NCF Nation: Jimmie Hunt

If we’ve learned anything from the past few years, it’s that SEC teams with one loss are still very capable of reaching the national championship game. There is an even greater chance of that happening this season with the debut of the College Football Playoff. That’s good news for teams like Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M and Missouri.

With that said, all four of those one-loss teams still have deficiencies they need to overcome to get back in the playoff conversation.

Alabama: A compliment to Cooper

Amari Cooper has been exceptional this season. Through the first five games, he leads the SEC in receptions (52) and yards (746), and is tied for second in the league with five touchdowns. But despite Cooper’s best efforts against Ole Miss, nine catches for 91 yards, the Alabama passing game still struggled in last Saturday’s loss to Ole Miss.

That is because the Crimson Tide need somebody else to step up.

There is no lack of talent in Tuscaloosa. Tight end O.J. Howard is as gifted athletically as you will find at the position, but he is hardly used. Howard finally made a big play last weekend, but he was also responsible for a critical holding penalty on the last drive.

The bigger surprise has been wide receiver Christion Jones. The senior was expected to play a bigger role this season, but he is averaging two catches per game, and his season-high in yards is 52 against Southern Miss. To make matters worse, it was his fumble on a kickoff return that led to Ole Miss scoring the game-winning touchdown.

The loss of Kenyan Drake didn’t help either. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin had been using him out wide in certain sets, and no other back on the team provides that type of versatility.

Georgia: Help in the secondary

At this point, do we even know who’s playing in Georgia’s secondary? The scarier question might be who comes in if one of the starters goes down with injury.

It hasn’t been easy for first-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. The Bulldogs dismissed two starting defensive backs this offseason, and a third transferred to Louisville. In the past week and a half, the team lost three more defensive backs for various reasons.

Rico Johnson was given a medical disqualification because of a spinal cord injury, Sheldon Dawson is no longer with the team, and Shaquille Jones was dismissed from the team after he was charged with shoplifting. The mass exodus in the secondary leaves Georgia with 10 scholarship defensive backs and very little experience among them.

It didn’t hurt them last week in a win against Vanderbilt, but both Dylan Thompson and Justin Worley have thrown for more than 250 yards and three touchdowns against the Bulldogs already this season. On Saturday, they travel to Missouri to face Maty Mauk, one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks.

It’s too late to add depth at this point, but this UGA secondary is going to have to grow up in a hurry if it wants to reach the playoff.

Missouri: More options for Mauk

Speaking of Mauk, he played his worst game of the season the last time out against South Carolina. At one point in the fourth quarter, he was 9 of 29 for just 52 yards passing. He did lead the Tigers to a stunning come-from-behind victory, but it wasn’t pretty.

The biggest reason for Mauk’s struggles? He was missing two of his top wide receivers -- Jimmie Hunt and Darius White. The two had combined for more than 400 yards receiving and eight touchdowns in the first four games, but the offense wasn’t the same without them. As talented as Mauk is, he still needs playmakers to throw to, and Bud Sasser can’t do it all by himself.

Both Hunt and White are likely to return this Saturday against Georgia in what has become a critical game in the SEC East. That will certainly help, but can you imagine if Missouri still had Dorial Green-Beckham on its roster? It would take an above average position group and make it exceptional.

Instead, the Tigers are going to have to make do with what they have and hope everybody remains healthy the rest of this season.

Texas A&M: Somebody who can tackle

OK, that might seem a bit harsh, but the Aggies' defense looked downright awful last week against Mississippi State. It’s not everybody. Freshman Myles Garrett is a star in this league, and the defensive line has actually played pretty decent this season. The same can’t be said for the linebackers and the secondary, though.

It’s typically not a good sign when three of your top four tacklers are defensive backs. That means running backs are getting to the second level and wide receivers are catching their fair share of passes. It also means your linebackers aren’t making plays.

