posted on October 22, 2012 14:04
Missouri begins it's five-game finale on Saturday against Kentucky, looking for at least three wins to become bowl-eligible for the eighth-consecutive year. We're taking a look ahead at some key questions that need to be answered in the next five games that will have an impact on that goal -- and perhaps even further down the road.
Today, we start with the three biggest questions on offense.
1. Will there be a change in philosophy? No, Missouri won't suddenly switch to a Power I or a Veer-Option based offense. But, with struggles on the offensive line, coupled with a talented yet unreliable receiving group, will David Yost scale back the offense and focus on what his players are doing well -- namely, running the ball with lead blockers like Jared McGriff-Culver in the game and adding more protection on pass plays? Or will it be the same four and five-wide sets that seem to be inconsistent at best and disastrous at worst? Obviously, much of this question will be determined by the health of James Franklin.
But much of Missouri's offense so far has been about pounding its collective head against a brick wall, and that brick wall ain't moving. Yost has received a lot of credit for tailoring the offense around the skills of his players. With Blaine Gabbert, it relied heavily on the pass. With James Franklin a year ago, it became more of a power-run from the spread. This year? I'm not sure what it's tailored for, besides not moving the ball. Something has to give, and if the four and five-receiver sets aren't working, then the philosophy needs to change to something that will move the ball.
2. Will there be a youth movement? We've already seen a subtle youth movement, as Russell Hansbrough has received 11 carries in the last two games, more than the seven he received in the first five games combined. Kendial Lawrene is gone after the season, so if Hansbrough continues to get more carries, it could mean more for next season, rather than this one.
Eric Waters' status won't be known until later on Monday, but he strained his back in a scary tackle at the end of the Alabama game. Before then, it appeared that Sean Culkin would redshirt. Can Missouri afford to lose a big body like Waters' for any period of time to end the year? Sure, Dorial Green-Beckham and others can fill that Y-receiver role, but Waters has become very good as a lead blocker. Culkin could add that, and Missouri may be forced to shed his redshirt.
A youth movement could work its way onto the offensive line, too. Could Connor McGovern and Michael Boddie get looks as the season wanes? If there's a huge youth movement to end the season, Missouri is looking ahead to 2013. If that's the case, getting to a bowl game may be a tough task.
3. Will Missouri panic? There's one sure-fire sign that Missouri's offensive staff is panicing: Maty Mauk gets playing time without another quarterback injury. This no slight on Mauk, who I believe will be a very good quarterback at Missouri. But if Corbin Berkstresser doesn't get injured and Mauk suddenly enters a game for long stretches, it could signal that the staff is panicking. You don't just burn the redshirt of a true freshman quarterback this late in the season without a good reason. No matter how much Berkstresser is struggling, Mauk has sat the first seven games for a reason. If Mauk suddenly plays, that may mean someone is trying to save jobs. In the end, that's a lose-lose situation.