Missouri Tigers Are A One-Hit Wonder
The Missouri Tigers had a great 2013 football season, going 12-2 overall and 7-1 in the Southeastern Conference before losing to Auburn in the SEC Championship Game.
However, while this past season gave Tigers fans hope for the future, it's time to break the bad news to them: Missouri was a one-hit wonder.
The Tigers won't experience that same kind of success in 2014 — or in the next few years.
For starters, the Tigers are losing a lot on both sides of the ball and there are a few question marks concerning their returning players. In addition, when you look at the job the Tigers have done in recruiting the last few years, there's not much to be confident about.
Let's look a little deeper.
Missouri's offense and defense will both lose a lot of talent.
On offense, the Tigers will lose their starting quarterback, top running back, two starting offensive linemen and two of their top three receivers. While quarterback James Franklin (2,429 passing yards, 19 TDs) is leaving, Tigers fans shouldn't worry about his replacement. Maty Mauk filled in admirably during the games Franklin was out due to injury last season, leading the Tigers to the SEC title game, as Mauk passed for 1,071 yards and 11 TDs last season.
Missouri's top rusher, Henry Josey, ran for 1,166 yards and 16 TDs last season, but has declared that he will enter the NFL draft. Many fans are OK with that since Missouri featured three great rushers last season, but the loss of Josey still hurts the Tigers' offense, especially considering that starting offensive linemen Justin Britt — a second-team all-SEC selection — and Max Copeland are leaving as well.
At receiver, the Tigers will lose their No. 2 and 3 options — L'Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas. The pair combined for 108 catches, 1,585 receiving yards and 13 TDs, which is a lot to lose for any team.
Need more? There is.
On defense, Missouri will lose two key players who combined for 21 sacks on the defensive line. The Tigers also lose two top linebackers and three starters in the secondary.
Moving on will be defensive ends Kony Ealey and Michael Sam, who combined for 91 tackles (33.5 for loss), 21 sacks, 23 quarterback hits and five forced fumbles. Gone also will be linebackers Andrew Wilson, who had a team-high 113 tackles, and Donovan Bonner (62 tackles) in addition to defensive backs E.J. Gaines (75 tackles, five interceptions), Randy Ponder (56 tackles, two interceptions, 10 pass breakups) and Matt White (61 tackles, four pass breakups).
That's seven of 11 defensive starters who will be gone. Can we reasonably expect a Missouri team which lost that many starters to reload for 2014, and to do so with sub-par recruiting classes?
Ask the Georgia Bulldogs if that is possible. After losing a majority of their star-studded defense from 2012, the Bulldogs struggled to stop offenses with virtually an entire new starting lineup this past season. The Bulldogs allowed 30 or more points eight times. North Texas, Florida, Appalachian State, Kentucky and Nebraska were the only teams that didn't break the 30-point mark against them. Georgia lost a lot from the season before and it showed.
All of those roster losses will no doubt hurt the Tigers, but there's another possible loss that has not been mentioned yet.
Green-Beckham led the Tigers with 59 catches for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns. Now, you might be saying that he is just a sophomore, so what would prevent him from playing next season?
Green-Beckham was arrested in an incident tied to marijuana, according to the Associated Press, though he hasn't been charged. If anything changes, he likely will face a team suspension considering that it would be his second drug-related arrest. If Green-Beckham is suspended, Missouri's first four games are non-conference dates against South Dakota State, Toledo, Central Florida and Indiana, so it wouldn't hurt the TIgers in conference play like it would against SEC teams like Georgia and South Carolina.
Even if Green-Beckham's issues are resolved without penalties, there are still other issues to think about for Missouri.
Poor Recruiting Classes
Missouri has never had great recruiting classes. They rank 34th this year, according to Rivals.com. Last year, they ranked 41st and were 31st in 2012.
The Missouri players who will be moving into those starting positions next season are from those questionable recruiting classes of the last two years. While those numbers are better than about half of all major-conference schools, it's tough to win SEC championships without Top 15 talent.
Missouri rarely gets a player above three-star quality. While you can't base the success of a program on the amount of four- and five-star players it recruits, having a few top national recruits each year certainly helps.
Missouri deserves credit for its 2013 season. Everything fell into place and the Tigers took advantage of it.
Georgia was down on defense after losing many starters to the NFL over the summer. The Bulldogs were also without the services of Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. Florida struggled all season on offense and couldn't score on anyone. Vanderbilt made a few key upsets as well.
The dominoes won't fall as nicely for the Tigers in 2014. They took the SEC by surprise once, but considering what they're losing, there's no way the Tigers will do it again next season.