The Missouri Tigers were one of the most pleasant surprises in the country this season. After finishing at 5-7 in 2012, their first season in the Southeastern Conference, Mizzou bounced back with a 12-2 slate in 2013, including a Cotton Bowl win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Gary Pinkel had a much healthier team this season, and that proved to be one of the major differences from 2012. Most notably, quarterback James Franklin played, and played well, despite missing parts of three games with injuries.
However, Franklin is now gone, and the Tigers must replace his outstanding production. And they have already found the man to do it. In Franklin’s absence, freshman quarterback Maty Mauk played, and played well. Mauk played in 13 of Mizzou’s 14 games this season, passing for 1,071 yards with 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He also showed the ability to run, as he rushed for 229 yards and a touchdown.
Mauk will have plenty of weapons around him for the 2014 season. Running backs Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough will each return next season. Murphy rushed for 601 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013, while Hansbrough had 685 yards and four touchdowns.
The wide receivers will also be able to help Mauk next season. Dorial Green-Beckham led Mizzou in 2013 with 883 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns. Bud Sasser also returns after posting 361 yards and a score in 2013.
Missouri will once again have its hands full with the SEC competition, but as they proved in 2013, they can be contenders in the nation’s best football conference.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.