Justin Bass is second on the team in tackles, but he was a walk-on prior to this season. Jordan Mastrogiovanni is a solid captain for the defense, but he’s missed time because of injury and the jury is still out as to whether he can be a good SEC linebacker.

Texas A&M is missing players like Darian Claiborne, who was dismissed from the team in June. He was third on the team last season with 89 tackles. The loss of TCU transfer A.J. Hilliard, who dislocated his ankle in the season opener at South Carolina, was another big blow to this defense. The staff had high expectations for him.

With three of the next four games against top-10 opponents, the Aggies need to play better on defense to have any chance of making the playoff.

Missouri Tigers season preview

August, 14, 2014
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Previewing the 2014 season for the Missouri Tigers:

2013 record: 12-2 (7-1 SEC), beat Oklahoma State 41-31 in the AT&T Cotton Bowl

Final grade for 2013 season: In their second season in the SEC, the Tigers were one of the league's biggest surprises.

Key losses: QB James Franklin, WR Dorial Green-Beckham (dismissed), WR L'Damian Washington, WR Marcus Lucas, RB Henry Josey, OT Justin Britt, G Max Copeland, DE Michael Sam, DE Kony Ealy, LB Donovan Bonner, CB E.J. Gaines

[+] EnlargeMarkus Golden
Scott Kane/Icon SMIMissouri's defense will be more improved with the return of DE Markus Golden for the 2014 season.
Key returnees: QB Maty Mauk, C Evan Boehm, OT Mitch Morse, OT Connor McGovern, RB Russell Hansbrough, WR Jimmie Hunt, WR Bud Sasser, DT Matt Hoch, DT Lucas Vincent, LB Kentrell Brothers, S Braylon Webb

Projected 2014 starters: QB Mauk, RB Hansbrough, WR Sasser, WR Hunt, WR Darius White, TE Sean Culkin, LT Morse, LG Anthony Gatti, C Boehm, RG Mitch L. Hall, RT McGovern, DE Markus Golden, DT Hoch, DT Vincent, DE Shane Ray, LB Donavin Newsom, LB Brothers, LB Michael Scherer, CB Aarion Penton, CB John Gibson, S Webb, S Ian Simon

Instant impact newcomers: CB Kenya Dennis (juco), WR DeSean Blair, WR Lawrence Lee

Breakout player: With the caveat that they aren't yet star players, it would be understandable to look at Mauk and Golden, two very talented first-time starters. Mauk is something of a dark horse Heisman Trophy contender, while Golden wreaked havoc with 6.5 sacks last season despite playing just 40 percent of MU's snaps. But the true breakout Tiger is White, the Texas Longhorns transfer who was once the No. 3-rated wide receiver prospect in the Class of 2010. White's numbers in his first season for Mizzou weren't too impressive (seven catches, 76 yards and a TD), but there wasn't much opportunity behind the established starters. That situation changes drastically in 2014, as the Tigers need White to explode out of the gate and be the weapon everyone expected he would be in college.

Most important game: The Tigers lost just one regular-season game, and it took double overtime for South Carolina to score the win at Faurot Field. This season, Missouri will look to return the favor in Columbia, South Carolina, and the stakes could be just as high for two of the better teams in the SEC East. After four nonconference games to start the season, Mizzou kicks off its league schedule with a chance to make a profound statement that 2013 was no fluke.

Biggest question mark: There's reason for concern in the secondary, where the Tigers must replace two departed starters at cornerback. But there's no escaping the glaring holes at wide receiver after MU lost its top three pass-catchers from 2013. Washington and Lucas were seniors. The Tigers were prepared to replace those two. But kicking Green-Beckham off the team -- although necessary -- significantly altered this season's forecast. DGB was the kind of star who commanded the attention of every defensive game plan. Missouri's top returning receivers, Sasser and Hunt, have thus far only contributed in limited roles. Can they step in and fill the void?

