar Geer
WR Dezmon Briscoe
WR Kerry Meier
S Darrell Stuckey
KANSAS STATE (3)
WR Brandon Banks
TE Jeron Mastrud
CB Joshua Moore
WR Danario Alexander
G Kurtis Gregory
WR Jared Perry
LB Sean Weatherspoon
S Larry Asante
LB Phillip Dillard
C Jacob Hickman
DT Ndamukong Suh
QB Sam Bradford
RB Chris Brown
OLB Keenan Clayton
TE Brody Eldridge
CB Dominique Franks
TE Jermaine Gresham
CB Brian Jackson
DT Gerald McCoy
T Trent Williams
OKLAHOMA STATE (6)
S Lucien Antoine
WR Dez Bryant
CB Perrish Cox
T Russell Okung
QB Zac Robinson
RB Keith Toston
DT Lamarr Houston
DE Sergio Kindle
QB Colt McCoy
LB Roddrick Muckelroy
WR Jordan Shipley
S Earl Thomas
T Adam Ulatoski
TEXAS TECH (2)
G Brandon Carter
CB Jamar Wall
Here's a look at what immediate recruiting needs each North Division team must address first.
Running back: With the departure of Darrell Scott and Demetrius Sumler, Dan Hawkins needs to find some talent at running back. With only three scholarship backs on the roster, an immediate talent infusion is needed. Tony Jones is the only commitment and the Buffaloes could use size from a bigger back.
Tight end/H-back: All of the positions are important in Kent Riddle’s offense, and six players graduated from those positions in December. The only player who will return with experience includes junior tight end Ryan Deehan, so Hawkins needs players at the position who can help immediately.
Quarterback: With Tyler Hansen set at quarterback and Cody Hawkins set to graduate after next season, the Buffaloes still would like to add some depth at the position. Nick Hirschman has enrolled early to get a head start on his development, and Josh Moten appears ready to enroll after failing to make his grades before last season.
Across the board talent infusion: The Cyclones already have added 24 commitments for the upcoming season. Junior college players like massive offensive lineman Jon Caspers, defensive end Rony Nelson, wide receiver Anthony Young and tight end Ricky Howard should provide an immediate lift. And look for coach Paul Rhoads to add a couple of more to capitalize on the late momentum from the Insight Bowl victory.
Running back: Preparing for the future will be important as Alexander Robinson will be entering his senior season. Freshmen Beau Blankenship still has some developing to do and Jeremiah Schwartz has left the program. The Cyclones have added depth with the addition of Duran Hollis and Shontrelle Johnson. Don’t be surprised if Hollis moves positions once he comes to college if Johnson develops as expected.
Wide receiver: The Cyclones had trouble making big plays and could use a talent boost at the position. Leading 2009 receiver Marquis Hamilton has graduated and Jake Williams will be a senior next season. Recruits Jarvis West and Chris Young appear to have addressed those needs.
Defensive end: The Jayhawks could use a talent upgrade here with occasional starters Jeff Wheeler and Maxwell Onyegbule graduated, and Jake Laptad and Quintin Woods entering their senior seasons in 2010. It became more of a need after Oklahoma beat out the Jayhawks for top defensive end prospect Geneo Grissom earlier this week.
Quarterback: With unproven Kale Pick set to take over for Todd Reesing, the Jayhawks have added junior college transfer Quinn Mecham of Snow Junior College to immediately contend for playing time. Meacham threw for 3,091 yards and 40 touchdowns last season and has already captured the attention of new offensive coordinator Chuck Long because of his experience in the spread offense.
Secondary: New coach Turner Gill also needs help in the secondary where starters Darrell Stuckey and Justin Thornton were seniors and Philip Strozier, Chris Harris and Calvin Rubles will be seniors next season.
Adjust time-held notions to recruiting: Bill Snyder said recruiting seemed “out of kilter” in his first season back because of how teams now are in a hurry to link up with rising juniors. This strategy has caused Snyder to change his recruiting strategy, looking into signing more players earlier than in his previous coaching strategy.
