It wasn’t exactly sunshine and lollipops for Gary Pinkel in his first season in the SEC.
For about the first 38 minutes of the Missouri Tigers‘ game against the Georgia Bulldogs in their SEC debut, Mizzou fans were feeling great. Here were the Tigers competing with a national powerhouse and looking good while doing it.
Nobody bothered to tell Jadeveon Clowney that, however, as he single-handedly dismantled Missouri’s entire offensive plan to a pulp.
After that, and beyond the Georgia game, it was much of the same. Even though Missouri got a win down in Orlando against the UCF Golden Knights, the struggle in that game had many fans in Columbia worried, and many SEC fans wondering if Missouri even belonged in the conference.
So the question must be asked; will Pinkel stick with what worked in the Big 12 for so many years? The huge splits? Shotgun running formations? Bubble screens?
If the mid-December promotion of Josh Henson is any indication, Pinkel is going full steam ahead with what has worked before, and why not? When the proper quarterback was at the helm, there hasn’t been a player who didn’t thrive under the Pinkel system. Even Brad Smith, who wasn’t the fastest athlete, was able to be a great running quarterback who moved the chains against very tough defenses.
The current Missouri quarterback situation isn’t clear. James Franklin will come back in 2013 wanting to win, but should he get that opportunity? Sensational recruit Maty Mauk has sat out his redshirt year and is now eligible to play, something that is going to make the Missouri quarterback situation wild when you factor in that Corbin Berkstresser will be competing for the starting job as well.
In reality, a team who played the nation’s toughest schedule in 2012, and lost a couple they should have won, Pinkel has a lot to build on for this season. The Big 12′s leading rusher from 2011, Henry Josey will be back for Mizzou and there’s no Alabama Crimson Tide on their schedule.
The incoming recruiting class for Missouri isn’t very highly rated, but traditionally they never have been. Pinkel and his staff have been magicians at making NFL-caliber players out of mediocre recruits.
So what will 2013 yield for the “Yankee Tigers” of the SEC? If optimism and planning are any indication, it’s already better than last season.