Upset special: Missouri will play three teams that are currently ranked in the coaches' poll -- South Carolina, Georgia and Texas A&M. The Gamecocks could be the class of the East Division. The Aggies are expected to improve by leaps and bounds by mid-November. Both of those contests are in enemy territory, which means the Tigers' best chance of scoring an upset could be against Georgia in Columbia, Missouri. Regardless of whether MU can pull off a win against the Bulldogs, there are bound to be a lot of points on the board. Both teams have a lot of firepower on offense and questions in the secondary.

They said it: "[Mauk] is a very natural leader. I knew that when he was in high school. He was one of those guys that he loves to play football, loves to compete. I think he's a dual-threat guy. He can run. He's got very good speed. Puts a lot of pressure on the defense utilizing both of those things. ... He's got a great work ethic. He's a winner. Players know it. He's a remarkable competitor. They know it. They respect the way he leads because he leads in a very, very positive way. We're very fortunate to have a young player like him. That's why he did so well last year when we threw him in there as a freshman." -- Gary Pinkel at SEC media days

Preseason predictions

ESPN Stats & Information: 6.97 wins

Bovada over-under: 7.5 wins

Our take: Stats and odds are certainly helpful tools when it comes to making predictions, but so is basic football knowledge. Missouri's strength is unquestionably on both lines, which is where games are won. The Tigers have a big, strong offensive line with plenty of experience (a combined 72 starts). Give Mauk time to throw, and he'll have a good chance to be productive even with a developing receiving corps. On the defensive line, Missouri had the league's top pass rush in 2013 and shouldn't miss a beat this fall. And then there's the schedule. It's very manageable. Missouri expects to survive its nonconference slate before facing eight consecutive SEC foes. The Tigers start that run with South Carolina, Georgia and Florida -- the perceived top threats in the SEC East. By the end of October, the division race could be a muddy mess but it's likely Missouri will be in the thick of it with a chance to go back to Atlanta for a second shot at the SEC title.
From time to time, our SEC reporters will give their takes on a burning question facing the league. They will both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We will let you decide which reporter is right.

With the start of the 2014 season a little more than a month away, we are still trying to figure out who will be in position to capture the league title this fall. But there are a few teams we are still trying to get a good read on.

Today’s Take Two topic: What is the toughest SEC team to get a handle on in 2014 -- Missouri or LSU?

Take 1: Edward Aschoff

[+] EnlargeMaty Mauk
AP Photo/L.G. PattersonMaty Mauk returns, but Missouri has several question marks on both sides of the ball.
To me, the Missouri Tigers are the toughest team to figure out in 2014. After last season's special run through the SEC, there is plenty of confidence in Columbia, Missouri, but there is also a lot of uncertainty in some areas on this team. I could see this group of Tigers continuing to ride the momentum they created last season, but I could also see Mizzou take a nosedive this fall.

I do like that Mizzou has a confident, talented quarterback returning in Maty Mauk. He went 3-1 as a starter last season in place of an injured James Franklin. Mauk threw for more than 1,000 yards and had 11 touchdowns to just one interception. He lost almost nine pounds this summer because of a viral infection, but he thinks it has made him lighter, faster and quicker. He has a stacked backfield to work with and an experienced offensive line in front of him. The defense will again be anchored by a stout defensive line, starting with potential All-SEC defensive end Markus Golden.

But there are plenty of questions. Who is Mauk going to throw to? How will reshuffling affect the offensive line? Are there true playmakers at linebacker? How is an inexperienced secondary going to hold up this season? Who's going to replace all those proven leaders?

Receivers Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt and Darius White have good field experience, but one of them is going to have to stand out as the guy for Mauk to rely on. Are any of them ready? Can any of them be dynamic enough playmakers to force defenses to adjust? Not having someone like Dorial Green-Beckham could really hurt this offense.

Two starters are gone at linebacker, and this unit dealt with injuries this spring. Not great. Mizzou’s secondary was one of the SEC’s worst last season, and three starters are gone. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? There is depth in the secondary, but not a lot of proven guys, and that concerns me.