Junior-college additions again will be critical in the trenches: Snyder has attacked the junior colleges with his traditional fervor as he attempts to unearth a couple of under-recruited gems in the offensive line and defensive lines -- the Wildcats’ two primary needs. Also, the Wildcats need some immediate help from the junior colleges after a recruiting imbalance during the last two seasons under Ron Prince that has left them with a need for immediate contributors. Snyder has estimated that up to 13 players will enroll at the semester break to contend immediately for playing time.
Quarterback: Even with a crowded group of potential contenders at the position, Snyder is still considering another quarterback. Carson Coffman, Sammuel Lamur, Collin Klein and Oregon transfer Chris Harper all are in the mix at the position heading into spring practice.
Wide receiver: The Tigers have a lot of talent returning, but still will lose leading 2009 receiver Danario Alexander and Jared Perry. The opportunity for eventual playing time will be there for new arrivals, although Jerrell Jackson, Brandon Gerau, T.J. Moe and Wes Kemp will be back.
Nose tackle: The graduation of Jaron Baston and Bart Coslet’s senior-to-be status opens up a position for a contribution in the trenches for the Tigers.
Secondary: All four of Missouri’s projected starters next season -- cornerbacks Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland and safety Jarrell Harrison and Jasper Simmons -- will be seniors. The Tigers need to restock depth at the position and perhaps move it forward from this class.
Defensive end: The Cornhuskers could use an additional player with Barry Turner graduating and Pierre Allen set to enter his senior season in 2010. They are in the hunt with Oregon for Owamagbe Odighizuwa, a heralded speed rusher from Portland, Ore., who would be the crown jewel in the Cornhuskers’ incoming class if he commits.
Wide receivers: Many players are back, although the Cornhuskers could use an infusion of speed at the position. Niles Paul will be a senior and more talent is needed to make the Cornhuskers competitive with the athletic teams in the South Division like Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
Safety: Starters Matt O’Hanlon and Larry Asante both will be graduating and Eric Hagg will be a senior in 2010. The Cornhuskers will need some help to join with youngsters Courtney Osborne, Austin Cassidy and P.J. Smith at the position.
The official list has not been released, although SportingNews.com has accounted for most of the early players. The list does not include juniors and other players who might be invited late to the festivities, which will begin Feb. 24 in Indianapolis.
I would think Baylor linebacker Joe Pawelek, Baylor safety Jordan Lake and Texas center Chris Hall all will be invited later.
And I would expect eligible juniors such as Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford and Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant to get their opportunity at the combine.
Baylor: WR David Gettis, C J.D. Walton.
Colorado: TE Riar Geer.
Iowa State: None.
Kansas: WR Kerry Meier, S Darrell Stuckey.
Kansas State: WR Brandon Banks, TE Jeron Mastrud.
Missouri: WR Danario Alexander, G Kurtis Gregory, WR Jared Perry, LB Sean Weatherspoon.
Nebraska: S Larry Asante, LB Phillip Dillard, C Jacob Hickman, DT Ndamukong Suh.
Oklahoma: RB Chris Brown, TE Brody Eldridge, TE Jermaine Gresham, CB Brian Jackson, T Trent Williams.
Oklahoma State: CB Perrish Cox, T Russell Okung, QB Zac Robinson, RB Keith Toston.
Texas: DT Lamarr Houston, DE Sergio Kindle, QB Colt McCoy, LB Roddrick Muckelroy, WR Jordan Shipley, OT Adam Ulatoski.
Texas A&M: None.
Texas Tech: G Brandon Carter, DB Jamar Wall.
Will Zac Robinson play tonight for Oklahoma State? Robinson has made 34 consecutive starts for the Cowboys and is their unquestioned team leader. He’s developed into more of a running threat in recent weeks, reverting to the form that he showed earlier in his career. But his condition is iffy after a brutal head-to-head collision with Texas Tech cornerback Jamar Wall at the end of last week’s game. Robinson’s return to the lineup will be critical as the Cowboys try to win their way into the BCS this season. And if he can’t go tonight, junior Alex Cate would get the first start of his career against Colorado in a huge game in the national spotlight for the Cowboys.
