- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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Schedule: The Tigers' first practice is on Thursday, and their first day in pads is Aug. 6. They open the season at home against Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 1.
Returning starters: Six on offense, seven on defense and the place-kicker and punter on special teams.
Star power: James Franklin enters his first season in the SEC as possibly the league's best dual-threat quarterback after passing for 2,865 yards and 21 touchdowns and rushing for another 981 yards and 15 more scores last fall.
New faces: The face everyone is excited about seeing is true freshman wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. He was the nation's No. 1 recruit in the 2012 class and the coaches think he could make an immediate impact for the Tigers as a deep threat. Quarterback Maty Mauk was a Parade All-American and the two-time Gatorade Ohio Player of the Year. The staff expects big things from him down the road, and with James Franklin recovering from shoulder surgery, Mauk could compete for more reps in fall camp.
Don’t forget about: Senior linebacker Will Ebner missed most of last year, after suffering a season-ending injury in the first game. Before his injury, he played in 36 career games, registering 146 tackles. The starting middle linebacker was granted an extra year of eligibility and will lead a very solid linebacking corps.
Big shoes to fill: It's no secret the Tigers like to use their tight ends, and Michael Egnew was one of the best to come through Columbia. Now, Missouri's staff is looking to junior Eric Waters to fill in. However, Waters suffered an MCL injury this spring that required surgery. Gary Pinkel said this spring that he expects Waters to be healthy this fall. He'll then have to compete with Bud Sasser, who was also injured this spring after suffering a hamstring injury, and Jaleel Clark, who struggled at times this spring, but he'll get his chance to compete for time as well.
Key battles: There should be some fun battles during fall camp at both safety spots. Kenronte Walker (strong safety) and Braylon Webb (free safety) exited the spring as starters, but their jobs aren't solidified. Sophomore Daniel Easterly will compete with Walker for time, while junior Matt White is after Webb's spot. Also, watch out for junior Tavon Bolden. Keep an eye on the Z receiver spot as well. A banged up L'Damian Washington allowed Jimmie Hunt more opportunities to impress in the spring, and he did. He caught an 88-yard touchdown pass in the spring game and will make it tough for Washington to claim the Z spot.
Rising star: One thing that all good SEC teams have is a solid pass rusher. While the staff expects to get defensive end Brad Madison back at full strength this fall, a guy to keep an eye on is fellow end Kony Ealy. He played here and there as a redshirt freshman last year, but Mizzou's staff is very excited about his potential in 2012. He's extremely athletic, possesses good speed and is coming off a solid spring.
Bottom line: The Tigers are entering their first season in the SEC with solid experience on both sides of the ball and have the offensive playmakers to make a run at the SEC East title. They are bringing in a true spread and are undersized on both lines, but there's no question this team is very confident in its ability. If Franklin stays healthy, this offense could truly be fun to watch. But it's going up against some tough defenses in the East and some growing pains could occur in the Tigers' first year in their new conference.
3hSam Khan Jr.
7hSam Khan Jr. and Alex Scarborough
1dSam Khan Jr.
1dSam Khan Jr.
1dSam Khan Jr.
5hSam Khan Jr. and Alex Scarborough