The biggest thing might be finding new vocal leaders. Who can carry this team like Franklin, Michael Sam and L'Damian Washington did last season? Is Mauk up to the task? Golden? I don’t think we really know what the locker room scene is like for this team.

Take 2: Greg Ostendorf

Let’s start with the fact that LSU lost nine players to the NFL draft this past year, more than any other team in college football. The team’s starting quarterback, its top two running backs, top two wide receivers and its top offensive lineman have all moved on to the next level. Time to rebuild, right? Not in Baton Rouge. Not under Les Miles.

Since Miles took over in 2005, LSU has had 60 players taken in the NFL draft, yet the Tigers have managed to win at least 10 games in seven of Miles’ nine seasons as head coach.

So don’t expect this season’s LSU team to fall off completely, but with so many unknowns and a stacked SEC West, the Tigers could finish anywhere between first to sixth in their own division. They are talented enough to reach the inaugural College Football Playoff, but they could just as easily end up in the Music City Bowl.

Where this team goes will be dependent on its incoming recruiting class. Between Brandon Harris, Leonard Fournette and Malachi Dupre, LSU could have three true freshman starting on offense by the time the season opener rolls around.

Fournette might be the closest thing to a sure thing. The 6-foot-1, 224-pound running back was the No. 1 recruit in the country and has already drawn comparisons to Adrian Peterson. He was one of the top stories at SEC media days, and he has yet to record a carry. But can he handle the pressure and the rigors of a college football season? Can Harris and Dupre handle it? All three were playing high school football in Louisiana less than a year ago.

As for the defense, there are even more question marks. Linebacker Kwon Alexander and cornerback Tre'Davious White are good players, potentially All-SEC, but what is the status of Jalen Mills after his arrest this offseason? Who will fill the big shoes left by Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson on the defensive line? Who are the leaders going to be?

This might be the toughest coaching job yet for Miles, but don’t be surprised if LSU is in the playoff conversation when it travels to Texas A&M on Thanksgiving.
HOOVER, Ala. -- SEC media days have been more about who isn’t here as opposed to who is here, and it was no different Wednesday with former Missouri Tigers wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham dominating the conversation during the Tigers’ session.

Green-Beckham was dismissed from the team in April and recently landed at Oklahoma, where he will be eligible to play in 2015.

[+] EnlargeDorial Green-Beckham
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsThe Missouri Tigers believe they have capable replacements for receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who was dismissed from the program in April.
“I want things to work well for Dorial,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “That’s important to me, and hopefully they will. I think that’s a good place and hopefully he learns some lessons. He’s overall a good kid, and he has a chance to turn this whole thing into a positive thing for him personally.”

It’s obviously a difficult blow for the Tigers. Green-Beckham was the top wide receiver and No. 3 overall prospect in ESPN’s 2012 recruiting rankings. He led the team last season with 59 receptions and finished with 883 yards and 12 touchdowns. However, Missouri has to move on without him, and nobody knows that better than sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk.

“Obviously, we were close,” Mauk said. “He called me his first day (at Oklahoma), said he was moved in and ready to get started, and I wished him luck. He’s going to do good down there. We’ll stay in contact. But at Missouri, we’re not worried about it. We’ve moved on. Our guys are ready. They have accepted their roles.”

The Tigers will be without their top three wide receivers from a year ago, losing L'Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas in addition to Green-Beckham, but that doesn’t mean it is not a position of strength heading into the fall.

Seniors Bud Sasser and Jimmie Hunt each had more than 20 receptions a season ago, and the addition of former Texas wide receiver Darius White, a former ESPN 150 recruit who sat out last season after transferring, could provide another weapon on the outside.

“I look at Darius White and I see a top recruit in the nation who transferred from Texas, who I know like the back of my hand and who I can throw it to and expect him to catch it every time,” Mauk said. “Bud Sasser fills in at the X, somebody that I’ve been playing with that I love. He runs tremendous routes. And then Jimmie Hunt, an inside guy that maybe last year he couldn’t do what he can do right now. He’s quick and he’s fast.”