Colorado responds to its role as a spoiler: The Buffaloes are the only Big 12 team without any bowl hopes heading into this week's games. Dan Hawkins predicted before the season that his team would “win 10 games with no excuses.” That dream has long been dashed, but can the Buffaloes ruin Oklahoma State’s BCS at-large hopes before a national television audience? In order to do so, they will have to play their best game of the season.
Big 12 title game or bust for Kansas State: It’s all or nothing for the Wildcats heading into their winner-take-all showdown with Nebraska for the North Division championship Saturday in Lincoln. If the Wildcats can notch an upset, they will qualify for their first championship game berth since 2003 and would qualify for a bowl. If they lose, they are through for the season. KSU coach Bill Snyder said he’s never had a team in these circumstances in his 41-season career as a coach. The Wildcats have won only once at Nebraska since 1968 and will be battling huge odds to extend their season.
Can Roy Helu Jr. continue his recent running binge? Helu has bounced back from an earlier shoulder injury to become the Cornhuskers' most consistent offensive threat, averaging 147 rushing yards per game in his last two games. His strong effort last week seemed to perk up the Cornhuskers’ entire offense in a 31-17 triumph over Kansas. Another big game will be important as the Cornhuskers attempt to claim their first championship game berth since 2006.
Colt McCoy’s last home game: It will be an emotional game Saturday in Austin when McCoy concludes his home career at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium against Kansas with the rest of his senior class. McCoy also can notch his 43rd career victory, giving him the NCAA record over David Greene. And the Longhorns can clinch a title game appearance this week with either an Oklahoma State loss or their own victory over the reeling Jayhawks.
Kansas responds to all of the off-the-field dramatics around the program this week: Coach Mark Mangino’s job appears to be in serious jeopardy after reports surfaced of an internal investigation by the school of Mangino’s coaching methods. The slumping Jayhawks have dropped their last five games after starting the season 5-0 and soaring as high as No. 16 in the national polls. A victory would qualify the team for its third straight bowl appearance under Mangino -- a feat that has never occurred in the 120-season history of the program. But a loss would mean Kansas would have to qualify for a bowl game next week with a victory over Missouri, or stay home from the bowls entirely.
Can Oklahoma halt its road woes? The Sooners are 1-4 away from Owen Field this season and have seen their scoring average plunge from 49.8 points at home to 16.8 points in games away from home. They need a big effort and a more consistent running game in order to beat Texas Tech in Lubbock for the first time since 2003. Bob Stoops will try to avoid his first three-game losing streak in any conference facility. Stoops has lost three consecutive games in the Orange Bowl, but has never endured a streak like that inside any rival Big 12 home stadium.
Who starts at quarterback for Texas Tech? Mike Leach admitted earlier this week that he made a mistake by taking Taylor Potts out of the game last week when he removed him for Steven Sheffield midway through the Red Raiders’ loss at Oklahoma State. Sheffield was game, but showed the effects of foot surgery he underwent only a month earlier. Will Leach start Potts against the talented Oklahoma defense and will he show more patience in sticking with him after an early mistake or two? Or will he prefer a lift from Sheffield, who seems to provide his team with a boost with his running abilities when he enters the game?
The Battle of the Brazos -- with legitimate bowl ramifications for a change: It’s been a long time since both Baylor and Texas A&M both had bowl hopes in a game between the two old rivals late in the season. The Aggies can wrap up their first bowl berth since 2007 with a victory. And the Bears can grab an improbable bowl berth -- thought to be an impossibility after the earlier season-ending injury to Robert Griffin -- by winning against the Aggies and beating Texas Tech next week in Arlington. Baylor will be facing some long odds as it attempts to beat A&M at Kyle Field for the first time since 1984. A victory here would clearly be Art Briles' biggest triumph since his arrival at Baylor.
