Yeah, I know he's going to be important in 2012. It's the rest of it that I'm still trying to get a handle on.
This wasn't exactly the easiest post to put together; in fact, I'll freely admit that I'm flying a little blind here. Sure, I pay attention to all college football, but there was little reason to pay any extra-close attention to Missouri early in the 2011 season, so I didn't pay much more attention to them than I would any other Big 12 team.
After all, there only murmurs that Missouri might join in the run-up to Texas A&M being added to the conference, so it seemed academic, at least until TAMU actually joined. It wasn't until November that we officially got word that Missouri would be entering the SEC.
So if Missouri fans disagree with any of these assessments -- please, have at it in the comments section. I'm pretty sure of the first one, but I'm certainly open to learning a little bit more about the Tigers before things get started. This year, there's not going to be any excuse for not paying attention to Missouri.
BIGGEST RETURN | QB James Franklin
This, of course, is assuming that the conference's second most-famous James Franklin actually does return. If he does, Franklin has the ability to keep the Tigers into the race for the SEC East ... well, at least until the end of the September, but that's a function of the schedule more than anything else. Franklin was 238-of-376 passing for 2,865 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions; he tacked on 981 yards and 15 touchdowns on 217 rushing attempts. (That means his "true" touchdown-to-interception ration, if you ask me, is 36:11. But no one asks me about these things.)
But even more so than just having his production, there's the experience difference between having Franklin on the field and not. Franklin started every game for Missouri last year, and his likely back-up has shown some poor judgment off the field, something that Stephen Garcia and others taught us can also be a reflection of one's on-the-field decision making. Oh, and Berkstresser is a quarterback who has never started a college game -- much less one in the SEC.
BIGGEST LOSS | LB Luke Lambert
Despite dealing with injuries at various points of his career, Lambert started 29 games at linebacker at Missouri, including 10 in 2011. All he did with those two games was ranked second on the team with 82 tackles, first with 11.5 tackles for loss picked off a pass and broke up two more while recording four quarterback hurries and recovering three fumbles. (The only guy with more tackles than Lambert, fellow LB Andrew Wilson, is returning.) A presence like Lambert could be missed this season, though the need for defense could be relatively understated in an SEC East where offenses are generally described with words other than "explosive."
BREAKTHROUGH POSSIBILITY | TE Eric Waters
There were two players to catch 50 or more passes for Missouri last year: wide receiver T.J. Moe and tight end Michael Egnew. But Egnew is gone now, so the passes that might have headed to the decorated tight end might instead be headed to his replacement. Waters only had two receptions last year, but one of them was a 42-yard touchdown against Texas A&M, so there's at least some evidence that he has the skill needed to help out.