Mauk added that he has never seen someone as fast or as quick as redshirt freshman J'Mon Moore, and he made sure to mention the trio of incoming freshmen -- DeSean Blair, Nate Brown and Lawrence Lee -- who have all impressed since they arrived on campus.

It was clear Wednesday that there are no hard feelings between Missouri and Green-Beckham, and though the Tigers will certainly miss his production on the field, they are more than pleased with the options they still have available in the passing game.
One look at Dorial Green-Beckham will likely leave a nice crick in your neck. After all, Missouri's sophomore receiver stands a towering 6 feet 6 inches and has spent the past few years of his life just literally looking down at people.

But even with his monster size, Green-Beckham couldn't shake his nerves as a freshman. His size couldn't save him from the pressure he felt from all the hype that followed him from being the nation's No. 3 overall recruit in the 2012 class.

"I was nervous," Green-Beckham said.

[+] EnlargeDorial Green-Beckham
AP Photo/L.G. Patterson/AP PhotoEntering his second season at Missouri, wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham says he's adjusted to the Tigers' offense as well as being in the spotlight.
His giant slayer came in the form of attention and pressure. Distractions clouded his mind during the first part of his freshman season. But after his mid-season suspension, something started to click. Green-Beckham's eyes opened and his mind cleared, leading him to becoming Mizzou's top receiver during the second half of the year.

"I had to pick it up because I had to have a bigger role for the team and try to help my team get victories," said Green-Beckhman, who caught 21 passes for 267 yards and four touchdowns in Mizzou's final five games.

His maturity and work ethic spilled over into the spring, as he was the team's most consistent offensive player. The fire that made him so special seemed to be back, and now he's ready to take over this fall.

"Now that I have the first year under the belt, just the experience that I got last year is really got me feeling more comfortable and prepared for this year's season," Green-Beckham said.

As comfortable as Green-Beckham is, it certainly wasn't easy at the beginning. From the moment he stepped on campus, everyone in Columbia, Mo., knew him. Fans and classmates mobbed him in public and in between classes. Veteran players approached him at his first practice explaining how much the team needed to immediately see the player who earned No. 1 high school receiver honors.

Green-Beckham expected attention, but he never thought it would become such a distraction. He didn't know the limelight would be so bright.

"Coming out of high school, having all the hype and all the fame that I did, and having all eyes on me ... it was hard," Green-Beckham said.

What made things worse was that DGB wasn't catching onto things on the playing field. He really wasn't catching anything, as he recorded just seven receptions in his first five games. His only multi-catch game was the Tigers' opener when he caught three passes.

The game was too fast and neither his body nor his mind were adjusting.

Then his season really took a hit when he and four other freshmen were suspended in early October after being arrested on suspicion of possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana. DGB sat out the Vanderbilt game and didn't register any stats a week later against Alabama.

What was supposed to be a promising season was falling apart until he sought the advice of "Big Brothers" Jimmie Hunt and L'Damian Washington. They were blunt, telling him the only way for him to sniff at his potential was to leave the outside forces alone. He could only control what he was doing on the football field, and that meant he needed the playbook in his hand more. He needed time to learn, not just act.

"They are the ones who really helped me get focused and learn the plays a lot better," Green-Beckham said. "I took it in slowly and spent my extra time with those guys."

And by the end of the season, he was playing better than them. Now, it's all about DGB. And it should continue to be all about DGB as he moves outside his old high school position at the "X" receiver spot. At 6-6, 225 pounds, he's a physical mismatch wherever he lines up, but DGB is at home on the outside. He can dissect every inch of the routes and knows what defenders will give him in that spot.

"Lining up on that side, I know exactly what's coming and what's going to be ahead of me," he said. "I'm playing on that left side and I'm more comfortable about it.

"That really boosted my confidence."