Can Danario Alexander do it again? Missouri's talented senior wide receiver has developed into the league’s biggest offensive weapon in recent weeks after posting back-to-back 200-yard receiving games against Baylor and Kansas State. He will be gunning for a third straight 200-yard game -- a feat that would tie him with Tulsa’s Howard Twilley and Nevada’s Trevor Insley for an NCAA record. Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert will be leaning on Alexander a little more with the injury to starting wide receiver Jared Perry. But the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Alexander’s hopes should be boosted by the fact he will be playing against an undersized Iowa State starting secondary that averages only 5-foot-9.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The folks at ESPN's Stats & Information have come up with a couple of intriguing lists about the top passers and receivers in the Big 12 in terms of producing big plays so far this season.
Here's a look at the Big 12 passers and receivers with the most 20-yard plays so far this season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Here's a quick look at how Missouri has claimed a 9-0 lead at the end of the first half.
Turning point: Missouri receiver Jared Perry got behind Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara for a pivotal 38-yard gain in the final minute of the half. The gain helped set up the game’s only touchdown four plays later, providing the Tigers with a 9-0 halftime advantage.
Stat of the half: Nebraska’s ballyhooed rushing attack came into the game producing 183.8 yards per contest and 5.7 yards per carry. In the first half, the Cornhuskers produced 21 yards on 15 carries for an average of 1.4 yards per rush.
Best player in the half: Blaine Gabbert’s statistics were pedestrian (12 of 24 passing, 107 yards, minus-8 yards rushing), but he appeared to gain confidence as the game continued. His two clutch plays on the final drive of the half -- the pass to Perry and his touchdown run -- showed that he has moxie to lead his team. That appears to be missing from Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee.
Best call: Missouri coach Gary Pinkel made a gutty decision on the final play of the half, allowing Gabbert to go for the touchdown on fourth-and-1. After faking to Derrick Washington, Gabbert reached the end zone after a scramble around right end before fumbling to account for the only touchdown of the half. After a replay, the call stood.
What Nebraska needs to do: The Cornhuskers need some consistency in their passing game. Lee thrown for only 75 yards on 8 of 22 passing and has appeared discombobulated by Missouri’s intensifying pass rush. Roy Helu Jr. hasn’t been a factor, meaning he still might be struggling with his cold. But the Cornhuskers need an infusion of offense quickly because this game is looking very similar to their lackluster offensive effort at Virginia Tech.
What Missouri needs to do: Gabbert looked comfortable as the half continued. But the Tigers need to get the running game to open up and do a better job of staying away from penalties. The Tigers have repeatedly shot themselves in the foot as they’ve been flagged for 65 yards in the first half. They can’t afford those mental mistakes if Nebraska ever gets its offense cooking.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
As I made my predictions last week, I was struck by the unique similarities that Texas Tech and Missouri share this season.
I think it's fair to categorize both of these teams as the Big 12's biggest unknown qualities heading into the season. Here are some qualities both teams share.
- Both schools are looking to rebuild and reload after earning a share of their division titles last season. It was Missouri's second-straight title game appearance -- an unprecedented feat for the school. Texas Tech earned a share of its first Big 12 South Division title last season, but was edged out of the title game by the Big 12's tiebreaker.
- Both will be attempting to replace arguably the most decorated quarterback in school history. Missouri will be looking for a change from Chase Daniel, who earned more Heisman acclaim and broke more school passing records in his career than any recent Tiger quarterback. And Tech will be looking for a new quarterback in place of Graham Harrell, who similarly earned more Heisman support and broke more passing records than any quarterback in his school's history.
- Missouri and Texas Tech will be replacing their old quarterbacks with mammoth new prototypes who look more like linebackers or tight ends than quarterbacks. Missouri's new quarterback is 6-foot-5, 240-pound sophomore Blaine Gabbert. Tech will counter with 6-foot-5, 218-pound junior Taylor Potts.
- Both teams will be attempting to replace the most prolific receiver in school history. Missouri's Jeremy Maclin and Tech's Michael Crabtree both went on to become first-round selections in the NFL draft.
- Receiving replacements for both schools have been in the doghouse because of focus-related issues. Missouri's Jared Perry has been demoted because of his problems catching footballs. Texas Tech's Edward Britton struggled this spring because he fell behind academically.
