- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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Schedule: The Tigers open spring practice today at 4:30 p.m. ET and conclude the spring on April with their annual Black & Gold Game on April 20 at 2 p.m. ET in Memorial Stadium.
What's new: After spending 12 years as a Missouri assistant, offensive coordinator David Yost resigned after the 2012 season and was named the inside receivers coach at Washington State. Josh Henson was then promoted from co-offensive line coach to offensive coordinator, while Andy Hill was promoted from wide receiver coach to quarterbacks coach/associate head coach. Pat Washington, who coached at Kentucky in 2012, was hired as the Tigers' new receivers coach.
On the mend: Running back Henry Josey is still recovering from the devastating knee injury he suffered halfway through the 2011 season, but coach Gary Pinkel recently said that Josey ran a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash and should be able to go through spring camp. Offensive linemen Justin Britt and Taylor Chappell are also recovering from knee injuries, but could be at full strength later this spring. Fellow lineman Anthony Gatti is recovering from recent ACL surgery and could also return in late spring. Defensive end Markus Golden is playing with a hand cast this spring, while wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham rolled his ankled during offseason workouts and is currently in a walking boot.
On the move: Green-Beckham is moving from the inside "Y" receiver spot to the outside "X" spot. With redshirt freshman tight end/Y Sean Culkin back from injury, Green-Beckham was moved outside, where he should be more of a deep threat for the Tigers. Sophomore Ernest Payton has moved from cornerback to safety. Senior linebacker Andrew Wilson has moved from strong side linebacker to middle linebacker. Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jordan Williams has moved from tackle to center.
Question marks: With Sheldon Richardson gone, the Tigers are looking for someone to step in and help fill that void. Mizzou might have to replace Richardson by committee this year. Junior Matt Hoch (defensive tackle) and Lucas Vincent (nose guard) will get the first shots at filling the middle. Vincent was Richardson's backup last year, but still has a lot of room to grow on the field. Hoch had a decent 2012 season and the staff is excited about redshirt freshman Harold Brantley. With the heavy amount of ends, the Tigers could move some guys inside to help with depth. Wide receivers Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington are listed as starters this spring, but after underwhelming 2012 seasons, they will be battling for their spots this spring. Also, keep an eye on Bud Sasser and Jimmie Hunt at the "H" receiver spot. One of them has to solidify that spot this spring. Really, the offense in general has a bunch of question marks, but the biggest one of all might be at quarterback, where James Franklin will be in a heated competition with redshirt freshman Maty Mauk and sophomore Corbin Berkstresser. Franklin's history of injuries could keep the concern level around him high.
New faces: Mizzou welcomed quarterbacks Trent Hosick and Eddie Printz, who enrolled early this spring. Wide receiver Darius White sat out last season after transferring from Texas during the offseason. The Tigers might have a lot of bodies at receiver, but the coaches are very excited about his potential, and he could push for real time this spring.
Key battle: Franklin's past injuries can't be overlooked, and after the season he had in 2012, the coaches have to get his current backups ready for the 2013 season. Franklin enters the spring as the starter, but he'll have to earn it throughout the next two months because the staff is very excited about the potential Mauk has. He's been compared to former Mizzou QB Brad Smith and people around the program feel he can run the offense as well as anyone. Word is that Mauk is really going after the No. 1 spot, so Franklin will be constantly looking over his shoulder this spring. Berkstresser got good experience last year and should be even more comfortable in Mizzou's offense. Getting more confidence at the QB spot is critical heading into the offseason.
Breaking out: Keep an eye on senior cornerback Randy Ponder. The former walk-on has had a lot of time to watch others and should be prepared for his starting role opposite shutdown corner E.J. Gaines. Brantley could be a big player at defensive tackle. He has packed on the pounds and with the position not solidified, the coaches are expecting a lot from him. Culkin should push Eric Waters for the starting spot at the "Y." The coaches are really excited about him and they didn't really want to redshirt him last year.
Don't forget about: Josey had to sit out all of last year, and while Kendial Lawrence rushed for more than 1,000 yards, the offense missed the home run presence Josey brought to the offense in 2011. Josey was the Big 12's best rusher before he went down halfway through the season in 2011, and the Tigers need him to be back to his old ways this fall. Things are starting off right for Josey, who will participate in drills this spring.
16hDavid Ching and Edward Aschoff