What's also boosted his confidence is that he's more dangerous in traffic. DGB is fighting guys for passes and he's finally getting more comfortable with how he uses his body. DGB can sprint past anyone, but his bread and butter has become the jump ball, which has made one-on-ones cake and will be key to his success this fall.

When asked on the phone if he giggled or smiled when he lined up one-on-one with his teammates now, DGB paused and tried his best to not throw guys under the bus.

"I always have a smile on my face when I'm running around out there and playing with my teammates," he said.

He hopes to be smiling even more this fall.
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- On paper, Missouri's group of wide receivers bleeds inexperience.

Outside of veteran T.J. Moe, who will be a senior this fall, Missouri's returning receiving targets have combined for 51 catches for 712 yards and five touchdowns in their careers.

But when you talk to players and coaches at Missouri, those numbers tell a much different story. They say that while the returners aren’t burning up the stat sheet, it hasn't been because of a lack of talent.

"It's only unproven because guys haven't got the chance to do anything yet," Moe said. "We have a lot of good receivers out here and we have a lot of guys out here who have made plays."

Last year, Moe led the Tigers with 54 receptions and 649 yards. Behind him, Missouri had former All-American tight end Michael Egnew (50 receptions) and seniors Wes Kemp (29 receptions) and Jerrel Jackson (17 receptions), who combined for 36 starts.

"It's hard to beat those guys out because they do all the right things," offensive coordinator David Yost said.

While most of the talk concerning Missouri's receivers has revolved around inexperience and numbers, Yost and Co. are excited about what this group can do.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Lucas
AP Photo/Matt YorkMissouri will be counting on speedy WR Marcus Lucas to make a significant impact in 2012.
Coaches and players think they have bona fide deep threats in rising juniors Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington. Lucas was fourth on the team in receiving last year (23 catches for 414 yards) and tied for first with five touchdowns. Washington was fifth with 20 catches for 364 yards and three scores.

Yost said both received more time as the season went on because of how explosive they were (Lucas has been clocked running a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash). Both ended the year averaging 18 yards per catch.

Washington was banged up this spring, but Lucas said he took full advantage of his time on the field. With more reps, Lucas said he shook the laziness that hurt him last year. His jogging and trudging around the field turned into sprints, his head stopped swimming and he finally learned how to finish plays after getting more comfortable in Missouri's offense.

"It comes with confidence, really," said Lucas, who caught four passes for 81 yards in Missouri's spring game. "When you don't really know exactly [what's going on] and you're guessing on what your exact assignment is it slows you down. Whenever you're out there just playing, you can play at your top-end speed."

Players like Bud Sasser, who worked at the Y position/tight end position, Gahn McGaffie and Jimmie Hunt, who caught an 88-yard touchdown in the spring game, all impressed this spring. So did tight end Eric Waters, who will now take over for Egnew, before he went down with an MCL injury that required surgery. Coach Gary Pinkel said Waters, who has two career catches, will be a key cog in the offense and should be back up to speed in three months.

Upperclassmen Rolandis Woodland, Jaleel Clark and Kerwin Stricker should also contribute more this fall and much ballyhooed recruit Dorial Green-Beckham, known around the program as "the big guy," will be on campus this summer.

"We're in pretty good shape," Pinkel said.

Before spring practice, 7-on-7 sessions helped build receiver chemistry, but what really brought this group together was not having quarterback James Franklin healthy this spring. After being sidelined with a shoulder injury, the receivers were forced to work with backups Corbin Berkstresser, Alex Demczak and Ashton Glaser.

Lucas said it was tough building chemistry with the other quarterbacks at first, but it forced the receivers to be more vocal in film sessions and in the huddle with the QBs

It also helped the receivers learn to take on more responsibility in the offense. They felt as though they were the voices this spring, and Lucas said that will be more beneficial for this group than in past seasons.

"We just want to be dominant," he said.