- Both teams could lean on their running games a little more this season with strong featured running backs -- Missouri with Derrick Washington and Texas Tech with Baron Batch (once he recovers from his arm injury).
- Both teams have been dogged by assumptions that their head coach is more concerned about offense than defense. And the recent successes of Gary Pinkel and Mike Leach can at least somewhat be attributed to the development of their defenses.
- Both teams will be on display early in the season in made-for-television matchups against bitter divisional rivals in their conference openers. The Tigers catch Nebraska on Oct. 8 and the Red Raiders will meet Texas on Sept. 19.
It would be a surprise if either Texas Tech or Missouri claim another share of their respective divisional titles. But I think both teams will be a challenge for any opponent and will be among the most entertaining teams in college football to watch. I expect both teams to make a bowl game in what is considered transitional seasons -- notice I didn't use that nasty "r" word that coaches hate to hear (rebuilding) -- after their recent success.
It wouldn't surprise me to see both Texas Tech and Missouri finish with the same record. How about 7-5 for both teams?
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's one of the oldest motivational tricks in the book, but one that Missouri coach Gary Pinkel apparently is employing in the middle of two-a-day practices for his young team.
Perry grabbed 41 passes for the Tigers in 2008. He expected to see his role expand with the departure of Missouri's top three receivers from last season -- wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Tommy Saunders and tight end Chase Coffman.
Perry told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he was surprised by the move.
"When I first heard about it, it was real frustrating, kind of de-motivating," Perry said. "I have to come back and make plays like I've done, and it'll all work out. I know I'm a playmaker. I respect the decision the coaches made, and it makes me work harder."
I'm just wondering if this is kind of an "inspirational move" meant to shake the cobwebs from Perry in the middle of long preseason practices, or if it instead shows Pinkel's growing confidence in one of his young players.
Pinkel has repeatedly said he's getting better, faster players from improved recruiting in recent years after the Tigers' back-to-back appearances in the Big 12 title game.
Maybe this is just one of those players moving up.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
There's no doubt after spending a lot of time around Missouri players last week that they feel disrespected by preseason prognosticators who aren't picking them to contend in the North Division title race this season.
Sure, the Tigers lose players like Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman, Jeremy Maclin, William Moore, Ziggy Hood and Jeff Wolfert from their back-to-back title-game teams. All arguably are among the greatest players at their positions in school history.
Recruiting has picked up in recent years for the Tigers. And that infusion will have them be competitive in nearly every game this season.
But being able to contend for a third-straight appearance in the Big 12 championship game might be a different story -- particularly with the balance that should be present in the rest of the division this season.
Here's a look at three predictions for the Tigers this year.
1. There's no way that Missouri can escape the nonconference part of their schedule without at least one loss.
Illinois has lost all four games in the Missouri series since it returned to St. Louis in 2002. The Illini have been embarrassed by allowing an average of 46 points per game in the last two seasons. They will want revenge and with Juice Williams, they probably will get it this season.
And veteran Nevada coach Chris Ault still remembers how the Tigers ran up the score in a 69-17 loss at Columbia last season. The Wolf Pack will have their chance at revenge this season, buying quarterback Colin Kaepernick some exposure before a national television audience.
I'm expecting Missouri to lose at least one of those nonconference games. And it wouldn't be a shock to me if they lost both of them.
2. Blaine Gabbert won't be Chase Daniel, but he won't fare badly in his first season as starter.
There was some "Chicken Little" thinking among Missouri fans when Gabbert struggled during the spring game. Don't worry about him. By the middle of the season, I'm expecting him to be an accomplished Big 12 starter.
And even with the troubles I'm expecting for his team early, the Big 12 will be a different story. And if Gabbert can orchestrate a big victory over Nebraska on Oct. 8 in the Tigers' Big 12 opener, they might hang around the Big 12 North Division title race a lot longer than most are expecting.
