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August 23, 2013
Analyzing the Depth Chart
PowerMizzou.com has been at every open session of Missouri's fall camp over the last three weeks. On Monday, the Tigers will release their depth chart for the Murray State game. However, we take a shot at our predictions and analysis at each position following fall camp.
Quarterback: The suspense (if there was any) was removed here after the second scrimmage. James Franklin is the starter, Maty Mauk is the backup.
What we are fairly confident in past that is that a redshirt season is coming for Eddie Printz and Trent Hosick barring injury just ravaging the position. Corbin Berkstresser will be the third-stringer.
The main intrigue here is how and how often Mauk will be used. Gary Pinkel has talked about wanting to work him into games and reiterated that thought after the scrimmage on Thursday. But what does that mean? Would Mauk play situationally like Franklin did as a freshman? Would he see only mop-up duty like Blaine Gabbert did? Or could he get a meaningful series every week the way Chase Daniel did?
At this point, nobody knows the answer to that question. But putting Mauk in during the first half of games is a risky proposition. Not because of anything have to do with Mauk, but more because it opens up the possibility of creating a quarterback controversy when there doesn't need to be one.
Franklin spent all spring and summer trying to earn the starting job. He did that. But after last season, the public confidence in Franklin hasn't been high (and he even has admitted his own confidence wavered). If Franklin isn't playing well, or even if he is, and Mauk comes in and lights it up in the first half of a game, the public outcry for a quarterback change will reach manic levels.
Is that a risk Pinkel is willing to take? Mauk needs to play, if nothing else to prepare for a likely starting role next season. But the Tigers need to be careful not to undermine Franklin's confidence at the same time. Interesting situation to be sure.
Tailback: Henry Josey is the starter. He had his best scrimmage of camp on Thursday when he ran for 49 yards on six carries and offered the first real public evidence that he is awfully close to being all the way back (and may even be there).
Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy are going to get carries. It is nothing but a guess, but we're thinking Josey will get about 50% of the chances, Hansbrough 30 and Murphy 20.
Those are the only three likely to get meaningful snaps barring injury. Will Josh Henson use some sort of a short-yardage specialist? If so, is it Morgan Steward or did Tyler Hunt show enough in camp to have a shot at that role? Greg White was injured for the last week or so of camp and doesn't look like he will play a prominent role, at least early on.
Wide Receiver: Pinkel has said he'll use seven or eight receivers. At this point, it is a slam dunk that Marcus Lucas, Bud Sasser, L'Damian Washington, Dorial Green-Beckham and Jimmie Hunt will see significant time. Those are the top five wideouts.
Levi Copelin looked good during spring and fall and is in the rotation. Darius White saw more and more passes over the last couple of scrimmages and likely plays a fair amount. The final spot looks like it comes down to Jaleel Clark and J'Mon Moore. The question is, is it worth burning a year of eligibility for Moore to be at the tail end of an eight man rotation? The guess here is probably not.
Tight End: Sean Culkin and Eric Waters are the top two and will get the lion's share of the snaps. They may get every one.
Henson has spoken highly of Clayton Echard, but freshman Jason Reese has a lot of promise. Again, it comes down to this: Is Reese's upside worth using the year of eligibility or for the role of third tight end does the staff feel confident going with Echard to keep the redshirt on Reese? Our bet is that Reese plays. Echard will see some snaps, but it will be in more of a specialty role where he is used in specific packages.
Offensive Line: The top five haven't changed since the start of camp. Justin Britt and Mitch Morse are at tackle, Connor McGovern and Max Copeland at guard and Evan Boehm at center.
Mitch Hall will be in the rotation, even though it didn't appear he beat out Copeland for a starting spot. Brad McNulty is the second-string center and can spell Boehm when necessary. Anthony Gatti and Taylor Chappell are the backup tackles, but it isn't clear how much either one figures into the rotation. Perhaps the fastest riser in fall camp was redshirt freshman Jordan Williams, who may have worked his way into some playing time at guard, especially early on during the non-conference season.
Those appear to be the top ten. But do all ten play? I have no idea.
Defensive Line: Defensive end is the deepest proven position on the roster (wide receiver probably has more depth, but end has more guys who have done it on Saturday). Kony Ealy and Michael Sam are the slam dunk starters. Shane Ray and Markus Golden have definitely earned playing time and Pinkel spoke highly of Brayden Burnett after Thursday's scrimmage as well. Redshirt freshman Rickey Hatley made some plays during scrimmages as well. It doesn't seem likely there are enough snaps for him barring injury, but if he's pressed into action, he is a guy who looks like he could help. True freshman Marcus Loud looks physically ready right now, but with the depth here, there just isn't a need to force him into action.
At tackle, Matt Hoch and Lucas Vincent are the starters. It appears Harold Brantley is the third guy with Marvin Foster and freshman Josh Augusta also in the rotation. It would be a surprise to see anyone outside of those five in action barring injuries.
Linebacker: Kentrell Brothers looks to have beaten out Darvin Ruise for a starting spot, but both will play. Andrew Wilson has the middle under control and Donovan Bonner is the third starter. The Tigers need a fifth backer ready to play, though he might not get significant snaps, especially if Mizzou is playing a passing team that requires more nickel packages. Michael Scherer and Donavin Newsom could both figure into that rotation somehow.
Cornerback: E.J. Gaines may be the most indispensable player on the team. He's far and away Missouri's best corner. Randy Ponder will start on the other side, but Ernest Payton may have helped himself more than any other Tiger in camp. He is in line to be the third corner. Missouri probably needs five guys ready to play. The last two spots come down to John Gibson, David Johnson and freshman Aarion Penton. While preserving Penton's redshirt might be ideal, he also has value as a return man (as does Gibson) and our guess is he will see the field this season.
Safety: Braylon Webb is going to start and Matt White probably locked up the other spot with a nice finish to camp. Ian Simon is the third guy here right now and saw first team snaps in some nickel packages. Duron Singleton may not be ready to go in week one, but he'll figure in the rotation at some point as well. Cortland Browning and Chaston Ward were the other players getting long looks in the final scrimmage. There is probably only a need for one of them to play a significant role and the edge goes to Browning for right now.
Special Teams: Christian Brinser is the punter and Andrew Baggett the kicker. Neither was seriously challenged in camp. The return games are in the hands of Marcus Murphy. Braylon Webb does the holding and Jake Hurrell the snapping.