"We're kind of like the motor for [the offense]. We run the pace out there. If the wideouts are having a good day, it feels like the offense is having a good day."
James Franklin understands that from the outside, Missouri's wide receiver corps doesn't appear to be very polished.

Three starting pass-catchers from 2011 are gone and the leading returning receiver (T.J. Moe) caught 54 passes last year. After that, Missouri's returners have just 77 career catches combined.

[+] EnlargeT.J. Moe
Photo by Scott Rovak/US PresswireT.J. Moe, Missouri's top returning receiver, caught 54 passes in 2011.
But for Franklin, who enters his second year as Missouri's starting quarterback, he's fine with the personnel he's passing to. Players might not have excelled in games, but he saw the talent and potential just about every day in practice last fall.

"Thankfully, it's been good to have so much depth at receiver," Franklin said.

"There's just not enough positions on the field to play them all."

There will be plenty of room in 2012.

Moe already has his place carved out in Missouri's starting lineup, but he isn't the only one defenses will have to account for. Junior Marcus Lucas showcased his deep threat skills last year and will see his role expand on the outside this fall, Franklin said. He's also expecting bigger things from outside threat L'Damian Washington, who caught 25 passes in 2011.

But those are names that people are familiar with. Franklin said there is still a heap of players who should gain more attention this fall.

There's Bud Sasser, who Franklin said really caught his eye during 7-on-7 drills but is dealing with a hamstring injury, Jimmie Hunt, who caught one pass for a 54-yard touchdown and has the ability to challenge as one of Franklin's deep-threat targets, and tight end Eric Waters, who is now out of Michael Egnew's shadow.

Franklin said he was impressed by the way his receivers and tight ends performed during 7-on-7s, but he was also thrilled by how fast the chemistry started to develop with them. Chemistry, Franklin said, will boost Missouri's passing game going after losing key components from a year ago.

"Obviously, we don't have telepathy," Franklin said, "but we know what the other guy is going to do in any given situation."

What else will help is having a big, talented youngster in top wide receiver prospect Dorial Green-Beckham coming in this summer. The hype machine has been pumping away when it comes to Green-Beckham and Franklin can't help but be excited about the chance to work with the 6-foot-6, 220-pounder.

Franklin said bringing Green-Beckham in will improve Missouri's passing game in multiple ways. First, he's a bigger, faster target for him to use vertically. Secondly, he's going to grab a lot of defensive attention. He can be used as a decoy at times, which should help open things up for other players.

"Really, it opens up everyone on the field to where [the defense] is going to have to start playing each side evenly, as if everyone were the same, and that's going to open up those opportunities because we have a lot of good route runners and a lot of good playmakers," Franklin said.

It's also going to push the handful of receivers already on campus. Franklin said there are some players who are a little worried about Green-Beckham coming in and taking playing time, but he's seen that motivate players to work just a little harder.

The Tigers will face a few more questions as they make the transition to the SEC, but Franklin assures the passing game won't be an issue this fall.

Recruiting needs: Big 12 North

January, 26, 2011
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Signing day is exactly a week from today, and it's time to take a look at who needs what in its 2011 class.

Some schools have addressed these with their current class. Some haven't. Others are still trying.

We'll kick things off with the artists formerly known as the Big 12 North and examine the South later today.

COLORADO

Cornerback: Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith were pretty reliable for the Buffaloes, but both are headed to the NFL, and the Buffaloes could definitely use some depth behind their first-year starters. It's not quite as pressing of an issue considering their move to the less pass-happy Pac-12, but they still like to sling it out west.

Receiver: Colorado isn't exactly starving anywhere on offense, but receiver sticks out a bit. Toney Clemons was good, but maybe not quite what the Buffaloes hoped he'd be in 2010, but they caught a break in getting Paul Richardson back after a great freshman season. The Buffaloes need some complementary pieces around Clemons and Richardson to replace departed pass-catchers Scotty McKnight and Travon Patterson. Next year, that should be tight end Ryan Deehan and receiver Will Jefferson.