3. Missouri will have five receivers who will produce at least 50 receptions this season.
The Tigers won't have Maclin, Coffman or Tommy Saunders this year. Don't look for as much concentration at the top of the receiving list, but expect a lot more balance. Danario Alexander, Wes Kemp, Andrew Jones, Jared Perry and even running back Derrick Washington are ready to step up as receivers this season. New coordinator David Yost's offensive strategy will feature a lot of producers.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Missouri had already wrapped up the Big 12 North title. And Kansas was playing merely to avoid a trip to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.
But last year's Border War had as much drama as any of the games in the series because of the gutty performance from several Kansas players who rebounded after earlier injuries in the season.
Reesing to Meier. Again and again.
Date: Nov. 29, 2008
Place: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
Score: Kansas 40, Missouri 37
Some of the luster from the previous season's game was missing as Missouri had already claimed the North title.
Kansas jumped ahead early and stretched the lead to 26-10 early in the third quarter on a 19-yard touchdown run by Jake Sharp.
But Missouri climbed back in with a pair of Chase Daniel touchdown passes 57 seconds apart midway through the third quarter.
The Tigers claimed the lead for the first time at 30-26 on Daniel's fourth touchdown pass of the game, a 6-yard strike to Chase Coffman with 6:52 left.
Kansas stormed back to reclaim the lead as Reesing connected with Kerry Meier on an 8-yard touchdown pass with 4:26 left to put them ahead, 33-30.
Daniel answered with an epic 73-yard drive in which he accounted for all of the yardage by his runs or passes until the last play of the possession -- a 6-yard scoring run by Derrick Washington with 1:50 left that pushed Missouri ahead, 37-33.
But the Tigers left too much time. And Reesing and Meier, who both had been banged up with injuries earlier in the season, were ready.
The duo hooked up five times for receptions on the game-winning drive, including the game-winning 26-yard strike on fourth down which gave the Jayhawks the lead with 27 seconds left.
But the game still wasn't over. Missouri took advantage of a 25-yard pass from Daniel to Jared Perry to advance to the Kansas 36. It set up a 54-yard field goal attempt by Jeff Wolfert on the final play of the game. But Phillip Strozier partially blocked the kick, preserving the victory in one of the wildest games of the 117-game series between the two bitter rivals.
Only a year ago, Reesing had beaten Meier out for the starting position at quarterback. But the former positional rivals worked together when the Jayhawks most needed them to provide one of the most dramatic triumphs in school history.
The numbers: Reesing, who played through various injuries in the game and had his hand stitched up afterward, finished 37-for-51 for 375 yards and four touchdowns. Meier produced a school-record 14 catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
Darrell Stuckey was the defensive standout for the Jayhawks, sharing team honors with six tackles, producing two interceptions and forcing and recovering a fumble.
They said it, part I: "Our injury list, a roll of toilet paper wouldn't be enough. We've got guys that played today that could barely walk a week ago. It's the guttiest performance I've ever been associated with as a coach," -- Kansas coach Mark Mangino, who told reporters after the game how proud he was of his team's effort.
They said it, part II: "His play was phenomenal. I get this feeling when I watch him that you can almost see this competitive spirit radiate from him," Mangino on Reesing's performance.
The upshot: Despite the loss, Missouri advanced to the Big 12 championship game the following week in the same stadium. The Tigers dropped a 62-21 loss to Oklahoma, their second-straight Big 12 title game defeat to the Sooners.
Kansas advanced to the Insight Bowl, where Reesing, Dezmon Briscoe and Meier were at it again. The Jayhawks combined for an impressive 42-21 victory over Minnesota. The game marked the Jayhawks' first back-to-back bowl appearances in school history. After losing four of five games late in the season, Kansas finished 8-5.
Missouri concluded the season with an impressive bowl victory, punctuating Daniel's career with a 30-23 overtime victory over Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl. Missouri finished 10-4 with a No. 19 ranking in the final AP poll in 2008.
22. A Texas-sized comeback - Texas over Oklahoma State in 2004.
23. A Border War unlike any of the rest -- Missouri over Kansas in 2007.
24. Seneca Wallace's wild TD run vs. Texas Tech in 2001.
25. Baylor's "So Much for Taking a Knee."