IOWA STATE

Receiver: It's been a struggle for Iowa State in recent years, but they have to get better outside to help out their quarterback. Sedrick Johnson's transfer only worsens the Cyclones depth at the position, but Jake Williams and tight end Collin Franklin, the team's leading receiver, are gone. Shontrelle Johnson looks ready to become a big factor in the offense, but the Cyclones filling the space at receiver will make it easier for Johnson to replace running back Alexander Robinson.

Safety: Both starters, David Sims and Zac Sandvig, are gone. So is the Cyclones top reserve at the position, Michael O'Connell. Sims was a top-notch talent that will be tough to replace, but Iowa State needs more depth here. They should be solid at corner with Leonard Johnson, Ter'ran Benton, Jeremy Reeves and Anthony Young, which could make the new safeties' jobs easier.

KANSAS

Defensive line: KU is losing three of four starters on the line, including the team's only All-Big 12 talent, defensive end Jake Laptad. Turner Gill wants more speed, and this is a place to install it. Tackles that tip the scales at 320 pounds aren't too necessary in this league, but speed on the edge can go a long way in stopping the pass.

Quarterback: Neither Jordan Webb or Quinn Mecham look like long-term answers at quarterback for the Jayhawks. Mecham will be a senior, and Webb might develop into a better player as a sophomore next year, but Kansas needs other options. The Jayhawks hope Brock Berglund, the top-rated recruit in Colorado, is the solution to the problem.

KANSAS STATE

Running back: I hear your cries for Bryce Brown, Wildcats fans, but K-State can't expect to hitch their wagon to the former blue-chip recruit turned Tennessee transfer in the same way it did for Daniel Thomas. Thomas and his backup, William Powell, are gone, and the Wildcats need some depth at running back to show up.

Interior offensive linemen: K-State loses both guards and its center from an offense that produced the Big 12's leading rusher in 2010. Don't expect them to do it again in 2011 without Wade Weibert, Kenneth Mayfield and Zach Kendall, as well as Thomas and Powell, but finding some new talent behind them will help them come close.

Cornerback: David Garrett emerged as a budding star in 2010 ready for a breakout senior year in 2011, but the Wildcats lose Terrance Sweeney and Stephen Harrison, as well as safety Troy Butler. Like we've mentioned earlier, good secondaries are a must for success in the Big 12, and K-State had one of the league's worst in 2010.

MISSOURI

Receiver: Missouri has some good ones ready to suit up in 2011, namely Wes Kemp, Jerrell Jackson and T.J. Moe, but the Tigers don't have a true gamebreaker. They have some younger players in Marcus Lucas and Jimmie Hunt who they hope will develop into big-time, All-American caliber receivers, a la Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander. In Missouri's system, though, adding a few receivers is always a good idea. They certainly don't need any more running backs.

Defensive backs: Mizzou doesn't have any huge holes that need to be filled with recruiting, but the Tigers lose both corners, Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland from their 2010 team. Kip Edwards and E.J. Gaines look likely to fill those roles, but the Tigers could use some depth and keep recruiting in the secondary to help add some talent around Tavon Bolden and Matt White, safeties who will replace departed Jarrell Harrison, who actually had to play some linebacker in 2010 because of injuries.

NEBRASKA

Every kind of kicker: Alex Henery, the team's punter and kicker is gone. So is kickoff specialist and lover/producer of touchbacks, Adi Kunalic. Fan favorite Henery was hardly underappreciated by the Nebraska faithful, but they'll miss him even more if the Huskers can't find a suitable placekicker and punter. Bo Pelini was reportedly after Wake Forest commit Mauro Bondi this week.

Receiver: Niles Paul and Mike McNeill are gone. The Huskers need Brandon Kinnie to come through with another good year and it'd be nice if Quincy Enunwa broke through in 2011, but Taylor Martinez needs some more help at wide out, and a couple new recruits could provide it as Martinez's passing prowess matures.

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